Musicians have a strange way of working. I can attest to this, as a musician myself. And, while communication technology might not be top of mind for us, it can actually help free up time to spend on our craft. We need focus to stay in the creative bubble. But, while the music may be your main hustle, it’s important to stay connected to the people who make your art possible: your fans.
If you’re an artist with a following, you’ve likely spent time considering creative ways to stay in touch with your fans; to enable the people who make your art possible to speak to you directly. And while social media can be great for communication, it can often feel impersonal or overdone. It would be great to take that to the next level, but you can’t just go and give out your phone number, right?
Well, actually, you can! It might be unrealistic to share your personal number, but there is another way for musicians to lift the veil and let their fans in on what they’re doing — just get a virtual number. Virtual mobile numbers (VMNs) are numbers that can be used with online services like MessageBird. They’re not connected to a physical SIM card, which is where the “virtual” part of the name comes in. It’s a straightforward process to set up, other creatives have used them, and I guarantee it won’t interrupt your creative flow too terribly. Here, let me explain…
With a VMN, a musician can create a direct point of contact with their fans. Some well-known artists like Questlove from The Roots, and YouTuber/singer-songwriter, Tessa Violet, have published their numbers online, enabling fans to text them. Tessa Violet’s Twitter bio calls it out, saying, “text me so i can tell u if i have a show near u 5412036998”.
This isn’t a totally new concept. In the 1980s, the indie band They Might Be Giants set up a service called “Dial-a-Song,” where fans could call a phone number and listen to one of the band’s songs on the phone.
The difference is that today, making your phone number available publicly is so much easier and less expensive than it was back then. You don’t even need to sign a contract. You can simply sign up to MessageBird, top-up your account, and buy a number for a small monthly fee. A US number, for example, will only set you back $0.50 a month.
It only takes a few small steps to set up a publicly available phone number with MessageBird. After you’ve signed up for a free account on our website, you can quickly top up your account to buy a virtual number. Think about how you want your fans to contact you—do you want them to call you or send you an SMS? Once you’ve decided, it’s easy to get a number that supports that. Sometimes, you can even buy numbers that accept both text messages and calls, in case you’re undecided.
It’s important to remember that VMNs only work on a national level. This means that if you get a US number with the country prefix +1, the number can only be texted or called by real phone numbers from the same country. If you want to be reachable in more than one country, make sure to buy a number for each.
Okay, so we’ve established that buying a number is easy. Now, what? As much as you’d love getting to sit around all day answering phone calls and SMS from your fans, that’s not exactly scalable. Luckily, we’ve got a tool to help you automate the whole process, while still keeping things personal. With MessageBird Flow Builder, you can decide what should happen whenever someone calls or texts your virtual number, such as sending an auto-reply, playing an audio file, or even making a call or sending a text within specific ‘open hours’. The best part is, you don’t need to be a developer to use it.
Let’s look at some examples:
Let’s say you tweet your new number and ask fans to text you if they want to find out more about your upcoming single. You can send out an automated SMS reply with a private link to a YouTube video with a 30-second snippet of the new song.
You could also ask fans to text you to find out if you’re going to be playing a show near them. Let’s say you’ve got a North American tour lined up. Your conversation could look something like this:
You can then forward the reply to an email address or a Google Sheet to keep track of which cities your fans are located in. When it’s time to book the next tour, you can add a few dates to give your fans in those areas a chance to come to see you play. This whole process can be set up in a matter of minutes. And, if you have more than one phone number (one for each country, remember?), you can simply use multiple numbers in the same Flow.
The great thing is that you, as an artist, get to spend more time being creative while at the same time offering your fans the tools to get in touch with you in a pretty special way. Of course, this kind of setup isn’t just applicable to music. A lot of our customers use VMNs and Flow Builder to a similar effect for things like customer support or collecting customer feedback.
Whether you’re in music, business, or other fields, having a dedicated VMN is a great way to offer your fans, customers, or leads an easy way to reach out. It’s more personal than email, less stressful than a live chat, and it saves you time thanks to MessageBird Flow Builder. And for me, time saved on marketing means more time to figure out how I can get my new Akai MIDI sample pad to work in Logic.