Rock Star Content Marketing Pivots: How to Engage your Audience in Innovative Ways when You Can’t Do What You Do

Empty Stage

“I don’t know when it will be safe to return to singing arm in arm at the top of our lungs, hearts racing, bodies moving, souls bursting with life. But I do know that we will do it again, because we have to. It’s not a choice.” – Dave Grohl 

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters

With the words above, Dave Grohl is describing how COVID-19 is affecting concert tours. In “The Day the Live Concert Returns” for The Atlantic, he summarizes everything many of us are feeling. I shouted a loud “Hell Yeah!” after reading it. We will rock again…but when? The problem is that the chance of bands touring this year is pretty slim. And, next year is still a huge question. 

While many businesses are reopening, there are some industries, like concert touring, that are a long way off. What can you do in the meantime to hold on to your customers? To bring in money? To survive? Now more than ever content marketing pivots are the key. Who better to show us how than rock bands? 

I’m a firm believer that rock bands are incredible content marketers. So, many are already making content marketing pivots to keep their fans engaged. You can learn a lot from the adjustments they’ve made. Understanding what your audience needs right now and altering your content marketing strategy to deliver it is what’s going to keep them loyal to you once you’re fully operational again (that sounds like I’m describing the Death Star, doesn’t it?). Read on to learn what bands are doing and how you can apply the same concepts to your marketing. 

Empty Arena

Concerts: What Bands CAN Do

The first place to start with content marketing pivots is to understand the most affected part of your business. For bands, concerts with large crowds aren’t possible right now. At least the type of concerts we’re used to. But, are there ways to create a live concert based on the new rules of engagement? 

One option is to create a concert experience with social distancing and protection. The first attempt was a Travis McCready concert in Arkansas. The capacity was 229 tickets based on “fan pods” of 2 to 12 seats all at least six feet apart. The normal capacity for the arena they played is ~1,100. Fans wore masks and had their temperatures taken when they entered. They made hand sanitizer available in many locations. All food and beverages were pre-packaged. 

This could allow bands to offer fans a more intimate show than they usually would. And, bands may be able to charge more for tickets with fewer available and a different type of show. But, they may need to consider what their fans can afford right now as many may be out of work.


Another option is the concept of a “drive-in” concert. Like a drive-in movie, fans will park and watch the concert from their cars. I’m not one to sit at a concert, so this doesn’t feel like a great option for me. This also would bring some security processes to consider. What happens when fans get out of their cars to dance? Or, to run to the stage? Do you allow alcohol sales to fans in their cars? Also, are they charging tickets by car or by person?

I can’t imagine what that experience would be like for the artists either. Glimpses of movement within the car to know they’re enjoying it. Muffled screams. Headlights instead of holding up your lighters…or your phones now? All that said, it could be a viable option. 

Brand Takeaway for Content Marketing Pivots

You may not be able to serve your customers the same way you used to, but what can you do? Restaurants quickly adjusted to providing carryout and delivery. This included updating their advertising and marketing to promote it. As they’re reopening, they’re following guidelines to keep customers safe. Grocery stores limited the number of people allowed in the store at one time. They redirected the customer flow to help limit the number of people in aisles.

What can you adjust to continue helping your customers get what they need from you? Going out of your way to accommodate them will win you big points and that will pay off down the road. Help them feel safe and appreciated. 

Improve on Available Technology

Guns n' Roses in Concert in Cleveland

Remember pay-per-view concerts? In the ’80s and ’90s, popular bands like The Rolling Stones and Guns n’ Roses broadcast live concerts through cable TV. These were occasions when I was in high school. I remember chipping in with a bunch of friends to pay the $19.95 and watching at one of our houses. 

YouTube now offers almost any concert performance you can think of for free. It’s hard to imagine paying to watch a live performance on TV. Plus, many bands are streaming concerts. Foo Fighters, Rolling Stones and Metallica are offering their favorite performances each week. It’s fun to see these hand-picked performances and it keeps us excited to buy tickets when they get back on the road. 

One of my favorite new video offerings is the quarantine songs that bands are recording. Each member records them playing their separate part. For the full song, we see the screen broken into segments for each member. Sammy Hagar and the Circle were the first I saw (there may have been others before). They started by recording a new song (“Funky Feng Shui”) and released it in pieces. First, the drums. Then, Michael Anthony added the bass. Then, the guitar. Finally, Sammy Hagar added the vocals. It was a fun way to see the song come together. Later recordings (all cover tunes) only offered the finished product. 

There have also been different artists collaborating on some of their favorite songs. BBC Radio 1 produced a cover of Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” with the band and the “Live Lounge Allstars.” They donated proceeds from the song to BBC Children in Need, Comic Relief and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19-Solidarity Response Fund.

Brand Takeaway for Content Marketing Pivots

Are you able to improve, innovate or even change what you offer? Could you update your products with newer technology? Could you make your products in a better way? What about offering something different or new that your customers need now?

Some beer and liquor producers are making hand sanitizer. Auto factories are making respirators. In Cleveland, a local business pivoted to producing Plexiglas barriers for retail stores. This creates new sales opportunities (or donations in some cases). What new opportunities can you capitalize on to keep profits coming in? 

Go Deeper Behind the Scenes

Dave's True Stories on Instagram

With social media, bands have opened up portions of their lives we never got to see before. Backstage photos, videos of show prep, or artists at home doing mundane tasks give us daily access. Some bands may be able to take us even deeper behind the scenes. 

One example is Dave Grohl’s new Instagram account, Dave’s True Stories. With it, he tells in-depth stories about his experiences from his career. Examples include jamming with Prince and when Foo Fighters played Ozzfest. Grohl lets us in. He describes what he was feeling in the most conversational tone. You feel like you’re having a drink with him while he tells you every rock story you ever wanted to hear. 

