There was an article on Techdirt on Friday pointing to an interesting paper about how Swedish record labels engage fan communities as part of their marketing efforts. Apparently they do so pretty successfully, which is good to hear.

The raison d’etre for the paper is to say that this shouldn’t be thought of as exploitation in the ‘clever music labels get fans to do free work’ sense. Rather, we should see fans as individuals who make rational trade-offs about the value they put-in and take-out from their relationships with brands, a lot of which is non-monetary. Moreover they are conscious of the risk of exploitation and take steps to protect themselves.

I warm to this view of fans (or any member of any community) as intelligent people with feelings and complex motivations. That is much closer to reality than the one-dimensional money focused view of some economists and the ‘witless pawn to be exploited’ view of some other commentators.

The notion of ‘fan communities’ working with product companies (aka brand owners) for mutual benefit is, of course, applicable beyond music, as is the notion of the value equation.

I am hearing more and more examples of companies creating communities around products that on the face of it might not seem interesting enough to generate engagement, but which have come up with seemingly compelling value equations. It is early days yet for many of these and it will be interesting to see how they develop, but I like the way they are thinking.

This sort of development could herald a shift in the way marketing budgets are allocated away from buying media and towards hiring community management personnel.

If anyone knows of any good lists and/or stats for projects like this I’d be keen to see it.

From mobile stuck in my hotel room in China, so apologies for the lack of links and formatting.