Fan Engagement Basics #1: Don’t Engage Hate

Some things bear constant repeating. It’s so seductive to engage with people who are intent on trolling you. Going into defensive mode and taking down a troll feels great. It’s also counter-productive and generally a waste of your time. Here’s why.

Number 1 Goal: Tribe-Building
Your number 1 goal as an artist is building a tribe out of your audience. You can define a tribe as having the following components:

  1. A narrative that tells a story about who they are. You are the story!
  2. A connection between and among the leader (you) & the tribe.
  3. Something to do […] the fewer limits the better. At minimum, this means letting your tribe engage with you through social media channels.

As an artist, your value comes from your tribe. The tribe creates opportunities for monetization beyond purchases and streams of your music. It allows you to do crowdfunding campaigns, develop cool merchandise, or even set up a profitable YouTube channel (see: what the music business can learn from YouTubers). A tribe is a highly visible fanbase which will help you get bookings for gigs, too.

Why waste time on this guy?

Engaging Hate Undermines the Tribe

You should be spending your time on those who deserve it the most: your tribe members. When you dedicate your time to people who are saying your music sucks, your video sucks, your lyrics suck, etc., 3 things happen:

  1. By engaging them, you make what they’re saying stronger. In other words, it’s bad for your confidence.
  2. You’re wasting your time trying to change the opinion of people who are not going to care about what you have to say anyway.
  3. You’re disrespecting all those people in your tribe who clamour for some of that attention you’re giving.

Focus on the positive and show your own positive side. Don’t be blind to criticism, but move on when there is no value in that criticism.

An Exception: the Heckler-Effect

If you already have a good connection to your tribe and spend a lot of time with them, such as through livestreams, in video games, on YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, whatever… then you can make an exception.

You can engage a hater for the entertainment of the tribe. This should be done in good humour, so that you don’t come across as bitter. Think of a comedian taking down a heckler: the comedian’s takedown of a heckler is not about the heckler, it’s about the entertainment of the crowd.

Stay positive, don’t lose sight of your tribe and its narrative, and spend your energy exclusively on those that deserve it.

Learn more:

Bas Grasmayer is a music startup consultant, and former Product Lead of Zvooq, the leading music streaming service in Russia & CIS. He’s best known for his thesis The Answer is the Ecosystem: Marketing Music through Non-Linear Communication and has previously spoken at conferences such as Amsterdam Dance Event, European Lab, Midem and Sochi Winter Music Conference. Find out more at or follow @basgras