This is a blog post that I have been thinking about for a long time. I have debated about whether or not to write it and whether or not to post it. I figured that it was time. It needed to be said. I needed to say it no matter what kind of feedback I get as I’m fully prepared for people to say that we don’t really “work” or that I’m whining or whatever.
Did you read the blog yesterday? Our blog statistics showed that there were a number of you who clicked the link and read it, which I appreciate tremendously. We also received a number of comments on Twitter, which we were grateful for. On Facebook, it appeared to be a pretty popular post as it reached over 900 people, had over 20 people like it and over 20 comments. Some of these comments had to do with the premise of the blog, which was that as much as any fan thinks s/he knows the personality of the band members, s/he does not. It takes a lot more than reading/watching interviews, a ten minute meet and greet experience or even a few lengthy conversations. I explained by giving an example from my own life and how my colleagues don’t really know all of me despite working side-by-side in an intense job for a year and a half together. Other comments, though, focused on the first line of the blog, “How long have you been a fan?” Those responses included either the year that they became fans or how many years since they first became Duranies. Others wanted to share their meet and greet stories to explain how the band member(s) in question were or were not like what they thought they would be.
I have to be honest here. I was disheartened that it seemed so many only read the first sentence as opposed to clicking on the link on reading the entire 800 words. While it is true that Rhonda and I write for ourselves, it is also true that we have hopes that others will read what we write. I welcome the dialogue, the discussion in hopes of getting a greater understanding of myself, others, fandom, etc. Yet, that dialogue can only happen when people read it. Writing the blog is a commitment that I take seriously. I ensure that it is included in my list of things to do. My schedule is pretty full (which is probably an understatement since teaching requires about 60-70 hours of work a week and Rhonda and I are starting on a new book project.) It means that I will sacrifice working on those tasks as well as some of the basic necessities of life like relaxing and/or sleep. Thus, it hurt a little when people chose not to read the entire blog yesterday. Yet, as with so many other things, I learned from the experience.
First, I learned a little bit about writing yesterday. While the first sentence was definitely a hook that got people’s attention, it was always too good of a hook. I didn’t provide enough of an enticement to keep reading, I guess. People didn’t have a reason to go beyond what they saw in the little blurb. Thus, I learned a little about how to write better for my specific task of this blog. It is funny because I always teach my students that it is important to take my audience into consideration when writing. For example, my students just finished an assignment in which they were activists trying to convince the American public to do something for a specific cause during the Progressive Era (women’s suffrage, civil rights for African-Americans, working conditions, etc.) That writing is different than the essay they will write later in the month on U.S. Imperialism in the 1890s. Therefore, their writing must be different based on the task. I need to always remember that, too.
The second thing I learned has to do with our fandom. It was clear by the number of responses just how many fans REALLY want to talk about their fandom story and their stories of when they met the band. All they needed was a very simple question to just start talking. This leads me to wonder what Rhonda and I could do to allow more of this needed conversation to happen. Right now, we have the following means:
- Guest blogs in which people could share their stories of when and why they became fans
- Guest blogs in which people could share their meet and greet stories
- Our message board which could include discussion on both fan histories and meet and greet stories
What else should or could we do? I just wonder if people had the opportunity to talk about their own experiences, perhaps, they would be more willing to look at what Rhonda and I are saying with our blogs. Of course, it is possible that people still would not want to go beyond the opening snippets of our blogs for whatever reason. Perhaps, it is the teacher in me that wonders if there isn’t a better way to reach fans. What do you think?
What is the purpose of a concert? Why do performers play concerts and go on tour? Is it simply to sell albums? To create fans? How many people go to concerts to see a band or an artist that they are not fans of? I suspect that most people don’t. Perhaps, a few might go see a band they aren’t fans of if the band is playing at a bar or club that a person just happens to be at. That said, I doubt there are many people are willing to pay $30, $50, $100 or more for someone they aren’t fans of. So, if most people go to concerts to see bands or artists they already like, what is the point? The audience gets to hear songs performed live, which is almost always a better way to hear music. Is that enough? For me, I like to go to concerts because I do like to hear music in its pure form but I also like to see whether or not my interest in a given artist grows, stays the same or lessens.
