Relating to Fans Means Helping Them Relate to Each Other

futurelab default header

by: Nancy Baym

Here, for your reading pleasure, is a PDF of the talk I gave at MIDEMNet last week titled Making The Most of Online Music Fandom. Bruce at Hypebot, one of the excellent people I met there, was kind enough to do a near-instant writeup.

I identify 5 key social practices in fandom, 5 reasons the internet has superpowered fans, and make 4 suggestions for how artists and those who represent them can make this work for everyone. I argue that the key to fostering fans’ strong connections to artists is fostering their connections to one another by understanding and nurturing the activities that bind them together in their fandom.

For me, this page in the middle of the talk is the key:

Of course, the flip side to fans’ empowerment is what seems a lot like disempowerment to those who’ve been able to control music production, distribution and coverage. It’s natural to respond to this with fear. The threats are real. Those in industry  may want to stop fans from: Criticizing them, spreading their music, using their name, bootlegging their shows, discussing their private lives, writing fantasies about them, spreading misinformation.

But getting control back is not an option. That genie is not going back in the bottle. The power struggle and the tensions it raises will continue for the foreseeable future.

The relationship between fans and artists is less and less like a business relationship in which artists and industry set the terms and audiences either buy or don’t, and more and more like a social relationship in which bands and fans have to negotiate terms together.

They are independent, they have their own goals, and they will do things you don’t like. They can also help you.

As always, your feedback is welcomed in comments.

Original Post: