Building a Fanbase: How Net Promoter Score Can Grow an Artist’s Following

By Marcella Nahas

Introduction

Today, anyone can record an album in their home studio and release it to the world. Anyone can pay for Instagram or Facebook ads, as well as apply to be featured on Spotify-curated playlists. This is not breaking news to anyone in the music industry. If everyone has access to the same tools, how do artists stand out? How do artists develop a brand and get fans to go to their shows? The real challenge for independent artists lies within marketing: placing their product in front of the right people and convincing them that it is good enough for them to spare their time. 

Independent artists have been focusing on the wrong marketing tools. Internet advertisements can help an artist gain a few likes and comments, but not create loyal fans that will follow their next steps and consume upcoming releases. With Spotify-curated playlists, the same applies; an artist may get a lot of streams for one song, but those listeners won’t necessarily go to shows. 

To grow organically, artists can adopt the concept and principles of the Net Promoter Score® (NPS), aiming to create a more sustainable, loyal fanbase as well as build an army of superfans. This strategy is especially useful when an artist doesn’t have the support of a label, manager, or marketing company, as it will provide them with a starting point for developing a promising career. 

What is the Net Promoter Score?

Developed by Fred Reichheld and Bain and Company, the Net Promoter Score® is a measure of “how well a company generates relationships worthy of loyalty.” The Net Promoter Score® value is generated by asking one question to customers: “On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Notice that the “us” in the question refers to the business’ overall brand and everything it represents, rather than just a specific product. Answers are separated into three categories: detractors (those who grade 1-6), passives (7-8) and promoters (9-10). Once all data is gathered and calculated, results will range from -100 to 100; scores above 0 are considered good, and scores above 50 are considered excellent. In other words, this means that the higher the Net Promoter Score® of an artist, the more loyal their fans will be. For this article, the concept behind the Net Promoter Score® value will be discussed, rather than the actual value itself – and how this concept can help artists grow organically. 

Companies from all sectors have implemented the Net Promoter Score®; from Guitar Center to Apple and AT&T. The concept of the NPS revolves around the idea that customers will recommend your product to their friends and relatives because of how much they love it. Not just because they like your product, but because it makes them feel better about themselves – and this makes them have the desire to share it with others. 

Net Promoter Score® Case Studies

Apple has always been very consumer-centric, and customers are at the core of the business, so the Net Promoter Score® seemed like a perfect fit. The company reached an average NPS of 89 in 2016, which is a very impressive achievement, with the best Apple stores accomplishing scores higher than 90. Apple Retail focused on training employees to become promoters themselves, and help spread the message of the brand to the world. Ron Johnson, the executive who developed Apple’s retail, created the following mission: “to enrich the lives of customers and employees.” By establishing a deeper purpose, Johnson was able to connect to customers that shared the same values, and therefore, get them to become promoters of the company as well. He aimed to create a sense of community in the stores, in which customers would have an experience; they would “gather and learn, not just buy.” Experience is key, as well as creating and nurturing consumer-employee relationships.

American Express also utilizes the Net Promoter Score® to satisfy existing customers, as well as to expand into new markets. In an interview for the Net Promoter System Podcast, Luis Angel-Lalanne, vice-president of customer listening for American Express, comments on how the NPS was implemented on the company, and how it helped the company get involved with over 25 markets. American Express is known for its excellent customer service and for treating its customers with premium experiences; for example, allowing access to VIP American Express lounges in airports, which are exclusive to clients. The company gathered over 7 million survey responses throughout 2019 and analyzed the answers, giving immediate feedback to the frontline employees. This system allows the business to rapidly recover from detractors by turning them into passives and sometimes even promoters. This process is extremely important because it can transform a simple metric into action and solution.  

Over 220 large and successful companies have adopted the Net Promoter Score®, and utilize it as their key metric to measure success. A similar strategy could serve as a huge advantage for the music industry. Take the biggest current artists – Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Selena Gomez – what they have in common is that everyone is always talking about them. They all grew because their fans recommended them to their friends. 

People tend to trust their friends more than internet advertisements, so this strategy becomes a very valuable tool. One superfan will convert their friends and family into fans – the growth curve becomes exponential. What this means is that an artist’s fans will do the marketing for them, which helps minimize the burden of marketing costs for artists. 

How Can This Strategy Be Implemented For Independent Artists? 

How do fans discover their favorite artists? Probably from a friend’s recommendation. No artist or band has ever been successful in the music industry without having their fans tell their friends about their content – so why are independent artists not investing their time and resources into growing their community organically? Here is how it begins: by separating the NPS strategy into online and offline. 

