The fan club goes digital

Those days of floppy discs in the post have gone. Stars are using websites to offer exclusive and free content. Elisa Bray reports

Remember when CDs used to come with an inlay card for you to post back to the band's fan club? What happened to those fan clubs? Well, many may no longer exist with a postal code, but they remain in various incarnations all over the internet, as bands develop their websites to interact more with their fans.

It's why Squeeze's Chris Difford and his manager created the Saturday Morning Music Club. Fans who subscribed to it could download Difford's last solo album track-by-track on a Saturday, and it is now putting out a Squeeze greatest hits album. Difford told me: "I was a member of the Beatles' fan club and I really looked forward to getting the floppy disc that they used to send out. With the internet there's no thought for fan clubs any more. Delivering music in this way hopefully involves the fan in a more unique process."

In October a new "super site" launches that will pave the way for other young acts to launch their own subscription-based sites. McFly's venture aims to combat piracy by offering its users music by the band as soon as it's recorded – before it becomes available anywhere else. Costing £250,000 to build, the site provides free content, but it's the subscriber sections, giving fans access for a fee of £6 per month, or £50 per year, which render it like a fan club.

"This is the modern day equivalent," said McFly's manager Fletch, who helped set up the site. "Where it differs is we are a one-stop shop. You couldn't have had music distributed through a fan club – you had to go to the retailers."

Bands are realising just how important their fans are, by offering a unique hub to find the latest news and music. Here are some more connecting with their fans on the web in interesting ways.

Gorillaz

Being a virtual band, Gorillaz have resided mainly on their website (below) for nine years. As the place to find the band and hear their latest news, the site also became the hub for their last release, Plastic Beach. With EMI, Jamie Hewlett's company, Zombie, revamped the website around the Plastic Beach concept and the site features games, and a subscription-based members' area called Sub Division.

gorillaz.com/sub-division



Deerhunter

The American indie-rock four-piece have launched an "interactive Xerox art project" through their new website to coincide with the release of their album, Halcyon Digest. Inspired by 1970s and 1980s artwork and the cut-and-paste style of their New Wave heroes, the band asked fans to print out a poster designed by their frontman, Bradford Cox, place the posters in strategic places around town, photograph them and email them to the band. Fans participating were rewarded with exclusive access to the first single, "Revival", via a password-protected section of the site. The photos themselves are displayed on the site.

halcyondigest.com



Akala

Also known as Ms Dynamite's younger brother, Akala has been establishing himself as a rapper bringing Shakespeare to youngsters ever since he founded the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company. On his site he shares his passion for books, discussing them with his fans and encouraging fans to explore spoken word.

akalamusic.com



Riz MC

London rapper Riz MC's new interactive, sci fi-themed website, The Lab, was created for his debut, concept, album, MICroscope, which will be released in January. The site is designed to introduce audiences to the story behind his sci-fi world and its music via a three-minute web game, while for dedicated fans it is an extension of the sci-fi theme of his live show. After completion of the game, fans are given three free tracks from the album to download. The website recently won an Favourite Website Award for innovation in digital design. Riz MC explains: "This is a subversive, interactive, music-video site that allows you to download free music. You go undercover as a MICroscope Sonic Resistance Forces agent, into the heart of the DOCC [Department of Culture and Communication], to sabotage their cruel music and mind- control experiments."

rizmc.com/lab/



Underworld

The electro duo, who have been going since 1980, were active online before most. They have kept a daily blog for nearly 10 years on their website (below) – they were one of the first bands to properly embrace blogging, followed by countless artists, including Lily Allen. The site also hosts the band's radio show, while the art section links to their art-and-design collective, Tomato, and currently previews Karl Hyde's first major exhibition in Japan. They were also one of the first established acts to release music exclusively through their own website with the Riverrun album project, when they sold a series of internet-only tracks direct to the band's fanbase (including music, artwork, and pictures) two years before Radiohead sold In Rainbows online. It was Riverrun which went on to inspire the band's score in Danny Boyle's 2007 movie Sunshine.

underworldlive.com



Lightspeed Champion

Dev Hynes, best known to his fans as Lightspeed Champion, has just launched his new interactive website (below). You can sign up to download a track for free ("Heavy Purple", which was recorded recently in New York), and secure access to exclusive music, short films and photos loaded by Hynes, as well as his blog. You can also create a profile, load images and videos and talk to fellow fans. Currently you can enjoy Hynes's wordplay in his three-sentence movie reviews, as well as his pun of the day.

lightspeedchampion.com



Jamie Cullum

The jazz singer interacts most with fans on Facebook and Twitter, but his website allows them to upload gig photos and videos (via YouTube) for each performance, meaning there's lots of user-generated content. He is currently giving away a free track via unique Pins printed on the wristbands that fans receive at gigs. Anyone who signs up to his site has advance notice on tickets and occasional exclusives.

jamiecullum.com



Pendulum

The drum'n'bass act were the first band to stream a live performance of a new album during the writing process to enable fans to give feedback and help finish the album; 350,000 people watched it and made more than 50,000 comments.

pendulum.com



Muse

One of the most advanced fan sites to date, Muse.mu features fans on a world map, and fans can access documentary content when pre-ordering albums.

muse.mu



Tinie Tempah

The rapper's site was created using WordPress, and designed to work well on iPhone and iPad, as well as standard web browsers, so fans can keep up to date with the rapper's regular blogging. When he signed the deal with EMI for his second album, he ran a competition on his website. The winning "superfan" landed the chance to go to the signing deal – high tea at Claridges – and the star uploaded a video of the occasion.

tinietempah.com



Marina and the Diamonds

Marina Diamandis took such huge interest in her fans from the start that the Diamonds part of her stage name represents them. She has grown in fame since her early blog, and her website now boasts a VIP area for "super-fans", the Diamond Club. There, she offers first option on the best tickets for her shows, free songs and remixes, photos, and a blog, aiming to keep fans loyal.

marinaandthediamonds.com



Biffy Clyro

The Mercury-nominated band have a fan club area on their site (above) called Team Biffy where 40,000 fans are members. A "gig module" lets fans discuss gigs past and present. The site also offers widgets, tickets, and more.

biffyclyro.com

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
arts + entsFor a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past