Thursday, July 13, 2006

HOW NOT TO TALK TO YOUR FANS: TODD AGNEW

I subscribe to a lot of musicians’ blogs on Myspace as a way of keeping abreast of music news and happenings. It’s also a bang-up way to keep from being productive. At any rate, I usually end up ignoring about three quarters of the posts, because they’re either something like “hey, buy my new album” or “here’s a survey of about 50 hillion jillion questions that everybody hates to get in the email” or “so-and-so in our band made it to age 25 without getting a groupie pregnant” or something equally worthless and non-blog-worthy. Today, though, I ran across one that, like a mis-cast fish hook, caught my eye.

Contemporary Christian artist Todd Agnew posted a blog today. For those of you who may not be up on the CCM scene, Todd is charting fairly well these days. In any case, his blog title trumpeted loudly and in all caps “PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU EMAIL!!!”

Now I don’t know Todd personally. He is from Memphis, though. My sister and a friend used to go to some worship groups he led here in Memphis, and their appraisal of him wasn’t on the Jeffrey Dahmer level, but they weren’t exactly nominating him for sainthood either. I’m usually willing to give an artist a second, third, or fourth chance. But this blog blew it for him.

He writes:

Hey everyone. I'm sorry for the crazily capitalized title. I'm not much for overstatement, but unfortunately in this case, it is necessary. I just wanted everyone to receive some important information before you email me here. First is that I really do want to hear from you. Second, I really do read every email I get here. It may take some time because I receive about 100 emails a day, and believe it or not, most days I don't get to sit around and check my myspace. We actually go out and play concerts. But I do read every email you guys send. Third, and very important, I'm not going to respond to your emails. it's nothing personal, but it's a big time commitment just to read them all. And if I responded to every email, I wouldn't have time to do the things you expect from me, like make music, play concerts, etc. So thanks for understanding. And lastly, just because you see the "I'm online" icon doesn't mean I'm online. We have a team that works on this site, receiving friend requests, etc. Most of the time you see that, it's not me. When I have time to get on, it's usually in the middle of the night and I just sit down and read emails. So please don't have your feelings hurt when I don't immediately respond to your questions. If you want a response, please go to the message boards located at toddagnew.com/forums. That is our own community and I respond much more often to those requests. I hope you guys understand. I just don't want people getting frustrated or hurt by something that they don't understand. Thank you for all your prayers and support. We look forward to seeing you out on the road and I'll try to be better about blogging once this crazy summer is over. Be the moon.


Mack and Tricia, you two can just skip on ahead to the comments and tell me what’s wrong with his approach to his community. The rest of you, buckle up.

First off, the title alone starts off discouraging communication from fans. That’s right, fans, before you email, you have to read Todd’s little fun thingy. And then you get told basically that you’re emailing for nothing. That you’ll pretty much have a better chance getting an email back from Marilyn Monroe than from him. Now, before everybody starts jumping up and down on me, yes, I do realize that it’s simply not possible to respond to 100 emails a day. The thing is, even though it is impossible to respond, it’s not necessary to SAY so. One of the first rules of TV and radio that I learned was never to be apologetic to your audience. If you goofed, don’t say anything about it. And if you can’t do something, don’t start off with saying something about it. He could’ve very well left the situation alone, not said anything about it, and gone on about his business as usual, and the fans would’ve gotten pretty much what they expected.

But to just flat out say “Third and very important, I’M NOT going to respond to your emails?????”

Todd, Todd, Todd… Please check with your PR people before you post stuff like this. And if they told you to write this, fire every last one of them. Preferably from a cannon. I know a few good marketers who are looking for a job who would flat out tapdance on your forehead for posting something this bone-headed.

It’s all well and good to build up your fans by saying that you lovingly and tenderly read every one of their emails while soaking in a hot bath, drinking a nice Merlot, and having romantic fantasies about them (although if you get as many as you claim, and you have time to read them all, do you not have time to respond to one or two?) But then you totally kill any reason for your fans to email you by making the blanket statement that you will not, under any circumstances, short of being held at gunpoint, respond to any of them. Okay, Todd, what other reason is left to email you? To tell you how wonderful you are? To thank you for blessing us with your presence? To tell you what time it is in Malaysia? My goodness, what a snotty thing to say!