The Distinction Of A “Like” And A “Share”

Many independent artists have a solid following on Instagram or Facebook. Some may have bought followers or likes to grab the attention of potential fans or record labels, however, most people would consider this a fake following. There is no real meaning or intention behind likes and followers – it does not equate to more people at an artist’s shows or more streams. Shares, however, are much more impactful and are considered to be NPS. If someone shares an artist’s music to their profile, they are being active promoters of the product. The bottom line is that it is  all about trust and credibility – one will trust a friend’s recommendation more than an ad. That is the key difference between paid advertisements and spontaneous shares. 

To achieve this, artists may create campaigns that encourage fans to share their music – be it through the Spotify tool that allows people to share their music on Instagram Stories, or regular Facebook post shares. Customers are attracted to exclusivity. With this in mind, artists can develop creative campaigns in which they release exclusive content or provide unique experiences in exchange for customers sharing and tagging them in posts; possibilities are infinite. The Instagram “Close Friends” feature, for example, can be used as an important tool, allowing artists to release unique content to an exclusive audience. 

To illustrate this idea, here is an example of an NPS-driven Instagram campaign: an artist publishes a post on their page, outlining the benefits a fan will get if they follow the artist and share that specific post to their stories (of course, always tagging the artist). The benefits might include being added to the “Close Friends” list of the artist, in which they will upload exclusive content and have more interaction with the fans. It could also include, instead, premium access to new music, even free merchandise, or VIP access to shows. Once the post is shared by the fan, all of the fan’s followers will have access to it and may want to join in – and that is the power of the Net Promoter Score® multiplication.  

Offline: How Do You Get People To Come To Your Shows?

Artists must shift the burden of promotion from themselves to the fan – cutting marketing costs drastically. Many times, independent artists will have friends come to their shows. Notice that “friends” are not necessarily fans – however, they can help the artist build an army of fans by dragging their friends along. If that occurs, then NPS is happening – and now, the artist has the opportunity of converting that person (which is a “passive”, 7-8 on the NPS scale) into a fan. Getting that person to keep up with your content, though, is the real challenge. Once the experience is over, they must connect with the artist on social media to close the loop, so that they are updated on future shows and releases. Personal conversation and contact with potential fans, especially when the artist is in the beginning phase of the career, is essential. The customer must be aware of the fact that the artist cares about their thoughts, so going up to talk to them makes them feel like they had a more personalized experience. This raises the chances of coming to watch the artist’s next concert. 

Artists can use strategies that include the principle of exclusivity to get more fans to go to their shows. They can, for example, encourage their fans to bring others by giving that fan a link to a free demo for each friend they bring. They can also connect the offline world to the online one, by announcing onstage that whoever shares a video of the show on their social media and tags the artist will get access to exclusive content. Artists can become extremely creative with the rewards, and this will help draw people in, growing the fanbase exponentially. 

The most important and unique aspect of the offline experience is the personal and physical interaction that the artist shares with the fan; this is what sets it apart from the online experience, and it is what truly converts customers from passives to promoters. The artist needs to think about this interaction and how it can be made unique and special, and what will set it apart from other experiences. 

Conclusion

The Net Promoter Score® is much more than a simple metric – it carries a whole system behind the number, which is more meaningful than the number itself. It has been proven that the Net Promoter “attitude” helps companies reach success – so why hasn’t the music industry fully adopted it yet? While other marketing methods are useful and help with promotion, what the Net Promoter Score has to offer is far more valuable: trust, credibility, loyalty, and lower costs. Artists must never forget that fans are at the core of the business and that without them, the whole system collapses. Because of this, to maintain their fans’ loyalty, artists have to remind themselves of their true purpose to create content. Product and purpose work together to create fan loyalty by playing the music to the right ears.

Fans at an outdoor concert
Photo credit: Ananta Arora @aroraaphotography

Works Cited

1. Reichheld, Fred. In “Introduction: From Score to System”. The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World. Edition Number. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.

 2. Ibid

 3. “Apple Net Promoter Score 2020 Benchmarks.” Apple Net Promoter Score 2020 Benchmarks. Customer.guru. Accessed February 14, 2020. bit.ly/2SRzV7Y.

 4. Gocheva, Cvetilena. “4 Key Ingredients Fueling Apple’s High Net Promoter Score®.” Experience Benchmarks. Customer Gauge. Accessed February 14, 2020. bit.ly/39yd7Ra.

5. Reichheld, Fred. In “Chapter 6: Winning Results With NPS”. The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World. Edition Number. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.

6. Ibid

7. Ibid

8. Ibid

9. Angel-Lalanne, Luis. “Ep. 168: American Express’s Luis Angel-Lalanne | Uncovering Customer Insights Beyond the Score”. The Net Promoter System Podcast. Podcast audio, Nov. 21, 2019. Accessed February 14, 2020. bit.ly/2OQKjvi

10. Ibid

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