The Fan Journey: From Listener To Super Fan

© 2019 Vinny Ribas

In order to attract and retain new fans, it’s important to understand the fan journey. People don’t become your super fans in an instant, instead, you both go through a series of steps that eventually leads to some level of commitment to you. Your job is to masterfully guide them on that journey from discovery to full-fledged team member and promoter.

In a very broad sense, there are 5 steps to this journey. They are discovery, intrigue, testing, evaluation and commitment. By understanding these steps, you can map out exactly how you are going to move them through the process.


It used to be that an artist needed to be ‘discovered’ by someone influential in the music industry who would them propel them to stardom. Hundreds of thousands of artists still pursue that means in big cities like LA, NY and Nashville.

But for the indie artist who wants to make a great living and not rely on a record label, their goal is to be ‘discovered’ by as many new people as possible. But in the same way that an artist who dreams of stardom moves to a big city to get noticed, so too the indie artist must place himself wherever people who are most likely to enjoy them and want to hear more congregate. That includes where they gather both physically (the right gigs) online (the right platforms) and in other mediums (e.g. film and TV).

These are not an option. The wise artist makes money from performing and puts a portion of it into advertising and promotion to maximize his reach.


Hearing your music is no longer enough. In the past, radio bombarded the listeners with only a limited number of songs. The listeners had few choices, so they learned to love what was familiar to them. In today’s market, listeners have thousands of ways to discover their favorite artists, and have millions of songs to choose from. Artists are not only fighting off other original artists for the attention of listeners. They are competing with past catalogs of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of ‘familiar’ songs.

To cut through that clutter and actually get listeners to pay attention, an artist must give listeners a reason to want to hear and know more. When an artist performs live, they get to interact with the audience. They show their personality and can share what they love, stand for or are passionate about. These are the things that generate intrigue and cause people to look an artist up online, listen to more of their music and engage with them in any number of ways.

Online, an artist must do the same thing. He must create the desire to know more. That’s often impossible on a strictly-music site like Spotify. That is where the discovery and the research take place, but it does not cultivate intrigue. Artists must do online exactly what they do on stage – show their personality(s), share their interests and ask fans to take the next step in their journey. This is most often done through social media sites. And the artist who masters this is well on his way to developing a loyal fan base.


This 3rd step occurs when the listener decides he or she wants to know more about the artist. He will listen to more music online. He will look for the artist’s website and other online presences. He will watch videos as well. This is all done in search of a deeper connection with the artist – the same kind of connection that an artist can generate in a live performance. This is why it is so critical for artists to do 2 things:

First, they must entice and invite listeners who are in the ‘Intrigue’ phase to learn more about them. They will often not do it without seeing or hearing a call to action. They must be led. That is why calls to action are so critical wherever an artist has a presence. The goal is to move the fan along on the journey.

Secondly, the artist must ensure that his branding is strong and accurate. This is important so the fan who is in ‘test mode’ gets a very compelling picture of who the artist is outside as well as inside the music. It must go beyond just intriguing the fan. It must actually rope them in.


In this phase the fan is evaluating 3 things: 1) Are you are someone they relate to on multiple levels, 2) Are you someone they want to build a deeper relationship with, and 3) How deep do they want that relationship to be?

It is the artist’s responsibility to help the fan make these decisions. This happens by giving them opportunities to get involved on a gradually deeper level. It might start by getting the fan to join the mailing list. Getting an email address should be looked at as the first step in a deeper relationship because it is giving the artist permission to both share more about themselves personally and to market to them.

From there the artist can provide multiple ways for their new fans to engage and ‘test the waters.’ It can be in the form of an invitation to view exclusive ‘fan only’ content. It might be asking them to watch a live online concert. Then he might ask them to come to a show, buy a CD or some kind of merch item that costs a little bit of money. If the fan is happy at each level of engagement, he will most likely be ready for a more robust relationship with the artist. It is the artist’s responsibility to ensure the fan has a better-than-expected evaluation phase.


The final portion of the fan journey occurs when he decides to ‘go all-in’. This means he is willing to spend more time and money on the artist than he does on most other artists. This can come in the form of travelling to attend the artist’s shows, hiring the artist to perform at a house party, generously supporting the artist’s fan-funding campaign or becoming a patron of the artist. This often entails becoming a huge online supporter as well, promoting the artist and his shows. It might extend into buying much higher-end merch or one-of-a-kind items that have a high perceived value to the fan.

At this level the artist has successfully cultivated a super-fan. It is now the artist’s responsibility to show his appreciation by continually interacting with the fan, even on a personal level. The artist must fight just as hard to keep his super-fan as he did to move him along the journey. It is these super fans who will, if treated properly, support the artist for years to come.

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.