Second of all, why discourage fans from trying to message you when they see you’re online? Especially when, as fans were quick to point out, it’s retardedly easy to adjust your Myspace account to where it doesn’t show your “online now” button. Not to mention that it’s simple to choose not to accept instant messages. And there’s always the option of just ignoring them, which you already apparently do.

Thirdly, Todd, your fans are not grade-schoolers, and they deserve more than to be talked down to as if their parents were cousins, which is what you did in your blog. The whole post just reeks of condescension. We all know you’re an artist, and in this society that apparently makes you rate just below the Trinity, but the truth is, Todd, we’re all your intellectual equivalents. Time to get that nose back in joint.

Fourth, if you are an artist on Myspace, having a team work on your site makes you look lame and corporate. Have a team work on it, but don’t tell anybody, because it robs your Myspace profile of its genuine feeling. Your Myspace friends want to feel that it’s YOU they’re communicating with, not your lackeys. It’s called FRIEND for a reason. You don't communicate with a friend through his agents. (For that matter, you don't have a friend that won't talk to you, either.)

Fifth, what are you doing redirecting people to your forum?? Is it because you want them to go back to a place where it’s easier to corral them like the sheep you seem to believe them to be? Is it because you can speak down from on high and address the huddled, unwashed masses easier that way? This has been discussed on marketing blog after marketing blog. When your fans are expressing their appreciation for you and your product in a certain venue, even if it is not the venue or method that you want, you MUST LET IT HAPPEN. It is a HUGE mistake to try to divert your fans to another place when they are doing nothing but singing your praises. You can’t put your fan-dom in a box. You say “go to my forum, not here.” Yeah, well, Toddy-boy, the fact is they are already there on Myspace, and they deserve your attention just as much there. This is such a classic blunder: a marketer trying to control his marketing by forcing his consumers to obey his marketing strategy.

What you might as well have said is this: “Hi, I’m Todd Agnew. I’m a big shot Christian artist. Yeeeeeah, I get all your emails. Hundreds of them. For real. I’m the big man. But if you think I’m going to stoop to answering your sniveling little questions, you’re out of your mind. I have concerts to do and music to make, which is, after all, much more important than your meaningless little jobs and schooling, and since the Earth revolves around me, I can’t be bothered with responding to your petty queries. Oh, and don’t bother trying to IM me when you see I’m online, because I can’t be bothered. But if you must bother me, do it at my message board, and not at the venue of your choosing. Cuz I’m Todd Agnew. Yeah.”

Here’s the bottom line, Todd. You’re falling victim to your own hype. You didn’t add a lot of us to your friend list. WE added YOU, after you requested it. I know I didn’t actively seek you out. And you don’t buy my music. I buy yours (though not anymore.) Here’s the rough truth. Without your fans, you wouldn’t exist as an artist, aside from playing for quarters out in some subway. It was your fans that made you what you are today, not the other way around. Your fans deserve your respect, not a “don’t email me, because I won’t answer.” Show some respect for the people who are paying for your car and the house you live in and the food that you eat.

Guess what, Todd… here’s one back at you. When it comes to buying and promoting your album… don’t call me. I’ll call you.

36 Comments:

At 12:28 AM, Blogger Tricia said...

WHAT a DIVA! JD, I think you pretty much covered all the bases with your critique. Clearly his fans are a tremendous burden so I hope he feels better now that he got that off his chest. The NERVE of him redirecting fans to a forum - as if he'll respond there either. Better to not communicate at all with fans than to offer up these kinds of communications.

It brings up an interesting issue though that I have been tossing around for some time about artist behavior on MySpace. I have generally had decent experiences, but one artist failed to add me as a friend and to this day I'm bitter about it and have had the desire to spread the dirty word.

