My kids say that to me constantly these days. At first I suppose it was funny, but when they started referencing the fact that I was born prior to the internet being “born”….well, let’s just say they ran from me as they were laughing. The sad (or not so sad) fact is that it’s true, I have seen many a technological dream become a reality in my lifetime. The same could be said for most of Duran Duran’s fans, and most certainly those who have been around since the very beginning. At one point (that doesn’t seem nearly that long ago!), fan communities were called “Fan Clubs”, and they communicated with fans through good old snail mail with a stamp and envelope. Bands communicated with their fans through doing TV, radio & magazine interviews, through the rare newsletter sent to their fan clubs, and of course through their music. There was always some sort of barrier, whether inferred or actual, between the fan and the band. Of course, this was also back in the day when we actually bought record albums, or CD’s – Tower Music or Wherehouse Records were not only places we would spend precious hours pouring over each aisle of record bins, but also where we would stand in line for hours waiting for tickets to go on sale, or for our favorite musicians to make an appearance to sign record albums. I can remember standing in line for hours waiting for tickets for a concert to go on sale, only to see a few people go in, buy tickets and have a clerk come out to tell us they’ve sold out. (this was before the dreaded randomly numbered wristbands were handed out, and before Ticketmaster took to the internet!)
It’s a very different world today, indeed. Not only do I have the luxury of buying tickets to just about any concert or show in the relative comfort of my own home, but at any given moment I can check in on Twitter to see how Boy George is spending his day, read about what project Curt Smith of Tears For Fears is working on, or read how Cookie Monster is handling his cookie addiction! Facebook has brought the friends of my youth back into my life so that they are not only a part of my past, but also my future. I can read how my dear high school friend is moving to another state, or get an update on what The Killers are doing – all in one place.
Duran Duran has never been the type of band to shy away from technology. Let’s face it, they are the band to make MTV a household name to many of us; they were the first band to make a song available to be purchased and downloaded online. While I feel as though they have embraced technology, I have felt that to some degree, they’ve been extremely slow to warm up to the idea of interacting with their fan base online. It is true that they’ve had message boards – duranduran.com had an online forum for several years before shutting down a few years back. Duranduranmusic.com is their paid fan community, and for just $35.00 a year a fan can have unlimited access to the message boards and exclusive news bytes, contests, presales and other “goodies”. Even with all of the ways that fans can interact with one another, the band has remained relatively out of reach for most, if not all fans. There would be the occasional bit of news sent out through newsblasts, or perhaps an update video posted on DDM or even more news given out through Katy Kafe on duranduranmusic.com – but as a long time fan, I always felt that the band was missing out on one of the best and easiest ways to reach out and interact with their fans – through the internet! The band eventually did set up a facebook page and a Twitter account, but their attempts to actually use the twitter account properly were dismal to begin with. Rather than the band sending out a “tweet” once in a while – we’d get a post of a picture, or a post to remind us to check into dd.com for updated news. It was as though the band (or more accurately the people who worked for them) had no idea what twitter was really used for. Of course, I write that knowing that at first, *I* didn’t really get the point of twitter either. Honestly I think the learning curve for some of this stuff gets steeper and longer with each decade of age! Their facebook updates were a little more successful, but for the most part – the updates would be much of the same that would be posted on dd.com. Many fans would be upbeat and thankful to see some updates, but on the boards, and in private – many of us lamented at what the band was really missing.
These days, bands have to do their part to connect with their fan base. It’s not enough to put out an album, do a tour and think that the fans will just willingly follow along for the long haul. (Those were the days, weren’t they??) Fans, especially younger fans, want more. That doesn’t mean that you have to be another Britney Spears or Paris Hilton and tweet absolutely everything, but it does mean that the band has to at least appear as though they are willing to share what they’re working on. It’s a tough balance, admittedly – and I can’t fault the band for not jumping in with both feet.
Lately, however – I’m seeing a new and improved Duran Duran. Gone are the days where virtual cobwebs were showing on their Twitter account – and even Simon seems to have remembered his Twitter! Just last week Duran Duran not only wished us a Happy Thanksgiving, but we actually saw a few times where the group (or someone working for the band, of course!) asked us WHAT WE THOUGHT. A dangerous question to ask any Duranie, in my opinion! They’ve been replying back to fans, and genuinely trying to interact. A definite improvement. Granted, I don’t think it’s actually ever Roger, John, Nick or Simon (well…actually I wouldn’t be surprised if Simon is doing his own tweeting) that’s interacting – but that’s not really that surprising. It’s the thought that truly counts, and it’s all about Public Relations.
That brings me to the “why”. Why have the band decided to finally jump on board and throw their fans a virtual bone after all of this time? Why not just continue to appear as though they are out of our reach and continue to create more demand? Let’s at least be honest and recognize that, at least at one time, the fans were so hungry for the band that they couldn’t be seen in public without being mobbed. It’s really not all that different these days, much to MY chagrin as a 40 year old fan. Seems to me at that our age – we should be old enough to know how to act in front of the band, but I digress. Is it that they finally recognize that by keeping themselves out of reach, both in person and online in various methods, that they aren’t creating a demand as much as they’re creating a real gap between themselves and their fans – many feel as though they act far more elitist than they really should at this point, and it’s turned fans away. Could it be that the band recognizes that their fan base has shrunk to the point where we’re a manageable mob? Or, perhaps the band realizes that it really is the music that has brought us together – and that is something that should be celebrated after 30 years, not something that they need to hide from. In the past week I’ve gone from thinking that these are signs of the apocalypse, to wondering if the band has been taken over by aliens, to realizing that maybe, just maybe, they are giving this the old college try.
It’s really hard to say, but I must thank their PR person for guiding them, and I thank the band for giving it a chance. It might even work – and they may find that they can interact with us without fearing for their lives in the process! 😉