Warring Band Loves Its Fans—Directly


Challenge: Brand awareness and audience data capture.
Employ software that allows direct-to-fan digital communications and e-commerce.

Despite the ambivalence the band members of The Civil Wars express about each other in the song “Poison & Wine”—through lyrics like “I don’t love you/but I always will”—it’s quite clear that they love their fans.

The fact that the band can allow free song downloads—even an entire live album—is just part of the benefit of being able to market “direct-to-fan” rather than being routed through a major record label, says Nate Yetton, the band’s manager.

“The way that the pie is split is changing,” he says. “There’s big portions of the [revenue] pie that used to be taken up by large entities that could justify taking that. And today, because of the digital space, because of direct-to-consumer marketing, they can’t justify taking that substantial piece of the pie.”

Now, artists are starting to realize that direct marketing helps them remain independent, Yetton says. For The Civil Wars, marketing directly to consumers also makes monetary sense.

Before the 2010 holiday season, there was absolutely no brand awareness about The Civil Wars, according to Yetton, and, therefore, no demand for the music. That’s when the band started using tools from San Francisco-based software provider Topspin Media to build its e-commerce site on 
thecivilwars.com, as well as on the band’s Facebook page. Using the software to create a widget that could be shared, perhaps among fans on social networks, The Civil Wars requested email addresses from fans in exchange for a Christmas song.

On Jan. 13, 2011—the day the indie-folk duo first appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC—the widget changed to a free download of the title track from the band’s debut album, 
”Barton Hollow.”

The Civil Wars created more anticipation for the Feb. 1, 2011, release by digitally alerting fans a week before the album dropped that they could stream the entire album free for a couple hours. Then, on that date, the e-commerce sites also went live.

“We sold 25,000 albums the first week that the record came out,” Yetton says.

While most of those sales were through Amazon or iTunes, about 1 percent came directly through the band’s e-commerce platform.

So now, Yetton hopes all the built-up good will among fans may transfer to the next offering. The Civil Wars will use email, Facebook and Twitter to alert fans to upcoming tour dates and the pre-sale tickets that the software facilitates. All without a fight.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.