Anyway, I'm curious to hear how other fans respond to this message - he'll learn soon enough that negative word of mouth is twice as powerful as the positive kind.

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

Yeah. Quite frankly, I'd never have posted about him otherwise. I mean, I've listened to his music, know who he is and whatnot, but I'd never have thought to mention one negative word about him until he posted that garbage.

Of course his die-hard fans are always going to be apologists, but for the casual fan...no.

I just can't fathom that he flat out said "I won't email you back." I know there are tons of other artists that don't email back (or can't, for sheer volume) but they at least are kind enough not to say it.

 
At 4:18 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but to me that reeked of someone that's suddenly very popular, and its overwhelming him. As you said, you just don't tell your fans that you're not going to answer them. That gives them a LOUD AND CLEAR answer that you probably weren't intending.

Like I said, it sounds like he was cool just making music, and didn't realize how much time all this 'fan interaction' stuff would take, and he'd really just rather get back to just making music.

Todd needs to realize that while he thinks he's talking to his fans, each fan sees the exchange as a one-on-one communication. When he says 'Hey guys I love you, but I don't have time to talk to you, AND make music, so I'm gonna make music. ', what each and every fan hears is 'I don't want to talk to you'.

What I think will be interesting to see is how his label reacts to this. If they are smart, the marketing/pr dept will give him some quick primers on how to talk to your fans, because he definitely needs some help.

 
At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen much worse on MySpace. Why trash Todd for being honest? Personally, I'd rather have him spend time on his music so I can listen to it than have him answer any emails. I am a casual fan and I wouldn't expect any entertainer to have time to engage in personal written communication with me or anyone else for that matter. And what exactly was it Todd said about those forums? "So please don't have your feelings hurt when I don't immediately respond to your questions. If you want a response, please go to the message boards located at toddagnew.com/forums. That is our own community and I respond much more often to those requests." Try telling the whole story, JD. I admire Todd's forthrightness and honesty, as well as the fact that he isn't doing things the way everybody else does! Good for him!
And Mack, every fan did not hear "I don't want to talk to you." I'm a fan, and that's not what I heard. There are other comments after his blog that say those people didn't hear that either.

 
At 8:36 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

Mack, that's exactly what I was thinking. I mean, I know full well already that he's not going to have time to respond to all his fans (and he has some fairly rabid ones) but to hear him say it in such a way is just a PR disaster.

And Anonymous, I did print the whole blog, including that part you mentioned about the forum, but as mentioned before, it's ALWAYS a bad idea to try to redirect and corral your fans in such a way. I doubt the whole "casual fan" that you claim to be, since it seems most of you who worship at his myspace altar are complete apologists for him.

Mack, I'm betting his PR people are not happy when they google his name and this comes up.

 
At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Ginny in West Virginia said...

Bless your heart, you don't understand. Todd doesn't make music to make money, he makes music to praise God. If he never sells another album, but those who hear his music are strengthened in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he's done what God placed him on this earth to do, and he will be glad. I've worked two of his concerts and I've observed his interaction with his fans. He actually sits down and talks to them, looking them in the eye, listening to what they say and really responding to them. He stays after each concert talking to people one on one, until they are gone, then he hangs with the people working the concert. JD, you say he's no saint, none of us are. We're all just doing the best we can, and as a Christian that's all I expect of anyone, including Todd. If I want to talk to Todd, I'll go to one of his concerts and I bet he'll answer my questions in person.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Ali said...

I definitely agree J.D. that if Todd has marketing people helping him out they should be relieved of their duties asap! This reminds me, in a way, of the controversy surrounding Jessica Sierra's comments at the Reality TV convention. As I pointed out then, in today's world you have to very, very, very careful about the kind of information you put out in any public forum, and the way you put it out, as it can so easily be mis-interpreted. Ginny's take on this blog is the one a "true fan" would have because she feels that she "knows" this particular artist. Just as you had a different take on what Jessica said, because you were there when she said it and had a different impression about her intention. So if Todd is relying on professionals in disseminating THIS message, they have done a terrible job! Your reaction to it is exactly the opposite of what this artist intended, I'm sure. Hopefully Todd will learn from this experience - cause when we know better, we do better. Cheers!

