Lately, I’ve seen more posts from friends meeting various celebrities at conventions than I have seen of friends meeting Duran Duran. Not that it’s a problem, I’ve just taken notice.
I thought it was funny a few years back (actually it was probably four years ago now) when Amanda posted that the President of the United States was easier to meet than Duran Duran. I suppose that for her, that’s probably true, but it’s still kind of weird when you think about it. And yet, she’s met Barack Obama twice. She’s campaigning again, and I’m honestly a bit curious about who she might meet this time!
But, getting back to conventions, I’ve seen pictures from friends meeting everyone from the lead actors in Supernatural to Superman. These conventions aren’t necessarily “new” (I remember conventions for fans of LOST for instance, and I think Trekkie conventions have been around for decades), but they certainly have experienced an upsurge in popularity in the past few years.
I don’t doubt that some people are very interested in discussing canon or the meta involved with a particular TV show. They go to conventions to listen to the panels in the same way that I adore sitting down with other Duranies and really getting into the nitty-gritty discussion of an album. I also believe access—as in access to the celebrities—must be a driving force behind attendance. Those photo ops sell out quickly, from what I’ve read.
It is also clear why Hollywood, and the TV industry in particular (but not SOLELY TV by any means) encourages participation in these conventions. It is the same reason why shows like Scandal and again, Supernatural, and even Sherlock, encourage their stars to use Twitter or other social media to reach out. I’ve been followed by some of the celebrities from my favorite shows, and that’s always a thrill.
What truly fascinates me though, is how some of the one-time most ardent Duran Duran fans I knew, have now migrated out of our immediate fandom and into TV show fandom. They use conventions in the same way that I use concerts. They are an escape, a reason to meet up with friends—and by the looks of it, they’re a blast.
The conventions look like a lot of fun, and I think they must be a way to add another dimension to the fandom experience. Getting a photo with a favorite. Hearing the celebrity(ies) of choice speak on a panel. None of that would work well if fans were getting the vibe that these stars didn’t want to do those things. Whether that’s the acting thing coming into play or it is because these celebrities understand that without public support they’ve got nothing—I do not know, but I find it fascinating all the same.
In music though, it is supremely different. For example, to my knowledge the music industry doesn’t seem to have conventions like this that are open to the public. I mean, one could site NAMM (North America Music Merchants) as being a convention where music celebrities tend to gather or appear—but unless you’re in the biz or know somebody—you’re not getting in.
There are a few other conventions that are truly just festivals in disguise. For example there is an alternative music festival in Los Angeles where tribute bands perform, but it really isn’t a convention in the same sense as say, Comic-con. There are cruises and things, but most bands aren’t willing to be captive for their audience for multiple days at a time….and I can’t blame them.
In much of the music industry, there’s a genuine effort to maintain mystique whether we’re talking Duran Duran or Paul McCartney. They are on the stage, we are off. That platform they perform on is their pedestal, and nary between the two shall meet. I believe the thinking may be that separation creates demand. Perhaps it does. But I have to wonder why having celebrities reach out in other areas—like movies and television—works so well? Why is music so different?
I’ve read a lot about fans over the past few years. We can definitely be an overwhelming crowd. Words like “crazy”, “obsessive”, “manic”, and even “sex-starved”, and of course “groupie”, all get applied rather liberally—but those words seem to be spread equally across all fandoms with no consideration for what type of fans we’re talking about. So is it really all that different to be a fan of the TV show Sherlock, a fan of Robert Downey Jr., or a fan of The Killers? Does one have more potential for obsession than the others?
As you might guess, I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what drives someone away from concerts for their favorite band to instead drop cash to go to a convention like Wizard Con, but I see a lot of fans doing it. I don’t really know if bands or artists like Duran Duran could use similar ideas to cultivate a more loyal following. I just know what I see—a lot of one time multi-ticket buyers have stopped going to concerts in favor of supporting their favorite TV actors and shows through conventions and other opportunities. There might just be something to it.