Where do Web2 fanbases fit in Web3?
0xe612
November 30th, 2021

A common issue creators excited web3 run into, is that their fanbase might not be familiar yet. There’s a feeling of needing to port folks over, to educate them, to help them get set up… This may not be necessary. There are lessons we can draw from the past.

Shifts

We’re going through a shift. Many of the novel concepts of ownership, autonomy and more equitable ways of distributing value across ecosystems of creators will stick. Some of the tools we are already using for this will stick to. These shifts have happened before.

  1. Shift from CDs to MP3 & P2P piracy.
  2. Shift from early web2 (MySpace, Flickr) to modern (SoundCloud, Facebook, Spotify, etc).

The latter also coincided with the shift from desktop to mobile.

I vividly remember the second shift. New ideas around interfaces, open APIs that could be leveraged by app developers, and liberal approaches to the amount of data you could upload for free. All of these drew early adopter artists and fans away from MySpace and the piracy sites and apps of the day and onto Spotify and SoundCloud. Most fans didn’t join them.

In the modern social media landscape it’s common to have strong overlap across different platforms, but this wasn’t really the case. Moving fanbases around wasn’t a skillset many people had mastered or even really thought about. The unmetered internet was still a relatively new thing and for many people only available if they were at a desktop PC (laptops were not as common for young people yet either).

Building new fanbases

People moved to new places and started connecting with audiences there. They were separate from their fanbases elsewhere. Your SoundCloud following may have had a distinct set of characteristics compared to your MySpace following, for example.

Artists would then keep updating their old profiles, but there’s an advantage to being on a growing platform… all you need to do to keep growing is just to hold on. As long as the platform grows, your exposure grows along with it. You don’t have to compete for visibility yet. This is what’s happening in the web3, but perhaps closer to home for some readers: it also explains the success of so many creators on TikTok.

Eventually, updating the old platforms starts to feel tedious and perhaps pointless. So artists would stop and they’d have migrated, found a new online fanbase of majority new fans and not really look back.

Reunion

Years down the line, these artists would be reunited by their old fanbases. As these platforms reached critical mass and became incumbents, the late majority of adopters would move over and find things they’re familiar with as they’re onboarding. For example, pages to like on Facebook, so updates appear on your newsfeed.

They may have never stopped listening to the artist, they may have remained fans, but for a while they weren’t active participants in the fanbase anymore. Once the shift reaches a stage where the late adopters can move in, there’s a reunion and fans once again can experience the full spectrum of an artist - at least until the next shift.

Predictions

  • Artists will find & build new audiences in web3 that are separated from their existing fanbase. (this is already happening)
  • Some existing fans will be onboarded to web3 through artists' activity. (these will be early adopters)
  • Large proportions of fanbases will stay behind and will be reunited in 2-5 years. (probably by FAANG integrations with web3)

Strategy

  • Should artists worry about onboarding all their fans to web3?

It’s a waste of time. Be inclusive in your communication. Never throw your fans under the bus. However, as an artist your role is to create art, to create narrative, to build worlds. Tech platforms have a much stronger economic incentive to improve the user experience, so that it’s easier for people to use their tools. They have far more control over it too. You should worry about finding & building audience.

Small anecdote: I led product at a classical music streaming service called IDAGIO. We solved issues with how classical music is organized in the music streaming era, allowing users to browse catalogues by individual performers, composers, and actually having access to data obscured in most streaming services. Many classical music fans still listen to CDs. Our job wasn’t to onboard them to streaming. There are companies worth billions of dollars who are trying to do that. Once they get activated on those streaming services, they’ll realize that classical music doesn’t work well in them. That’s the point where IDAGIO has clear value to them; not before that. The goal was not to convert folks to streaming, but to convert from a poor streaming experience to a great one. In short: let others with deeper pockets worry about onboarding people to the technology - you just make sure you stand out in what you add or improve in that space.

  • What about the web2 legacy fanbase?

Keep them in the loop. Show them what you’re working on. Introduce them to communities you’re a part of, e.g. on Twitter Spaces or Discord. Those that are ready will come along. If not now, then later. Channel your energy into your own future. You can’t bring your entire past with you.

  • Collect email addresses & phone numbers.

The social media landscape is going to get rocky in the next few years. You'll need a reliable way to stay in touch with people.

I hope this gives artists a sense of freedom. Also if you’re struggling with the above, you are not alone. Practically every artist I’ve spoken to has struggled with this. Latashá regularly makes jokes about the division between her fanbases on Instagram and Twitter, which are more web2-leaning and web3-leaning respectively. I wonder if most of Matthew Chaim’s fans are even aware of what he’s building with Songcamp.

There’s another bonus to shifts like this. If you’re an artist looking to relaunch your career, for example you’ve gone inactive in the past or you’re trying to release different music, now is the perfect moment. You have your legacy, which gives you rep, but you can be free from it by focusing completely on new audiences in the web3, who are eager for more artists to make it over and hear greater varieties of expression.

Focus on the future. People will follow at their own pace. Meanwhile, connect with those on similar journeys.

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Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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