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

Ali, your comment was dead on, by the way. Good to see ya :)

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

Ginny, I'd like to see Todd do all this without the money and the fans. NO artist would be working without fans. You can talk about all this high-minded stuff, and yeah, he may be your personal Svengali, but I'd like to see him continue in the music biz without people buying his records.

It's really funny to me to see how with many artists, fans think they can see inside their heads.

By the way, I just love the expression "bless your heart." Doesn't it always pretty much mean "Oh my gosh, you're a retard, aren't you? Pitiful thing." See, here's the thing... I do understand. I've seen enough of the machinations of the industry that I know more than just the casual fan. I talk to artists, management, music industry movers and shakers, and I know what works and what doesn't work. Also, I'm looking at this objectively, and not as a casual fan. If I, as an objective outsider, had my eyes caught by this and was blatantly offended, how would others react?

I expected no less when I posted a link to this on a comment to his blog, though. You apologists keep it up :) If you're okay with an artist who feels it is beneath him to handle you, fine. If you're willing to be talked to like third graders by someone who owes his very subsistence to you, by all means, c'est la vie!

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"I've seen much worse on MySpace. Why trash Todd for being honest? Personally, I'd rather have him spend time on his music so I can listen to it than have him answer any emails. I am a casual fan"

And I think that's the rub. Casual fans expect to have a casual relationship with the artist. 'hardcore' fans that absolutely LOVE the artist, don't want to hear the artist tell them that he/she doesn't have time for them.

 
At 11:22 AM, Anonymous LaughingMouse said...

You're an ass. I'm sorry I've just spent 20 minutes reading all this. Todd's blog did not harm his reputation in my mind at all. In fact, you probably won't believe it, but I don't care, it actually added credibility. You're talking about PR and artists not being in the business but what you're not understanding is that he, most likely, could care less about PR or the business. I've met him twice at concerts and he is one of the artists who really is very humble and looks almost uncomfortable talking about himself. And, lastly, for your information, yes, we e-mail him to tell him how great he is and how much we appreciate his music. You try answering 100 e-mails a day, touring, doing concerts, sleeping in a bus, writing new music, arranging music, AND running any semblance of a normal life. good luck with that.

 
At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy crap you are such a turd.
Todd Agnew is a very busy man, he can't respond to EVERY E-Mail he gets. The fact that people thinks he should is rediculous. I think he was being rather nice by telling people he just didn't have the time. I have to say, I know the man personally. He is so wonerfully polite and sweet to his fans. T
Think twice before you trash a man for using his time for God.
You idiot

 
At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Ginny in West Virginia said...

If "Casual fans expect to have a casual relationship with the artist. 'hardcore' fans that absolutely LOVE the artist, don't want to hear the artist tell them that he/she doesn't have time for them."

Then the "hardcore" fans probably won't be the "apologists" will they? I don't think it is the apologists' comments that JD is after. I think he thought it would be fun to fly the "F u" comment to a bunch of Christians and see what happened.

JD, you weren't blatantly offended, you could not care less about Todd Agnew or his fans. If you were actually offended, you would have responded to the previous posts saying the same thing.

I'm guessing Todd Agnew was playing his music well before he had any blogs or web sites or non-friend/non-family fans, and he brought people closer to God and he brought non-believers into personal relationships with Jesus. So really JD, yes he could bring people closer to God and he could bring non-believers to Jesus without the money and without the fans. I don't think I'm in his head, he's not my personal svengali, and I'm not saying he handled this correctly. What I am saying is that, he, like many Christian artists, does his thing to praise God, not win fans or gain wealth.

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

First I'm going to have to stop laughing at the fact that people are defending a Christian artist by using words like "ass," "turd," and calling crap "holy."

Okay, now that that's done and my sides hurt...

