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  • Writer's picturetamera

The ‘cult’ of The Hip: the music, the community, the integration

I’ve been meaning to write about this community engagement success story for a while now, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s one that’s close to my own heart and also a great example of how bands/ brands can use technology to build a deeper sense of loyalty and communication with their fans. The Tragically Hip, as Canadians know, are a part of the very fabric of Canadian culture and have been for years. Although I adore their tunes, what I find the most remarkable about the band from Kingston, is how they have grown and evolved with their fans throughout the last 15-20 years without losing their core nature. They have remained true to their identity while allowing the community to have ownership in their own experience. The Hip aren’t huge in the States, but they are okay with that. It’s really a beautiful thing.

I’ve been a Hip fan since Up to Here and continue to pay ridiculous amounts of money on eBay to get tickets to the always sold out events. I missed being in Canada during the ’90’s, but I made a point of scheduling my trips back every year to catch either a Hip concert or a Leafs game (one year I was lucky enough to get both), and of course every couple of years the band would hit LA and play sold out shows at the HOB on the Sunset Strip… seeing the Hip in a bar setting was an experience I highly recommend. They put on a heartfelt and rockin’ show each and every time they perform – they love what they’re doing and it shows.

It hasn’t always been a ‘cult’ (and I use that term most affectionately), it’s grown into one over the years. The fans are loyal and expressive, and the band encourages it. They are on the leading edge of social networking and media. Every thing they do online and on the ground is meant to reach out to fans. They certainly aren’t the first band to embrace their community, but they are doing it holistically and in a huge way.

The first thing about the outreach is they encourage fans to record their shows and take pictures. From there fans can upload photos to the Flickr group (under CC license) and upload the songs to share on the Hip Tracker.

They also upload (and provide via RSS) their own live recordings from the last 15 years on a daily/ weekly basis to keep you actively engaged.

They’re on MySpace and YouTube. They encourage you to share the videos they’ve uploaded and upload your own. They have a forum. They have info about all their upcoming shows, and if you’ve registered you get advance options on ticket purchases. They go an extra step and list their set lists for each show.

They actively promote causes they are passionate about and treat their guests as intelligent participants. They’ve also partnered with iTunes for exclusive recordings.

But probably the best part of the website is their Story Project. It’s a living history of the band told by their community of fans. It encourages participation, it doesn’t seek to censor or shape the experience. They want to hear your story and add it to the history. They trust you have positive things to say but won’t censor if you don’t. In fact, at each step they want to hear from you. It’s truly interactive and social.

It’s innovative and engaging, and it works.

The strategy from which all the tactics flow is remarkably simple:

  • Reach out to the community and ask them to share

  • Give them the tools and platform(s) to do so easily

  • Acknowledge and embrace the UGC (or bootlegs in the case of the Hip), they’ll be out there anyway

  • Keep adding value

  • Ask for feedback and repeat

I’m a cult member for life and proud of it. See you in Feb at the ACC!

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