Besides reading stories, what if you could watch bands create their next hit record? How many times have you heard a song from your favorite band and wondered how they came up with it? We all wish we could be a fly on the wall during their creative processes. Some bands have tried to give a little more insight into it. There are videos that chronicle the making of albums (such as Aerosmith’s The Making of Pump). 

Some bands even streamed some of their recording sessions. Bon Jovi streamed much of the recording of their Crush album back in 2000. I remember trying to log in from time to time. It was hit or miss if I actually got to see much and sometimes it was confusing. Internet connections back then were still a bit choppy too. It was interesting though, and we got to hear parts of the album before they released it. 

Bands creating new albums right now could stream it live. Today’s better technology could make it a better experience. Bands could get instant feedback from fans as they go. They could even have fans “help” them with a song. They could monetize certain aspects as premium content or sell it as a subscription. This could add a new revenue stream to replace some of the concert earnings. Plus, it promotes the album throughout the making of it. 

Brand Takeaway for Content Marketing Pivots

Can you take your customers behind the scenes? Introduce employees and let them explain what they do. Let them see who’s creating the products that make their work easier. Or, meet those who are performing the services that helped them get their last promotion. Can you give customers access to the engineering of a new product? Their feedback might help you create the exact tool they need for their company.

Hit the Studio

Speaking of new albums, some bands can take this opportunity to create a new CD. Start the songwriting process and then hit the studio to record. With technology, they don’t need to all be in the studio at the same time. Most can even record their parts at home. 

Depending on how long it takes, the new album release might coincide with being able to tour again. Or (and I’m sure some bands will hate this idea), band members can record that solo album they’ve hinted about for years. 

Brand Takeaway for Content Marketing Pivots

Are you able to invest more in your research and development (R&D) to design your next big product? Are there projects that kept getting pushed back for various reasons? Now might be the perfect time to put your resources and focus on bringing a new or improved product to market. Imagine coinciding a new product launch with your reopening.

If there are any new content platforms you’ve wanted to launch, this could be a great time. Maybe adding video into the mix is on your wish list. Start a podcast while the experts you need to interview are available. Or, you might want to learn a new tool to make your work more efficient. 

Promote New Albums in New Ways

Some bands already have new albums completed but aren’t releasing it because they can’t tour. They need innovative ways to promote the album and get fans excited. How could they use social media, streaming video and other technologies? How can they use their website and music streaming services to build hype in new ways? 

Get Your Fans Behind Your Cause

Aerosmith Crew Nation T-Shirt to Benefit Crew Workers

One way could be to donate part of the revenue to their staff behind the scenes. These might be event staff, technicians, or others who are out of work until they can tour again. Or, set up a GoFundMe page where they ask fans to donate to help those out of work. They could release the new album early to those who donate. Or, they could even reward the city with the largest amount of donations with a special show (once they can tour). Donors could get free or preferred tickets. Even let the donors vote on the songs to make up the setlist.

Brand Takeaway: 

Are there new marketing tactics you’ve wanted to try to promote your products? Now might be a great time to test reaching your audience in new ways. Your customers may be shifting the things they’re paying attention to right now. Consider tapping into social media ads. Webinars or virtual events work well in place of canceled trade shows and in-person events.

Showcase Your Fans

What better way to engage fans and keep them excited about new content than by involving them. Bands have found some creative ways to include their fans. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Jon Bon Jovi wrote a new song, “Do What You Can,” and asked fans to submit their lyrics for a verse. He posted a video where he sang a few of the submissions. Imagine if he named you and sang your lyrics…fan for life!
  • Alice Cooper recorded a new song, “Don’t Give Up.” He asked fans to submit photos with one word from the song. He took them and used them throughout the video.
  • Aerosmith asked fans to record their own versions of “Dream On” and share them. 

Brand Takeaway for Content Marketing Pivots

How can you get your customers involved? Consider asking them to send you videos using your products for the first time as they get back to work or reopen. Even videos of their healthy staff that you can compile could work well.

Innovative New Music Experiences

With all the technology available, I’m hoping somebody is creating something we’ve never seen. In many industries, times like these bring about new ideas and innovations. This could be an opportunity to create an augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) experience. I’ll be the first to say that AR/VR hasn’t taken off like we thought it would. It’s been the next big thing for the last 30 years. But, an immersive band and music experience might be the perfect application. I’m thinking more than recreating a concert in virtual form. This could have the potential to be much bigger. 

Some of you may remember The Rolling Stones sold a CD-ROM for their Voodoo Lounge album in 1995. You explored a virtual Voodoo Lounge where you interacted with the band (and others). You explored rooms, watched concert clips and video footage exclusive to the game. It was interesting for a little bit, but not well done for what it could have been. 

With AR/VR, the experience could be much more immersive. Imagine feeling like you’re in an arena to see your favorite band. Go backstage for exclusive content that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. Interact with other fans like you would at a concert. Fans could determine their own comfort level of that type of interactivity. Gaming components like collecting things or earning points would make it more engaging. They could unlock things like performances or even actual interactions with the band.

Brand Takeaway for Content Marketing Pivots

What new experiences could you create for your business? Is there something that could revolutionize the industry? What have your customers told you they always wished they could buy? Now might be the time to dig deep to see how you could provide it. Or, is there a pivot you need to make, but could never focus the resources on making it happen? You may never have time like this when you can both have the time and resources to put toward it. 

Bands who thought they were going to be touring for months may find that they’re busier than ever. They need to keep their fans excited about what they’re doing. It’s the same for you and your customers. You need to keep them engaged. Start by providing what they need right now and explore what else you can do. What other ideas do you have for companies to find ways to keep your customers engaged. Share them in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

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