This leads me to last Sunday. I drove to the nearby city of Milwaukee to see Brandon Flowers perform. The Killers is one of my favorite bands and, in fact, my like for that band increased each and every time I have seen them in concert. Yet, I wasn’t sure what I would think of Brandon solo. I have his albums, but the first one didn’t grab me at all for a long time whereas the second one caught more of my attention. Would seeing him live make me appreciate his solo work better? In this case, it absolutely did despite the physical discomfort I had from being hot (the venue did not have air conditioning!) and having no space from the general admission set-up. From the very first song, Brandon was 110% the entire time. Right away, Brandon was all smiles as he sang his heart out. It was clear that he was loving each and every minute and hoping to connect with his audience. He used all of the space on the stage to move around and to try to make eye contact with his fans. The fans were encouraged to join in frequently by singing parts of songs for and with him. I really appreciated the introductions to various songs. Sometimes, he told stories of how he came up with songs and other times asked the crowd questions. Of course, one thing that really enhanced the show was the rest of the band there supporting him. He had a horn player, a sax player, two backing vocalists, a drummer and multiple guitarists. Each and every one of them worked their asses off while still allowing Brandon the spotlight. So, did the show make me a bigger fan of Brandon’s music? Very much so!
After the show, my friend and I decided to see if we could see Brandon come out the stage door. Not only did I think it would be cool to see Brandon (Duh!) but as a student of fandom, I always like to observe fans in action! How would the fans be with Brandon? How would Brandon be with the fans? Overall, from what I witnessed, it was the calmest, coolest unofficial meet and greet I have ever witnessed.
After the show, about 30-40 people stood or sat near the stage door of the Rave in Milwaukee waiting to catch a glimpse of Brandon, to get a precious autograph or a coveted photograph. Everyone seemed really calm and chill. Finally, after about a half hour, there was movement by the stage door and by the tour bus. Everyone, who had been waiting, got up and moved towards the bus. No one rushed to the area. No one ran or screamed. Brandon opted to stand in-between the bus and the wall of the walkway up to the venue. While some might question this move, as he seemed to be stuck in a small place, it also meant that the fans waiting for an interaction had to form a line of sorts. He could not easily be surrounded this way. Smart. At that moment, one of the guys with Brandon explained how this was going to work. He said that everyone would get their turn but that as soon as one was finished, s/he should exit behind the bus to keep the line moving. Directions like this always help, in my opinion. Fans then know what will happen and also knew that everyone was going to get a chance. There was NO need to push, shove or get in the front. It was not like when a celebrity shows up and only does two or three autographs or two or three pictures. When the “meet and greet” is so limited, then fans will fight for their chance, their opportunity. It creates more of a frenzied atmosphere. Competition grows between the fans standing there to such a high level that bad, mean, selfish behavior shows up. Anyway, I was so glad that we all knew the score while we waited for our turn. In fairness, another thing that helped is that the fans who had waited were so calm. Brandon and his people knew that they could get the directions out and would be heard and followed. Thus, the fans were well-behaved and the directions were clear ensuring that the good behavior would remain the entire time. I believe that both fans and artist should be applauded for this!
How was my interaction with Brandon? Fabulous! The guy in front of me took a long time. He tried to talk to Brandon first for a few minutes before asking for an autograph. Then, it was clear that Brandon thought he was done after the autograph as he started to look at me. Then, the guy passed his phone to me asking if I would take a picture for him. I did but I also commented that Brandon was demonstrating the patience of a saint. (For the record, in those kind of situations, I will never ask for a photo AND an autograph. I would only ask for one. I want to be respectful of the celebrity’s time and also be respectful of the other fans.) Finally, the guy in front of me moved on and Brandon reached his hand out to shake my hand. Well then! That move was unexpected but not unappreciated as he has a very nice handshake. My friend was ready with my cell phone to take the picture so I tried to quickly get in position for the photo. Brandon put his arm around me and I him in return. The picture turned out pretty well, I think!
The entire night from the show to the meet and greet was fabulous! More than that, it did make me a bigger fan of Brandon and his music. Did the concert do what it was supposed to do? I absolutely think so. He has a show in Chicago on September 11th. Now, I really, really want to go!! Anyone want to join me?
Every now and then I read something from a fellow fan on Twitter that cracks me up.
The other day I was on Twitter, and a dear, kind-hearted fan posted that he/she was on a serious campaign to get the band to do a fan-cruise. Yes, you did read that correctly. He/she wanted to know my thoughts, and then they kindly asked if I’d be willing to start using a hashtag for a DD cruise to get the idea trending.
