Industry Spotlight: Crafting Your Brand with The Superfan Company

Songtrust's Industry Spotlight with The Superfan CompanyTHE SUPERFAN COMPANY (from the team that brought you ZinePak) creates one-of-a-kind programs and products that engage superfans. They bridge the gap between like and love by creating 100% custom, tangible solutions that fans can share in real life and on social media. We sat down with Brittany Hodak, the co-founder, to talk about artists and marketing - from the importance of crafting a brand for themselves to the pros and cons of DIY marketing - and why interacting with their fans on another level is so vital in today’s day and age.  

How did The Superfan Company get its start?

My co-founder, our creative director and I launched the company at the beginning of 2011. At that point we were called “ZinePak,” which was the name of the configuration we created to help artists sell more physical CDs. It was a combination of a CD, magazine, and merch, and we launched the configuration as an exclusive collaboration with Walmart. We sold about 3 million ZinePaks for artists all across the musical spectrum, from Katy Perry to KISS. As our company grew, we started creating other products and experiences designed to engage fans. Now, as The Superfan Company, we partner with brands, labels, retailers, and tour partners to create keepsakes for music fans.

Why is it so important for artists/musicians to craft a brand for themselves?

“Brand” is just another word for “story.” Humans have been telling stories to each other since the beginning of time as a way to relate to things and understand things. If, as an artist, you don’t have a “brand”, that means fans don’t know your story and won’t relate to you. The key to any good story - or brand - is relatability. Fans want to understand what shared experiences they’ve had with you so they can fit you into the fabric of their lives. Once you become part of their stories, the hard part is over.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of marketing?

The most important part of marketing is authenticity. If you’re trying to follow a fad or change something to fit a trend, you’re going to lose. Plus, consumers are smart - they’ll see right through any attempt to market to them in an inauthentic way. The good news is that you’re the best, most qualified person in the universe at being YOU! Don’t waste that superpower - harness and amplify it for your benefit.

So many artists are becoming more DIY, what advice do you have for DIY marketing and branding for artists?

The person with the most dollars doesn’t always win - the person with the most creativity does. Just like the right song will always find a way to be heard, the right marketing will always find its way to the right people. Don’t get hung up on having a smaller budget or fewer connections. Focus on what you can control and find a way to make your dreams happen. There is always a way - you just have to out-hustle everyone around you.

What’s the pros/cons of doing DIY marketing/branding? What about using a team or company?

The biggest “con” of DIY marketing is time. There are only 24 hours in each day, and every minute dedicated to marketing is a minute you’re not spending on something else. The “pro” is that messaging will always been 100% authentic and “on brand” because it’s coming from you. Just because you can’t afford to hire an agency or publicist doesn’t mean you can’t get help. There is probably someone in your life who is great at social media or graphic design or marketing that would love the chance to help an up-and-coming musician. You may even be able to trade services to get the help for free or nearly free.

At what point in an artist’s career should they start to do marketing and, when is it vital they bring on a team or company to help them?

Whether you realize it or not, you’re “doing marketing” from the minute you write your first song or play your first gig. You should bring on a team or company to help support you when you can no longer dedicate at least two hours per day to doing your own socials/emails/outreach/etc.

What advice do you have when an artist is trying to rebrand themselves?

Think long and hard about your brand. I always ask artists to think about how they would describe their sound to a deaf person, or describe their look to a blind person. You’ve got to understand the essence of what makes you different and special. You may not need a true “rebrand” - you may just need to de-emphasize certain things and over-emphasize other things about yourself.

How do you think the music industry has changed for artists/songwriters in the last 10 years?

It’s changed in too many ways to count! The differences in consumption habits and revenue streams is probably the most drastic change. The democratization of music has made it very simple for anyone to get their music out there in a matter of minutes, which makes breaking through the noise that much harder. In some ways, it’s harder to get “discovered” today than it ever has been, because there’s so much competition. Aspiring artists today have to be super savvy about their brands and the business to stand a fighting chance.

Why do you think it’s more important now than ever for songwriters/artists to also focus on being good business people?

Just like the professional athletes of today’s generation are stronger and faster than in years before, musicians and songwriters are more savvy and more business-minded. If you want to make a career out of your art, it’s important to know how to monetize it. Otherwise, opportunities will pass you by. The most talented artist doesn’t win - a lot of it is about working hard, surrounding yourself with the right people, and plugging away at opportunities.

How do you think artists should define success in today’s music industry?

“Success” means something different to every artist. Some up-and-comers want to be the next Beyonce, and others just want to be able to support themselves by doing what they love. I think the real definition of “success” is the ability to do something you love for a living. Every artist should take the time to define what success means to them and then work backwards on a plan to get there. It’s hard to achieve your goals if you don’t know what they are.

The industry is growing and becoming more modernized every year, but what about the industry do you think still needs to change that can ultimately benefit artists?

There’s still so much room for improvement in terms of giving equal representation and respect to minority voices. Females are underrepresented across the board, from executive tables to radio to the producer’s chair. There’s even less representation for women of color and LGBTQ voices. The more diversity we see at the top (of companies, charts, awards lists, etc.) the more diversity we’ll see everywhere else. Diversity benefits everyone, not just those with distinct and diverse voices.

What’s next for The Superfan Company?

One of my favorite things about The Superfan Company is that we’re always working on new and exciting projects! At any given time we have a dozen or more fun things we’re involved with, from touring to retail to fan clubs. I’m really excited because we’re working with some of my favorite artists of all time this year. I can’t wait for all of our work to be out there in the universe! 

The Superfan Company's CoFounder, Brittany Hodak

 As part of Songtrust's continued mission to support and supply songwriters and artists with insights and resources to be successful, we're collaborating with like-minded companies globally to discuss relevant topics in the music industry. These interviews are purely for educational purposes and do not indicate a partnership or exchange of services. 

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