I did say that YES it is impossible to return 100 emails a day (if we are to believe those figures.) I'm very aware of how hard it is to answer fan mail, because believe it or not, I get fan mail too. Well, hate mail sprinkled with fan mail, but you get the point. I'm also very well attuned to the goings-on in the music business, so I know what works and doesn't work.

But that won't matter to Todd-sycophants, I'm sure, because even if he got up and took a big dump on stage, you'd all praise him for doing it in the name of Jesus.

Ginny, yes, if Todd didn't have fans, he might still be playing music. Unfortunately, he'd have to take time out of that to work his job at the filling station to pay for an shack in Frayser. Because without his fans, that's what he'd be doing. High horse notwithstanding.

 
At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Ginny in West Virginia said...

I'm disturbed by the fact that those words are being used to defend a Christian artist, but I can see why you would laugh:)

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD - all I can say is you've missed what's called grace. And what you've "uncovered" is the simple fact that Todd is human. He's like all of us, has the best intentions, but could have said it a better way - we all do that. I'm honestly glad to know that I'm a fan of someone who stuggles with time management and being pulled in so many different directions that he attempts to tell those he cares about what his boundaries are, that's all that message was really about. We all do that everyday with our own "friends", except we don't get slammed for it because we aren't in the public's eye. Todd (or Todd's PR people who may read this) keep making your best effort to be the moon and I will too.

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

i don't see whats so terrible about it. It may have been a little bit rude, but i don't think he really meant it to be. It makes sense ya know? Whatever.

 
At 5:01 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

i don't see whats so terrible about it. It may have been a little bit rude, but i don't think he really meant it to be. It makes sense ya know? Whatever.

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

I also love how those who defend him think that I'm not a Christian too.

I haven't "missed grace." I have however seen snottiness.

And what kind of phrase is "be the moon" anyway?

 
At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are quite right in that what he said was a PR blunder. But I've seen cases before where artists have expressed that they will not answer emails. I'm not sure why they go so far as to point this out, but my guess is that people have gotten more than a little put out that there have been no responses to their emails. Please don't belittle an artist who has made a typical human error.

Secondly, I would like to point out that any artist who got onstage and took a dump would not be getting my money in the form of album sales or ticket sales... or any other paraphernalia for that matter.

 
At 9:32 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

Okay, so maybe that was a little bit of a stretch.

It was a blunder, and I'm currently working on a post that will show other artists using the same situation and responding differently. Maybe that way I'll balance out the positive and the negative.

 
At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Shirley said...

A great many of the e-mails Todd receives are from teenagers, who expect him to respond and may not have the understanding that it is not possible for him to reply to them. By saying he is not responding, the kids will see this as not playing favorites, not that no one is "worthy" of his response. You are persecuting a guy for being honest to kids he truly cares about, and was trying to let them know how things work. (Have you ever seen him interact with teens? I have. He's great). So maybe his PR person could have helped him express less frustration, but give the guy a break. He was not talking down to his fans, and he does interact with people on his forum. It is a community. Not perfect, but striving. In person he is a sweetheart. But he is a man, not a saint. You think just because he is a Christian artist he should not get paid for his craft to prove he is doing it for God? That is crazy! God called and anointed this man to this position. He is going to be honest, and if at some point his public career is over, he will go do whatever God is calling him to do next. He never sought out stardom - it sought out him. Your arrogance and rudeness far exceeds any faux pas you think Todd made. His was an honest attempt to be forthright out of concern for these kids who look up to him. Maybe you can't understand that, because yours is a cruel and unjust attack, not an impartial statement. This was probably a waste of time, but I care about the man - not the "star" and if you mess with him, you are messing with a lot of people who love him and are going to defend him. He won't dignify your assault with a response I'm sure, and it might make him upset that we have. None-the-less, I'm going to risk it and tell you this.

 
At 11:24 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

Shirley... look into Prozac. It could help.

I don't know how many artists you know, but none of them fall backwards into stardom. It doesn't "seek him" as you say. The mistake you've made is putting the guy on the level of the prophet.

