How to Convince Your Fans That You Care
Many artists are entirely ego-driven. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few marginally talented superstars, this mentality will not carry a career that’s meant to be based on a mutual connection with one’s fans. Think about any relationship. If you’re only ever concerned with what you’re getting out of it, you’re going to piss off whoever is on the other side, and eventually that relationship will fail. The relationship between artists and fans is no different. What happened when Lil Wayne didn’t show up to his Minnesota concert earlier this year? GO 95.3, the local modern hip-hop channel, BANNED him entirely from their station, immediately ceasing to play any of his music on their airwaves. It really just comes down to human nature. When someone feels slighted, they stop investing.
Whether it’s time, energy, money, or all three, fans’ resources are valuable to them, and they typically spend them on things they truly care about. And they will only continue to invest those resources if they feel like it’s mutual. While it’s easy for artists to claim that their effort in creating their work should be enough to let fans know they care, the reality is that creating is our job, and we have to go above and beyond to ensure that our fans feel connected. Through the years, there have been several artists who realize this premise and have tried to give back as much as they can, and continuing that legacy is George Watsky.
Watsky, a 31-year-old rapper, author, and poet from San Francisco, has been grinding tirelessly for nearly a decade. In 2011, he uploaded a video to YouTube of himself rapping incredibly fast and equally comical original lyrics over a Busta Rhymes beat. There’s no saying whether or not Watsky intended for this video to go viral in the way that it did (accumulating 4 million views in 2 days and an appearance on The Ellen Show), but this catalyzed his career into something larger than possibly he could have even imagined. While the viral video was a passing fad of the Internet to many, it really piqued the interest of other viewers in a way that resonated. The sort of cult-like following Watsky now has is almost entirely due to the way he reciprocates the love his fans show him.
Any artist, regardless of whether or not they want to engage their fans on social media, has the ability to. Replying to mentions on Twitter or comments on Facebook is almost a bare minimum today (or at least have someone pretending to be you). Watsky takes this so much further, though. After every live show, he will wait outside the venue and chat with his fans for as long as it takes until everyone goes home, even dismissing security if need be. And it doesn’t start nor end there. A few years back, he opened up a P.O. Box and put the address on Twitter and Facebook, along with the promise of a letter in return for anyone who wanted to reach out. Perhaps it would have been easier for him to do a Reddit AMA, of which he has done multiple, but this was such an extra step, and fans recognized that. Plus, now everybody who wrote to him has a physical piece of paper with a personal message to them and Watsky’s signature.
It hasn’t always been sunshine and butterflies for Watsky and his fans, however. In 2013, during a Vans Warped Tour show in London, he jumped 35 feet into the audience from the rafters, hospitalizing her and breaking her arm. This brought about a good deal of bad PR for the rapper, including a defamatory article from the Daily Mail. It was his response to this event that kept his loyal fans on board, though. About a week after it happened, he took to Facebook to explain the ordeal. After clarifying that he had compensated the victim and done what else he could to reach out to her, without being overbearing or making the situation worse, he publicly apologized with a moment of serious self reflection. He talked about his responsibility as an entertainer and acknowledged the recklessness and dangerous nature of his stunt. He told his fans that this kind of behavior isn’t badass or cool, but it’s incredibly selfish and people can get seriously hurt. In addition, he included a song about the event and his feelings on it on his next album after the hype had died down. It was clear he wasn’t just trying to change the narrative when he was under pressure.
When other artists might have used this stunt to shape their image as someone who is unpredictable and dangerous, Watsky stripped away all facades and spoke directly to his fans with a genuine message in the most human way possible. And that is what it truly comes down to. Fans just want to feel understood by another person, and if an artist can remind their fans that they are real people, just like them, they will continue to support them.