Now I’m sure there are many fans out there who believe, in their kind little Duranie hearts, that the band would love for nothing more than to spend an extended weekend with an entire cruise ship filled with Duranies. I mean, we are fun people, right?!? But then again, those who have been around for any length of time know what it can be like when the band is around. (What I wouldn’t GIVE for a good photo of two girls ripping each others hair out to get new John Taylor right now… Ok, here’s what we’re going to do: envision Sing Blue Silver and the rush that takes place when they open the doors to the arena. Don’t remember? Go get your DVD and watch it!)
The fact is, and I really hate using this word to describe my fandom – but we’re just a little on the overwhelming side. Yes, I’m aware we’re all adults now. Yes, I know that we should have outgrown this fascination and fantasy that we could end up with one of them as our forever mate. Yes, I know they’re all either married or involved. The question is – has any of that really stopped us?
I think we all know the answer to that. There’s really no need to embarrass ourselves by posting the answer. *winks*
However, even with all of that aside. Would the band really consider a cruise? I have trouble even asking that question without laughing. As someone reminded me – the band IS known for yachts and champagne. Yes, yes, I am well-aware. A yacht and a cruise ship are very, very different things. Somehow, I just don’t see Nick boarding a neon-glitzed cruise ship, ready for several days of chatting it up with fans, a few rounds of bingo and maybe hitting the buffet. Call me crazy. I can’t imagine Simon putting up with ANY of us for very long without being under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol (perhaps that’s the point?). Never mind poor John – I don’t think he’d ever leave his stateroom or balcony for fear of actually running into a screaming crowd of us in one of the narrow ship hallways. Roger – well, Roger might be found tanning on an upper deck, but he’d always have to be on the lookout for John hiding behind a planter, ready to take Instagram photos at any given moment. Funny, I could see Dom going along with the idea, but only because he has no idea what he’d be in for. (I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.)
As much as Duran Duran is known for being the jet-setting, champagne-consuming, supermodels and sunshine type of band the media and their branding has made them out to be over the years – the difference is that they don’t typically do these things with fans. Those that have seen those inner-workings are among the prized few. And, I would argue there is something about the fact that they’ve always been a little elitist and a bit removed from us common folk, that we secretly like. Maybe it’s a love/hate sort of relationship. We hate that they spent so much time portraying themselves as being above us when we were younger, to a lesser extent I think they still try for that image now, but in some respects, we love it. We love the chase. We romanticize the idea that if they’re really the elite and they’re noticing us…well…that’s gotta mean something, right? Self-esteem boost, here we come!!
Otherwise, what’re we all still doing here?? Is it really just about the music? Maybe for some, but for everyone? Give me a break. I SEE the Facebook groups we’ve been invited to join, guys. It’s not just the music between us. Sometimes it’s a little girl panic, too.
So, while I might be willing to board a cruise ship with my friends for a weekend of girl fun, I’m not expecting to run into Nick at the buffet, Simon at the art auction, Roger on deck, or John pretty much anywhere on the ship. (Yes, I know I’m leaving out Dom. Truth be told – I think he’d go even AFTER my warnings. Silly man.)
I have never participated in a “meet and greet”. Over the weekend, Amanda posed the question of why meet and greets would be beneficial to the band – and she received answers, mostly ranging from how wonderful of an experience it was for the fan participants to suggestions that the band would miss out on hearing how much their music has affected others. I had difficulty answering the question myself, because I really don’t know what a meet and greet is really like as a fan, much less what it might do for the band.
What I can say as an interested bystander is this: the quality of the experience is entirely dependent upon the situation. I’ve heard of the dank, dark, super fast “hi and a quick photo” hallway meets…I’m not even sure we properly add the word “greet” in there. I’ve read of the times where only a couple of the band members could make to the meet and greet in the hallway, and truth be told: I have difficulty seeing how any of that could possibly be beneficial to anyone, least of all the band.
In all fairness to the band, when you are forced to come out of hiding night after night, put on a smile in the most unnatural of situations, say hello and then (on many occasions) be felt-up by overenthusiastic fans that have forgotten their manners while having their 30 seconds in front of the band they’ve loved since their teen years – I can’t say that would be beneficial. In my opinion, it’d have the opposite effect. I’d want barriers put up around fans, and while I’d love for them to buy my album and come to my show – I’d also like them to be kept a good 25 feet from me at all times.
