What do your fans want? Ask them!

I’ve got an album launch coming up, and I’m determined to make it my best yet.

That means putting together bundles of merch that my fans will actually want, and not just what I think is cool.

I would’ve been happy taking a chance on cassette or MiniDisc, but vinyl is too big a proposition to risk losing money on, which prompted me to put together three surveys on Google Forms. It’s drop-dead simple to use and 100% free.

Why three surveys? One for my patrons on Patreon, one for mailing list subscribers who aren’t patrons, and one for social media followers. All were anonymous.

They have several different questions, and where they were the same, I was curious to see how their answers would vary.

I received 88, 63, and 46 responses respectively, for a total of 197. To put that in perspective, that’s more than half of my patrons, less than 10% of my mailing list subscribers, and less than 1% of my social media following.

I’ll run through some of my more noteworthy discoveries, not because they will apply to your fans, but because they demonstrate how important it is to ask these sorts of questions!

How do you listen to music?

Let’s start right off with a shocker from my patrons:

patron response

82% of them download music! As someone who’s been streaming-only for over a decade, that came as a complete surprise.

That discovery alone prompted me to assemble my discography on a USB flash drive. I did it before a decade ago, but now it’s close to 400 tracks!

Another key finding: almost twice as many patrons listen to CDs as vinyl.

subscriber response

The numbers weren’t drastically different for my mailing list subscribers. Even more of them listen to CDs, and even less to vinyl.

social media response

My social media streamers tend to be streamers, which suggests a more casual relationship. Again, the demand for vinyl isn’t there.

Honestly, that’s a relief. Between 8-12 month turn times, the nightmare that is international shipping, and reports of warpage due to high temperatures, I’m fine with CD.

What would you like to see in an album bundle?

These answers were fairly consistent across the board, so I’ll just share one set:

subscriber response

The first response is “It doesn’t matter – I probably won’t buy it” which peaked at 17% from social media followers.

I hadn’t thought to ask about a USB flash drive, but throwing that in, the pre-sale options are pretty clear. Here’s what I’m planning:

  • Digital Download
  • Signed CD + Digital Download
  • T-Shirt (a new design, of course)
  • T-Shirt + Signed CD + Digital Download
  • Flash Drive (with a discount for owners of the previous iteration)
  • Flash Drive + T-Shirt + Signed CD + Digital Download

“Patrons don’t want product, they want recognition”

I’ve heard this sentiment touted in several places, so I asked my patrons if they agree:

Not so much. So if they aren’t interested in recognition, why are they patrons?

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they rated “the interaction/communication with me” above “a new exclusive song every month.”

Overall, patrons seemed quite happy with my current offerings, which was reassuring!

How interested are you in seeing my production process?

I asked non-patrons if they wanted to see how the sausage was made.

For the most part, they do! That may seem obvious, but when I’ve shared works-in-progress on social media before, it hasn’t exactly broken the internet.

Conclusion & Recommendations

I won’t bore you with the rest of the answers, as they were fairly specific to my circumstances.

I asked patrons to rate some potential new rewards, and asked non-patrons to rate how compelling each of my current patron rewards were.

I stopped short of flat-out asking “why aren’t you a patron” because I tried that a few years ago and only got 5 survey responses! Even though it’s anonymous, I don’t want to put anybody on the spot.

The surveys closed with two fill-in-the-blank questions: “how can I make your experience as a <patron, subscriber, follower> better?” and “anything else you’d like to add?”

The responses were overwhelmingly kind, considerate, and supportive. More so than you’d expect from an anonymous survey!

Bottom line, you don’t know what your fans want until you ask them.

It’s easy to assume your fans are like you, and I’m sure they are in many ways. Your public persona may be a magnet for fans with similar personality traits, but that doesn’t translate to the more mundane aspects of commerce.

You may not even have a mailing list, but that doesn’t need to stop you from asking these sorts of questions. If Google Forms is too elaborate, you can use the polling options built into Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Granted, your results will be somewhat skewed by the algorithms of those platforms. Followers can’t vote if they’re not presented with the option to, and your biggest engagers on social media may not be potential customers or even listeners.

Also, social media polls don’t come with the assurance that answers are anonymous, which is important if you’re open to hearing some hard truths.

