5 Ways to give back to your fans this holiday season

The holiday season is upon us. We can ignore that fact as much as we like, but every time you turn on the television or visit a website with advertising there is a glaring reminder that the time for giving has returned. 

You don’t have to enjoy or even celebrate Christmas to appreciate its importance in culture. As much as we have become a global community connected through devices Christmas is still viewed as a time for people to come together in a shared physical space. Christmas, as well as Thanksgiving and all other holidays in between, convinces people to put forth the effort in caring for others that they should be showing all year round. 

Musicians find themselves in a unique position during the holiday season. There are many opportunities to profit from this time of year, be it at holiday shows or through gift-related merchandise sales, but those who focus solely on how they can get ahead during this time of year are missing the reason for the season (and fans will notice). Those who stand to benefit the most during the holidays are those who give as much, if not more, than they get. Here are 5 ways to show your fans how much you appreciate their support in the coming weeks:

1. Free Music

There is an old adage about the easiest course in life often being the most obvious one, and that is very much the case with this suggestion. Your fans support you all year long in hopes that you will both come to their town and continue to release music that touches their lives. Though you are unable to be everywhere at once on Christmas, you can make your music available for anyone who has yet to add it to their personal collection. Whether you choose to make a song, album, or even your entire catalog available as a free download, you should see a rise in engagement as a result. People who have been waiting to buy your album when they see you live won’t be able to resist the free download, and there is a high likelihood they will recommend your friends take advantage of the offer as well.

2. Record and release a holiday cover (maybe give it away as well)

The world has heard countless covers of holiday classics, but the world has yet to hear your take on famous seasonal staples, and that is why you can still use them to give back to fans this Christmas. I know my favorite Christmas covers are those performed by my favorite bands, and I’m willing to bet the same can be said for most music fans. Record a holiday cover, be it in a studio or in your own home, and share it with fans in the days leading up to December 25. You can even take things one step further and ask fans about their favorite holiday songs in advance, that way your cover will have an even higher likelihood of being shared by your followers.

3. Surprise your fans with free stuff (no contest necessary)

Everyone is thinking of others during the holiday season, or at least they should be, so many fans may not have money to buy the limited edition winter merch items you have available in your online store. To show fans you understand their dilemma, consider offering a give away where you send a prize pack including numerous merch items, as well as items not available in your store (handwritten lyrics, drum head, etc) to one lucky fan. Don’t make it a contest and don’t ask for contact information in exchange for consideration. Simply pick a fan, or four, and send them a present. With any luck, the fan(s) will share their surprise with the world, and you will earn brownie points for being one of the more thoughtful artists in music today.

4. Stream an acoustic performance from your home/studio/van/bus/basement

There are few things music fans love more than seeing their favorite artists playing bare-boned versions of their favorite songs. Since there is no way everyone who follows you could attend a single performance, especially one planned close to Christmas, make the event special by broadcasting your set on one or more of the popular live streaming services that have risen to prominence over the last year. If those services require you to charge consumers, like with StageIt, then you should also consider giving all the money earned to charity. This way, fans feel like they are giving back by tuning in, and you walk away having established yourself as an artists who hasn’t lost sight of the problems that exist outside your immediate surroundings. Win-Win.

5. Holiday scavenger hunt

This idea has become increasingly popular in the age of IG and Snapchat stories. The setup is fairly straightforward: In the hours before an event or while traveling to a new city musicians leave merchandise/gifts for fans in public spaces. Clues on where the items can be found are then posted to feeds, which fans can then respond to as they begin their hunt. These activities encourage engagement and help bring fans together in the real world. As people converge on the location of whatever you’ve hidden they encounter others who follow your music. This can lead to community building, which in turn helps you.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.