On the other hand, when you finally win that chance at a meet and greet, and you sit at home thinking about all of the things you want to say after all of these years – when the time finally comes for you to be in front of any one of them, much less all five of them, and you’re led down a dimly like back hallway and told, “We don’t have time for anything but a photo and it has to be a group one, please don’t try to talk to the band – they don’t have time”, that’s hardly worth the effort to buy the damn tickets to begin with, and those same fans have absolutely no trouble going online and sharing that delightful episode with everyone who’ll read/listen/reply. I can’t really blame them, either.
I have had real trouble underlining benefits to the band myself – because when I consider what the meet and greets have consisted of in the past, I see almost no benefit. From the lack of response we received (truly – for all of the people who have ever done an M&G, very VERY few were able or willing to say much about it), I suspect similar feelings hold true for others. However, if I were to pose the same question to those who attended the VIP party prior to the MoMA screening – I would bet that more than a few could give solid reasons why those types of events work – and not just work for fans, but for the band as well.
Perhaps that alone is food for thought.
*Guest blog about Monday’s MoMa experience: Perfect Day
*Post about my John Taylor book signing: ‘Cause You’re Getting Me Out of It
*Comic Con experience and meeting of Zachary Quinto: I Won’t Turn You Out…
*Meet and greet with President Obama: Meet el Presidente
*Guest blog about travel packages the band did in 2003: Finest Hour
I chose these posts for a few reasons. First, the guest blogs seem to capture really big deals in the history of the Duran Duran fandom. Those “meet and greets” were beyond the normal. They were special and they were significant for those who participated. The middle three were ones that I could speak to, personally, since they are my experiences and ones that I learned a lot from. I’m sure that there were other posts that I could have included. Plus, these all had some or all of the elements I’m going to be emphasizing here.
Elements that make up perfect meet and greets:
1. Rules help.
In all of the posts I mentioned often, they all stated that rules were clearly explained. It was clear about when to show up and where. The fans knew what to expect in terms of interactions with the celebrities, including if the fans would approach them or vice versa. The same was true for any sort of physical contact. Fans knew where they needed to go and where the celebrities would be within the specified location. Things like photographs were spelled out, including who could take pictures, who couldn’t, when you could, the role of the professional photographer, etc.
2. Other employees connected to the celebrities should be present.
These employees help probably both famous and fan know that the rules mentioned above will be followed. On top of that, they create a sense that this is a big deal to fans, which makes it feel more special. Plus, fans often like to know or talk to those people as well! I know that I do! 🙂
3. The setting and extras make a difference.
Meet and greets in gross hallways feel icky. On the other hand, meet and greets in nice settings like restaurants, banquet halls, bars, etc. make it feel more special. Those kind of places show that the meet and greet wasn’t an after thought but something planned out, something important. It reinforces the goal of the meet and greet as the fans feel like they matter and their experience matters. Food is another nice touch, if and only if, the food is quality. If it isn’t quality, then, the message to the fans shift from you matter to you being an afterthought. Likewise, drinks are always a plus!
4. Time and space are essential.
Fans need to know that they are NOT rushed. They need the time to actually exchange words with the celebrity of choice. If fans feel rushed or feel like they only have 30 seconds, the experience won’t be as positive and could even feel negative. Fans could feel like they don’t matter again and that the celebrity(s) is just doing this because they have to rather than because they want to. Likewise, fans need to have some space to just be with the celebrity. I don’t know of any fan who wants to share her/his moment with the celebrity of choice with 50 other people breathing down one’s neck. Also, meet and greets should just happen for those who are assertive, socially. If you are there, it should happen with no pressure on how to be.
Results of the perfect meet and greets:
For the Fan:
First, all the fans feel like they have had their moment, their special and real moment with an idol(s). On a personal level, that really matters!!! Every fan I know wants this. Second, for the community, there is a decline in that competition between fans. If everyone at a meet and greet has her/his chance, moment, etc., there is no need to fight for time or attention from the celebrity. Everyone can just be happy for each other. Then, there is more joy and harmony within the fan community. Lastly, people’s fandom is reinforced. They love the celebrity MORE after a perfect meet and greet.