Have you surveyed your fans? How did it go? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels


  1. I love that you have that connection and I think it is brave you set up the questions as well. I often wonder why some of my fans aren’t patrons either, especially when I make it more of musical experience and more intimate.

    1. That’s the burning question, isn’t it? I’ve set up my Patreon as something that I, as a fan, would jump at the chance to be a part of for at least my top 10 favorite artists. “A new exclusive song every month” just doesn’t seem to excite others as much as it would excite me.

      That said, some of my non-patron fans are my biggest supporters on social media, and first in line to buy a new CD! For some reason, they just aren’t interested in Patreon.

  2. This was so interesting to read through, Brian, thank you!

    I thought the production process was particularly interesting. Like you said, answers may vary for your readers vs. you…as you have a large audience of musicians, songwriters and producers…the “I’d love to see tutorials” crew is likely skewed quite a bit higher for you…maybe? Maybe not.

    On that same note, your most engaged fans, that are most likely to take a survey, may be more of that musician audience that loves your stuff (like me!)…. And perhaps, that’s why, when you’ve published actual “in progress” posts, they don’t explode as you might hope, because the majority might actually be more interested in the final product?

    I suppose I’m just riffing here.

    In any case, it’s a huge compliment when fellow craftsmen respect your craft. Kudos as always, Brian. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m glad you got something out of it Mike! I almost didn’t bother writing it, since I’d already written to patrons and mailing list subscribers separately to share the results of their cohort.

      As to how musically inclined my fans are, there’s definitely some of that! In fact, “synthesizer” has proven to be a useful interest target for Facebook ads.

      My mixes are so straightforward and no-nonsense, I wonder if the tutorials could be valuable simply as a foil to all the other convoluted “mix tricks” you see on YouTube!

      1. I think I would be very valuable!

        We all want great mixes on our tracks (I assume) and on YouTube they tell us: you need this plug-in and also that one and you have to apply this or that “mix trick” – and one spends a lot of time and energy and can get really confused by the many tutorials and contradicting opinions and advices which are out there.

        What I’m learning from your mixing advice (if I’d sum it up) is first and foremost that you can get around a lot of effort and trouble in the mastering stage by investing time and craftsmanship at the very beginning of the production chain: the synth patch, the drum sample, the good vocal recording take and the basic EQ for each track.

        I have the impression that’s what only very few people tell you on YouTube (…I guess it’s because most want/need to promote plug-ins and for their viewers it’s obviously easier to let a plug-in do some work at “saving” a mediocre recording instead of making a really good recording in the first place (which in fact is still just hard to do)).
        To see your mixing philosophy “in action” might open many eyes and ears…

        1. Thanks for the vote of confidence Rainer!

          I could easily create an entirely new blog dedicated to mixing myth-busting. If I had the time that is! I’m sure it would demand a lot of it, and spark some passionate discussion.

          Budding producers must be discouraged when they see someone EQ’ing on YouTube with 10 different bands intended to address different “resonances.” I used to see that and think, “How could they have possibly settled on 618 Hz?”

          They tend to notch out the frequency that corresponds with the root note of the bass. It displays a fundamental misunderstanding of acoustics. And that’s just one gripe out of many.

          That said, I haven’t kept up with the latest plugins and I’ve still got plenty to learn about the tools I do have. I know I don’t have all the answers, but I can usually recognize nonsense!

  3. Great article once again.

    I work with artists all the time that are new to releasing music and are already wondering how they can put together merch bundles and sell them to cold audiences because they don’t have a following to sell to.

    They usually think Facebook ads will do the trick and it usually never does because their offer is pricey and or because the people who see the ads have never heard of them before. Do you promote your offers to cold audiences when you are running ads? (I am new to your blog so forgive me this is something you have covered before)

    I can see how a Pay what you want CD offer could definitely work for cold audiences and with the right order bumps could even make some money on top of building an email list.

    Your blog is a true gem, Brian. I looked back through all the articles you have written and your first article came out when I was in Highschool. I am 33 now. You have been in the game for a hot minute! haha (random Cali slang)

    1. Thanks for the kind words Jordan!

      I indeed promoted my free + s/h and pay-what-you-want CD offers to cold audiences. Might as well open up the relationship with a sale!

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