As for the rest of your incomprehensible tirade, I'll probably address most of it in my next post. Read on, readers.

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

And of course he won't "dignify my assault with a response." Isn't that what this is all about?

 
At 11:30 PM, Blogger Ali said...

Hey J.D. - this is getting just about as crazy as the A.I. message boards!!! Hope you have a restful night & don't let the negative stuff get you down. Peace y'all!
Oh, by the way, I'm totally missing your great recaps - Canadian Idol just isn't as enjoyable as A.I. for me this year because it lacks your insightful posts! Some of the singers are pretty good - not a Chicken Little in the bunch - but, kind of like Taylor, they are leaving me flat... Anyway, just thought you'd like some positive feedback - Cheers!

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

Ali, I would do Canadian Idol recaps if it didn't take so long to download the episodes! You'll just have to fill in the blanks for me :)

I'm starting to get used to controversy. Last month, it was me accidentally starting a feud between Carrie Underwood and Jessica Sierra, which thankfully they've both settled now. And of course there were the Kellie Pickler rows I had with everybody. But controversy is a good thing, because at least that means people are reading!

 
At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're reccomending prozac - doesn't seem to have done you any good.

"incomprehensible" means you don't get it - not surprised

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

"incomprehensible" means it's jumbled nonsense. Written by someone full of jumbled nonsense.

But thanks for the nice Christian response.

 
At 12:08 AM, Blogger Ali said...

One C.I. contestant, named Craig Sharpe, has a really interesting voice. If the producers can give him a good enough makeover, he'll win. Just my prediction...

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

Alright folks, new post about this topic on the front page. Hopefully it will clear up some of this!

 
At 8:31 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"If "Casual fans expect to have a casual relationship with the artist. 'hardcore' fans that absolutely LOVE the artist, don't want to hear the artist tell them that he/she doesn't have time for them."

Then the "hardcore" fans probably won't be the "apologists" will they? I don't think it is the apologists' comments that JD is after. I think he thought it would be fun to fly the "F u" comment to a bunch of Christians and see what happened."

No he saw an artist being condescending to his fans, and commented on it. And he was exactly right.

I'd never heard of this Todd guy till this post, but I can tell he has plenty to learn about dealing with his fans, bless his heart.

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous...
You're reccomending prozac - doesn't seem to have done you any good.

"incomprehensible" means you don't get it - not surprised

11:52 PM

J.D....
"incomprehensible" means it's jumbled nonsense. Written by someone full of jumbled nonsense.

But thanks for the nice Christian response.

11:53 PM

You can call it whatever you want - means you just don't get it. BTW, who said it was a Christian response? Not me. You just assumed. So does that mean a NOT Christian can say trash and you're okay with it, but a Christian says something you don't like, you can trash them back and that's okay with you? You list Holy Bible as a favorite book, yet you are rude and condescending (this is not a discussion about a mistake - it is an attack to rile people up to see what kind of response you can get, and look at all of us playing with you)I'm curious, what are YOU professing to be?

 
At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, are you a critic or a stone thrower? I guess you have never been in need of grace and mercy or you might be more willing to extend some.

 
At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Todd Agnew said...

I guess it's time I chimed in here. I'd like to say thanks to JD for his comments, and to everyone else for their thoughts. I am sorry that this was received in this way. I really just wanted to let some people know that I cared about what they had to share, but didn't want their feelings to get hurt if I didn't have time to respond. I wanted them to understand why, rather than just assume that they understood because most of them don't. JD, I don't really want to try to deal with this on here. If you would allow me to take you to dinner sometime when I'm in Memphis, I'd love to chat more and find out more about who you are yourself. If you're interested, please email me at todd@toddagnew.com. Thanks.

Todd

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Wow, there is never a dull moment around here, JD. :)

 
At 10:33 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

No kidding, Lisa.

Guys, just to update you, Todd has deleted the blog in question from his Myspace. I applaud him for that, and he has replaced it with a much better message. I'm going to take him up on his offer to chat.

 

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