How to relate to your fans online

The band Wilco have been exemplars of how bands ought to relate to fans, providing a great model for the ‘new social rules of Internet fame’ that I wrote about yesterday. Today their new record is released, months after it’s leaked and been widely distributed online. At the end of last week, they emailed their fans what they titled “a modest proposal” (no baby-eating required):

[...] We continue to make lots of music available free to all in the road case, continue to allow taping/photos at shows, and basically just try to keep the things we do charge for of a quality that make you feel like you got a bargain. You know, mutual respect and all that. We like the way it works… a lot. We really do believe in trying to keep as much of it as free and open as is humanly possible. That seems pretty obvious… but somehow it remains a slight novelty in the modern day music business. So much so that people continually mention it in their stories when they write or speak about the band or the somewhat sad state of the music business.

Anyway, what we’re getting at here is that right now we need you to participate in a way that is part of what has made this nice little story work. We’re actually asking you to please go out next week and do the right thing for Wilco. That is, vote with your feet and prove the band’s faith well-placed and buy the record. [...]

Okay, enough campaign speeches. You get the message. And we trust that you’ll act on it as you always have. Other things on this week’s extremely busy agenda…

They trust their fans. They give to them and they assume that their fans will give back. They treat them with respect. They have been remarkably good sports about having their albums leaked over and over, they’ve all-but-outright encouraged fans to tape and distribute their concerts, they’ve made extras available online, they’ve streamed their music before releasing it, they send nice letters to the people on their email list regularly but not excessively.

They have every right to expect that their fans should reciprocate, and I love that they’ve provided what the letter calls a “reflection on the dynamic between us and you” to preface the simple call to please go out this week and buy their record.

I might add that a friend loaned me his complete Wilco collection a few years ago and I ripped it. After listening for a month or two I went downtown to the local indie record store and bought them all. I’m clearly not alone in putting my money where my ears are.

Comments (1) to “How to relate to your fans online”

  1. You hit the nail on the head when you stated that “they treat their fans with respect”. I don’t know why more bands haven’t figured this out. I’ll happily spend money on a band which, besides enjoying their music, I feel “respects” me. Generally, indie and jam bands are better at this, and it’s nice to see that a band of Wilco’s stature gets it.

    On a side note, I love all the previous Wilco albums, but I really dislike this one. Way too singer-songwriterish, which is a genre I generally hate. Knowing Tweedy however, I’m sure he’ll be back with something completely different (and good) next time around.