MiC Editor’s Pick: Bringing fans into the fold

Welland, ON.-based band Street Pharmacy has launched a celebrity-brand inspired direct-to-consumer program to collect data and connect directly with fans.

This summer, MiC is bringing back its “MiC Editor’s Pick,” a column where we cover examples of under-the-radar media or media-adjacent activations that we have seen and want to share with you.

Yesterday, Kevin Keane, director of business science, MediaCom told MiC that due to the changing mediaverse, direct-to-consumer initiatives are reaching the point of being “business critical” to brands. The industries most greatly affected¬† by market shifts have been the entertainment and music industries, both taking massive hits because of things like online piracy.

Since I am constantly thinking of things in everyday life through my media and brand-coloured glasses, when I recently heard about a couple examples of how celebrity and band “brands” are pushing the envelope in direct-to-consumer initiatives I couldn’t wait to share them with MiC readers.

The most recent famous example of these efforts comes from comedian Louis C.K. who has taken a decidedly direct-to-fan route, being the first of what is now a series of stand-up performers to release his own comedy special “Live at the Beacon Theatre” online through his site, on his own dime so he reaps the profits, and the fan data. Last month, he also announced he is taking his latest tour direct to fans and bypassing ticket selling agents and their fees by selling seats for $45 apiece through his website.

I recently discovered a similar direct-to-consumer initiative from Welland, ON.-based reggae band Street Pharmacy called Founding Fan after a friend introduced me to their music. The project, which band frontman Ryan Guay says was developed in partnership with Waterloo, ON.-based Art Barn Media, gives fans the band’s catalogue of music, a pass to an upcoming soundcheck,¬† live and pre-recorded videos and pre-releases like the group’s new material, which is coming out at the end of July, before it is released to the general public on iTunes. All for a sticker price of $10, an affordable amount for the band’s target demographic, which Guay says ranges from 16 to 30.

Guay says Founding Fan, which was inspired by C.K. and also from similar initiatives from bands like Phish, gives the band the opportunity to connect with fans, and also the ability to collect data that would not be available if they were going through the more traditional third-party companies.

“Big distributors will not share fan information with us,” he says. “That means that we will never have access to our most loyal fans. Clearly we want to embrace iTunes, Amazon and every other major digital distribution channel. But, we also need to ensure that we’re building a relationship with our fans. We need to know who our fans are and what they want, love and know about us.”

Initiatives like these examples from C.K. and Street Pharmacy also allow the artists to entrench themselves into fans’ day-to-day lives, similar to what brands like Nike with its Nike+ FuelBand and “Curators of Sweden” for the Swedish Institute did with their Lions-winning projects.

“We want to give them more than we can offer on the other channels and it’s also more than just having an online store to sell merchandise,” says Guay. “We want a place to give our fans sneak peeks, rough cuts and live shows.”

On the non data-driven side of things, Street Pharmacy is opening for one of this writer’s (this article is filed under “MiC Editor’s Pick,” after all) favourite Canadian bands, Blue Rodeo this Friday at Safari Niagara.

Photo (from left): Nate Triano, Ryan Guay, Dan Fretz and Brandon Ventresca