The holidays are right around the corner, and whether or not you celebrate them, it's a great time of year to show your fans just how much they mean to you, either through free music, a special holiday cover, or something else altogether. ____________________________ Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix You don’t need to believe in Santa to shower the people who support you with love and music this holiday season. The latest Music Biz can help. The holiday season is upon us. Even if the snow has yet to fall in your area, there are signs of Christmas and Thanksgiving in every department store in North America. Other holidays are present as well, of course, and the marketing machine promoting the impending arrival of those special days is already in full effect. There may be two months left in 2019 as we post this, but we might as well be preparing for the start of 2020. You may not believe in Santa Claus. You may not celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving at all, but we can all agree the reason for the holiday season is good. Holidays exist to remind us what matters most in life. They are special days where we set aside the grind of work to focus on the people who love and support us, as well as those we love and support. Fans love and support you, so why wouldn’t you include them in your holiday plans? You don’t have to spend a bunch of money remind your audience that you appreciate their work, but you do need to lift them up. Here are some ideas: 1. Free Music There is an old adage about the best course in life often being the most obvious one, and that is very much the case with this suggestion. Your fans support you all year long in hopes that you will both come to their town and continue to release music that touches their lives. Though you are unable to be everywhere at once on Christmas, you can make your music available for anyone who has yet to add it to their personal collection. Whether you choose to make a song, album, or even your entire catalog available as a free download, you should see a rise in engagement as a result. People who have been waiting to buy your album when they see you live won’t be able to resist the free download, and there is a high likelihood they will recommend your friends take advantage of the offer as well. 2. Record and release a holiday cover (maybe give it away as well) The world has heard countless covers of holiday classics, but the world has yet to listen to your take on great seasonal staples, and that is why you can still use them to give back to fans this Christmas. I know my favorite Christmas covers are those performed by my favorite bands, and I’m willing to bet the same can be said for most music fans. Record a holiday cover, be it in a studio or in your own home, and share it with fans in the days leading up to December 25. You can even take things one step further and ask fans about their favorite holiday songs in advance, that way your cover will have an even higher likelihood of being shared by your followers. 3. Surprise your fans with free stuff (no contest necessary) Everyone is thinking of others during the holiday season, or at least they should be, so many fans may not have money to buy the limited edition winter merch items you have available in your online store. To show fans you understand their dilemma, consider offering a give away where you send a prize pack including numerous merch items, as well as items not available in your store (handwritten lyrics, drum head, etc.) to one lucky fan. Don’t make it a contest and don’t ask for contact information in exchange for consideration. Simply pick a fan, or four, and send them a present. With any luck, the fan(s) will share their surprise with the world, and you will earn brownie points for being one of the more thoughtful artists in music today. 4. Stream an acoustic performance from your home/studio/van/bus/basement There are few things music fans love more than seeing their favorite artists playing bare-boned versions of their favorite songs. Since there is no way everyone who follows you could attend a single performance, especially one planned close to Christmas, make the event special by broadcasting your set on one or more of the popular live streaming services that have risen to prominence over the last year. If those services require you to charge consumers, like with StageIt, then you should also consider giving all the money earned to charity. This way, fans feel like they are giving back by tuning in, and you walk away having established yourself as an artist who hasn’t lost sight of the problems that exist outside your immediate surroundings. Win-Win. 5. Holiday scavenger hunt This idea has become increasingly popular in the age of IG and Snapchat stories. The setup is relatively straightforward: In the hours before an event or while traveling to a new city, musicians leave merchandise/gifts for fans in public spaces. Clues on where the items can be found are then posted to feeds, which fans can then respond to as they begin their hunt. These activities encourage engagement and help bring fans together in the real world. As people converge on the location of whatever you’ve hidden they encounter others who follow your music. This can lead to community building, which in turn helps you. 6. Give the gift of other artists’ music via playlists Mixtapes are dead. The once popular way to share your favorite music with others has gone the way of the dinosaurs, and in its play we have playlists. Many artists already maintain playlists on services such as Spotify and Apple Music, but the holiday season presents a unique opportunity to further connect with your audience through a well-curated playlist that takes the holidays or end of the year roundups. Select one song from all your favorite albums from the last 12 months. Gather your holiday favorites. Heck, put together a compilation of songs from artists who you wish to tour with after the new year. Create something that is personal to you and fans will feel more connected to your efforts as a result. James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.