It would seem that many in the music industry – or at least those with a blog, would agree. Of course, they are making this judgment based on how accessible everything is today. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the statement that begins “Back in MY day, we waited all night for tickets to ____________, and sometimes STILL didn’t get them. We just waited for the next tour and tried again or went through a broker.” This of course, is true. There really was a time when Ticketmaster was done pretty manually and yes, you had to either dial a phone (risky) or go to an outlet and camp outside, often times all night, in order to secure a place in line for ticket sales that began the next day. Then they got smart to that and started doing the wristbands, so it didn’t matter when you got there, the wristbands were handed out randomly, and whatever number you ended up with determined either your place in line OR you just stood around waiting for your number to come up – similar to a lottery. Did that really make someone a hardcore fan?
Then of course the argument comes around that today, one single song can decide whether someone remains a fan or otherwise. Often times, songs are put online as teasers – that way a band can get a feel for what the public thinks before an entire album is released. Muse did that just recently, and as one could have guessed – they have kind of gone in a different direction with this next album, using what many have characterized as dubstep guitar effects. While many seem to like the new direction, many others who are self-described “hardcore” fans have denounced the album, and are have said this one song is ruining their admiration for the band. Sound familiar, anyone??? I seem to recall the same thing happening to some band around here somewhere over the years. While sure, some people do end up walking away – and that’s probably bound to happen no matter the circumstance – is it really ever that simple? The blogger (Alex May of sidewinder.fm) drives his point home by saying, “While listeners have always had strong opinions about the music they like and dislike, the advent of social media and the platform it provides has revealed just how volatile fans can be. Oftentimes, they dispute and defend such opinions in a vile way, and grow divided based on what kinds of music they love and hate. This mindset, when paired with the instantaneous nature of the Internet, seems to have created a lot more fleeting fans that are less engaged and less willing to give new music a second chance.” Fair enough, but didn’t people ever discuss music before the internet came along? I can remember getting into full-on arguments with friends over the merits of many a rock band, including but certainly not limited to Duran Duran. Maybe at the heart of the matter is the idea of actually having a discussion, where one is as willing to listen and learn as is ready to defile and disengage. Again I have to wonder, is this truly what makes a fan hardcore?
It is true, we don’t have to camp outside for tickets, there may no longer be those midnight releases where fans wait outside for hours, we can now buy music without ever leaving our homes, and comment with friends or adversaries online at will. I am not at all sure those characteristics determine what makes someone a music fanatic. That is a trait that comes from within the person, not from simple actions. But then, I would also assert that a hardcore fan could easily be someone who has never attended a single concert or a signing – it’s about what is created in the heart when they listen to music that they truly connect with. It’s not about how many shows one has gone to, how many pictures they have with the band, or even whether or not someone is crazy enough to write a blog on a daily basis.
I wouldn’t argue with the author that an incredible mistake is being made when we assume that just because someone takes the nanosecond to click “like” on a Facebook page or hit “follow” on Twitter that they are a fan. That is merely the initial step, and most bands out there completely miss the boat from that point. They are completely unaware of what it takes to turn a “like” into a real “fan”. There is a tangible difference between a casual fan who attends shows and buys albums and “likes” a band on social media and the person who has been a fan through thick and thin – whether they’ve loved every record or not, whether or not they’ve even attended a single show.
The task of explaining what really makes someone a music fanatic comes down to one thing in my mind: Passion. I don’t think it matters much whether that passion drives someone to go to a hundred shows, buy thousands of copies of albums, or coerces one to travel overseas to shows, or to simply enjoy being an active “online” participant at home. There’s a certain feeling I get when I listen to music I dearly love – I become profoundly and permanently connected. I don’t just listen, I live.
I think that’s why I have difficulty in completely buying into the idea that the musical fanatic is a dying breed. While yes, I agree finding music is easier these days and the process of becoming or being a fan might be different than what took place in my generation, it is no less momentous when that lifeblood artery of bonding is created between the fan and artist. I would argue that people spend their entire lives searching for such things, and when it is found, the passion is what keeps fans, all of us music fanatics – going.