For the Celebrity:
First, these kind of meet and greets enhance people’s fandom. They are more likely to stay fans, which is super important for celebrities who take breaks or have long stretches outside of the spotlight (*coughDuranDurancough*). Likewise, they are also more likely to support the celebrities’ projects. That support could come in the form of talking about the celebrity(s) in one’s real life interactions but also on social media. It could also come in the form of buying more products (cds, concert tickets, merchandise, etc.). Second, a happier fan community also works to keep fans in the community. If the competition gets too much or leads to negative interactions between fans, those fans could decide to leave. That is a loss of money and attention to the celebrity. Lastly, if the fans have these well-structure chances to interact with the celebrity(s), then there might not be as many fans bothering them at off-work times or, in ways, that are less than comfortable for the celebrity. Truly, these kind of meet and greets are a win-win for all involved.
This list is probably not complete, but this is how I see it. Am I the only one? What do you think? What does the perfect meet and greet contain? As a Duranie, I could only hope that the band looks at Monday’s event and things like those previous travel packages in order to determine their meet and greets in the future. I think it would benefit all of us.
How did I celebrate yesterday’s holiday after I posted the blog appreciating the music? I guess you could say that I cheated. I cheated on Duran. I suppose this is a bit of a confession. So, what did I do? I attended the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. I wanted to attend for a couple reasons. First, as a student of fandom, I wanted to see, to witness, to experience one of these comic cons for myself. While I have never really been a part of any of those fandoms (comic books, sci-fi, superheroes, etc.), I have been around them enough in my life that I feel pretty comfortable. My brother is a huge comic book fan (He even wrote a few books on the topic!). If you have been reading this blog for long, you are aware that I grew up with Star Trek in my life and do consider myself a fan. I have been a fan of a number of other sci-fi shows, too. While Duran is always my fandom, my central fandom, I do like other things. It’s okay. It’s good. Anyway, I figured that I would be comfortable enough in the environment of the convention to be able to not only learn something about fandom but also have fun. Second, I won’t lie. I read that Zachary Quinto was going to be there. For those of you not in the know. He plays Mr. Spock in the Star Trek rebooted movie series. Of course, he has been in other things, most notably, like Heroes and American Horror Story. I have appreciated his work for sometime and consider myself a fan. So, attending seemed like a win-win for me.
Once I decided to attend, I had to learn a little bit about how it worked. I could buy a one day pass or a pass for the entire four days. This would get me into the convention where I could attend panels of all sorts from celebrity question and answer sessions to writing a sci-fi screenplay to discussion about specific movie projects. I could also shop at the 80 billion vendors (not an exact number but there were a lot) that were there selling everything from comic books to action figures to sci-fi jewelry. What this ticket did not get me was any autograph or any picture with any of the celebrities there. Those opportunities were there for most of the celebrities but did cost extra. Since I wanted the entire experience and did kind of like that Quinto guy, I figured I would pay for the autograph and picture. Why not, right?! You live once and will probably only have the chance once. Plus, I have to say that I appreciate how clean this is. You pay and get some access. There is no waiting back stage after a show. There is no trying to find someone at a hotel or a bar. There is no having to hope for that chance encounter on the streets somewhere, all the while, in all of those settings, hoping that it is the right time, right mood to ask. No, in this circumstance, there is no need to have to ask. No worry about stepping over someone else. No worry about upsetting the celebrity of choice. It is all clean and clear.
Did it go as smoothly as I had hoped? It absolutely did. While there was a long line for both, everyone got their chance. The rules were easy to understand and follow. Everyone, fan AND celebrity, knew what was going to happen. I did the picture first as there was more of a set time for that whereas there was more time to get the autograph. For the picture, there was a line if you were VIP and a line if you were general. Oh yes, there were VIP tickets for some celebrities. They cost more (obviously) and included the picture, the four day pass, the autograph, guaranteed prime seating at the question/answer panel, and first in line spots for the pictures. Then, once everyone was ready, at the set time, the VIP people went first followed by the line of general attendees. There was a table to put personal belongings on and were told that we couldn’t take any personal pictures and there was to be no hugging or kissing, which made total sense to me. We were told that it would go fast and that autographs wouldn’t take place then. The picture could be for just you or a group, if so desired. If there were more than 2 people per picture, then there was an additional cost. So what was my experience like? It did go fast but not as fast as I thought it would. I wasn’t prepared to say anything because I assumed it would go so fast that words would not be exchanged. When I walked in, Zach actually directed me to a particular side. I’m not sure why. Maybe, he was switching back and forth each time. Maybe, it was due to height. Maybe, it was something the photographer requested. Anyway, he put his arm around me, I did the same to him. The picture was taken. Then, he thanked me for coming and wished me a good day. I muttered a thanks back and moved along. I noticed that no one tried to stay longer than was necessary to get the picture done.
