The Path to Fandom: A Guide to the Fan Journey

When you stumble upon a mesmerizing track in a playlist, you may find yourself irresistibly drawn into the artist's world. You delve deep into their music catalog, read up on their media coverage, and explore their Instagram for insights into their character. As your interest grows, you might even pre-save their upcoming releases and excitedly share your newfound passion with friends. You're on the path to becoming a fan, but the journey from discovery to devoted support is a multi-stage process.

In this article, we will explore the stages of the fan journey, offering real-life examples and valuable tips to help artists strengthen their connection with their fans.

The Fan Journey Model

Derived from the traditional marketing framework of the consumer journey, "The Fan Journey Model" outlines how individuals progressively engage with an artist's work over time. Becoming a fan entails a five-stage journey that begins with Discovery and advances through Exploration, Retention, Purchase, and Advocacy. Each stage can be quantified using metrics that provide insights into how fans perceive an artist's work and how to achieve specific goals.

While the traditional music industry fan journey typically places Purchase before Retention, the digital age and the influence of streaming services have reshaped this model. Retention now precedes Purchase because highly engaged fans are more likely to become paying supporters.


The Discovery stage marks the initial awareness of an artist. People may encounter an artist's music through playlists, social media, word of mouth, or other means. This stage often occurs passively, as listeners have limited control over playlists like New Music Friday. Measuring awareness can be challenging due to its organic nature and the lack of clear attribution in music promotion. To estimate discoveries, you can examine metrics like Spotify monthly listeners. For example, if an artist with 27 monthly listeners sees a sudden surge to 3.7K after their track is added to editorial playlists, it suggests a significant increase in discovery.

Tip for Discovery: Building online traction before releasing music can enhance the Discovery stage. Mention your online presence when pitching to playlist curators, as they increasingly consider an artist's streaming history and online following. Creating online buzz takes time, planning, and consistency.


Once listeners are intrigued, they transition to the Exploration stage, where they delve deeper into an artist's catalog and social media. At this point, they know more about the artist's story, sound, persona, and aesthetics. Engagement metrics such as Chartmetric Engagement Rank, Spotify monthly listeners, and social media activity indicate interest in an artist's work.

Tip for Exploration: Cultivate an inviting online profile across platforms. Ensure your aesthetic is cohesive, and consider adding an artist playlist to your Spotify profile to allow listeners to explore your catalog easily.


Retention is now a crucial stage in the fan journey, focusing on fans who actively engage with an artist's content. This includes newsletter subscribers, Release Radar followers, and fans who anticipate consistent engagement. Metrics like Spotify followers, YouTube subscribers, and TikTok followers measure retention. Analyzing engagement rates helps tailor content to resonate with followers.

Tip for Retention: Provide incentives to keep fans engaged. Consider content that appeals to both new and existing followers, and acknowledge fan-generated content to make fans feel special and valued.


To sustain a music career, artists must immerse fans in their artistry. Fans support artists financially through avenues like merchandise and concert tickets. Purchase is measured by digital downloads, merch sales, concert ticket sales, and fan club subscriptions.

Tip for Purchase: Identify fans willing to support you by tracking their engagement with your merch drops and ticket sales. Diversify income sources beyond streaming revenue.


Advocates are devoted fans who actively promote an artist, often on social media. Measuring advocacy can be challenging, but monitoring positive sentiments, fan comments, and mentions on social platforms can provide insights. Advocates also attend concerts and contribute to ticket sales.

Tip for Advocacy: Engage with fans on social media, even if you haven't started touring. Brief interactions before and after shows leave a lasting impression, creating a strong connection with fans.


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