After that, I walked around for awhile before heading back to the photo opps area to pick up my picture. I was pleased and walked over to the autograph area to get it signed. This again was a smooth process. There was a convention volunteer there either handing out a headshot picture to get signed, if people didn’t have anything, and to write people’s names on a post it note. The post it note was used at John’s book signing and I can imagine how helpful it is for the signer. The autograph can be personalized but no worries about spelling someone’s name. The whole interaction is more than the celebrity asking and spelling your name. After that, my picture with the post it was passed to another guy, who I assume is either Zach’s manager or someone else who works for him. We briefly discussed how tiring days like this must be with the nonstop activity and being “on” for so long. It was a nice conversation that was allowed to happen since Zach was taking his time with the person in front of me. When it was my turn, he greeted me by name. I thanked him for volunteering for the Obama campaign, which lead us to discuss my work for the campaign, the results of the election, and the alternative. It was a nice interaction. I thanked him and he thanked me. He shook my hand, wished me a good day and I, him. It didn’t feel rushed at all. Yes, there were people behind me but no one was pushing. After looking at my picture, I put it in my purse and walked around to watch other autograph stations as I wanted to see if Zach was unique in his warm, welcoming nature and the time he took as well as to see how other fans responded to other celebrities.
Here is what I found. Every celebrity seemed to take their time with the autographs. Every single one. Some, obviously, had longer lines than others but no one seemed to be rushed. In front of every station, there was a sign to indicate what times the celebrity would be there to sign. Some also had signs telling people if they could take pictures or not. I didn’t see or hear anyone complain about this or violate this rule with those celebrities. I was curious to see how it would be when the celebrities were done and were leaving. Would people let them leave? Would there be a rush of fans asking for autographs or pictures or simply a moment of time? Nope. It was calm. While there were convention volunteers around, the celebrities all seem to leave on their own with the people that they came with. They left without any fanfare and I watched most of the big names to see. What does this tell me, show me? It reminds me of some of the lessons I learned when I met President Obama last October. First, rules are helpful. Fans need to know what is allowed, what isn’t allowed and what it is going to be like. It also helps the celebrities to know that those rules will be followed and that they are safe. Second, access helps. If everyone has a chance for a picture or an autograph, if s/he has money, then there is no fighting over the celebrities. It probably also helps that there were many celebrities there and much to do. People couldn’t wait around and didn’t want to because they didn’t want to miss something else. How could this help celebrities like Duran? I would start with really clear expectations and rules about the meet and greets. Also, they might benefit to open up meet and greets to more fans. I realize, though, that this is very difficult on show nights. Then, I go back to the rules and expectations. If everyone was on the same page, that can’t hurt.
Overall, yesterday was a very positive experience for me. I learned a lot about fandom from watching and talking to other fans. I saw examples of great meet and greets. I also feel like my appreciation for Zachary Quinto has increased from this. He was so nice that I can’t help but to want to support him and his projects more. I can imagine that people who have had positive interactions with any celebrity feels that way. Something for all celebrities to think about. On that note, here’s my picture.
I think it turned out pretty great. I’m hoping that my field trip outside of my fandom won’t be frowned upon too much from the Duran universe as I think it was definitely worth it on many levels.
Epilogue: I saw the band again in August of 2012 and was able to have a do-over on the meet-and-greet. Sara wasn’t able to go, which was too bad because I know she wanted to prove that she could do it without passing out. It was very calm and devoid of paramedics. I was able to introduce myself to them all, shake hands and say hello, have them sign my ADITM CD, and have a lovely photo taken. Much more like the scenario my fifteen-year-old self had imagined.
All of us know what it is like to be the fan. We know what it is like to admire someone’s creative work–whether that work is a song, an album, a video, a live performance, an acting performance, a piece of art, a piece of fashion, etc. I also definitely get how it feels to be around someone you admire. Let’s face it. There is something odd, when you think about it, about how someone’s JOB is such that lots of people know it and like him/her because of it. We all have jobs, careers but it isn’t like the media pays any attention to people who deliver packages or people who fix plumbing. It just doesn’t happen. Careers in the creative arts, on the other hand, can get people’s attention beyond those immediately around them. We could discuss why that is but that isn’t the focus of the blog. I have to acknowledge that it is weird, in a logical sense, that people would become well-known or famous for their CAREERS. Obviously, in some way, we (collectively, as a society) place people in the world of fame because we must think that who they are or what they do is extraordinary, special, better than the rest of us. This is why we follow them or why we want to meet them, right? I do get that, but I also wonder what it is like to be them. I know what it is like to be a fan, to be someone who wants to meet someone famous, but what is it like to be someone who people want to meet or more?
On one hand, I can imagine that it must be completely amazing to be someone who people want to meet, be around, and more. It must be a non-stop ego stroke, right? All of these people want to meet you, take your picture, get your autograph, etc. because they feel you are special, someone extraordinary. This must make you feel very special and I could see where you could and would believe that you are exactly that, something, perhaps, better than others, better than everyday people. I could see where you would just think you are so cool and that you can do no wrong. It might even lead to you believing that you deserve all of the attention and maybe you do. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Clearly, a lot of people try really hard to get to this spot of fame and many once they get there want to stay. It must be very addicting. I get this. We all like praise and to be told that we do something well. We all do. I know, for example, I always do when it comes to this blog, my political work or even my job. Then, I imagine that fame is like this times like a million. Yet, is there a dark side to all of this attention? We all realize that there can be a dark side to media attention, lack of privacy, etc. What about with the fans, though?
The fan interactions I’m thinking of can be everything from official events like a CD signing or meet and greet to unofficial events like seeing someone in the streets or at an airport. There is also the online interactions through the use of twitter and Facebook. Whenever we have asked questions about fan interactions with the band, whether in person or on line, we frequently get a comment about how they are grown men and can handle themselves, which I have no doubt of. That really isn’t my question. Then, we hear, If they don’t like what a fan is doing, they could say something. That’s true, but I also realize that there is a danger to doing that. They wouldn’t want to alienate any fans, would they? After all, that is how they sell albums and concert tickets. They must also realize that fans talk among themselves so making one or two fans angry could lead to a lot more being angry. Another frequent comment we hear when it comes to fan interactions with celebrities is that dealing with fans is part of their job or that fans put them where they are so they owe the fans to interact with them. I struggle more with this one. Is fan interaction part of the job? Is it? In the case of Duran, I’m sure that they would describe themselves as musicians. This means that write and perform songs. Fan interaction, I suppose, comes in with success. To be a successful musician, one must sell a lot of albums and concert tickets. Then, fan interaction becomes a part, right? I guess. Do some people become rock stars or actors or whatever for the fame? I’m sure. Do all? What if they are uncomfortable interacting with strangers? (I would be.) Does that hurt their career? Should it? As for stars owing fans, I’m even more uncomfortable with this. Isn’t their jobs to make music, to act, to write, to whatever and the audience’s job is to buy those products? We buy the music. We buy the movie ticket or watch the TV show. We buy the book. We aren’t buying the actual person(s), person’s time or attention, right? I will also frequently hear a comment that goes something like this, “I treat them how I treat everyone.” Do we really? If I treated the members of Duran Duran the way I do everyone else, I wouldn’t save pictures of them, for example, unless I was in them. I wouldn’t try to find out everything about what they are working on or worked on. Sure, yes, I find out quite a bit about what my close friends and family are up to but not to the same degree. Let me give you an example. My sister-in-law is a historian. She worked on some project about kitchens in the 1950s. Did I buy the book connected to this project? I didn’t. Kitchens and food preparation isn’t something I’m interested in. I offered her support and congrats but that’s it. I didn’t buy it immediately as I did with John’s autobiography. My point here isn’t to criticize anyone, including myself. I just think the nature of celebrities and fame doesn’t allow us to truly treat them as we would anyone else. I think we can always strive for that, but we are humans and, for whatever reason, these particular people, these particular stars caught our attention. They cause us to get excited. These people cause us to react more emotionally. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be fans. To be a fan means to have a passion for someone or something. Emotion must be a part of it.
The real question then becomes how do we respond, knowing all this? We know that people we are a fan of will cause us to feel a lot. We will get excited over the idea of meeting them or interacting with them. Yet, we also know, logically, that they are just people. They are just people who made a career in the creative arts or something else that could get a vast amount of media and public attention. What is right and fair for them and what is right and fair for us? Do we try to overrule our emotion and desire to meet and interact with them? Do we acknowledge the truly strange aspect to the fan/famous person interaction? Do we change how we approach them? These are questions I am no where ready to answer.