Dwindling numbers

Lately, I’ve been spending some time over on DDM, which is the paid, official fan community for Duran Duran.  They have a message board or forum there that members may participate in – and over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several of the members “in person” at various events:  concerts, meetups, pre and post show parties, etc.  It’s a great resource for fans to connect with other fans in some sort of “official” fan club.  I confess that up until very recently, it wasn’t one of the first places on the web that I would frequent for fan information, or to connect with other fans.  This is purely a personal decision – there was nothing inherently wrong with the community there, it was just very big and impersonal unless you were among the privileged few that had been an active member since day one.  I think I’ve had my membership since about that time, but because the board was so busy, and because I’d already found my own message board “home”…I never really got involved. (my home?  DDF.  It’s a VERY tiny board these days.  Very quiet, but at one point we did have quite a solid group of fans posting there.)  Recently though, I’ve taken more to posting there because my old home board has gotten so slow that I would swear cobwebs are forming on the website.

I’m sure that as you’re reading this, you’re thinking about how numbers seem to de dwindling all over the place.  They really have been since the end of the Astronaut tour, and of course the last album probably did not help.  Well, at some point last week, someone on the DDM board posting something about the dwindling membership there – and much to my surprise, they were able to locate the current number of members on the board.  As of this writing today, there are 2237 people registered on the DDM member list – I believe those are forum members, not necessarily ALL the members on DDM, but I can’t be sure.  Down on the bottom of the forum index page, it gives some song and dance about how there are 13,590 registered users – those may very well be all of the members who have paid to be on DDM.  Regardless, those numbers are down significantly from 2005.

It seems like once or twice a week (give or take), someone will post something about how they miss the crowds that would frequent the board back in ’05.  They miss the “fun” people, they miss the sheer excitement that surrounded the band.  You would almost swear we were waxing nostalgic on 1985, and while I can certainly understand how people miss the days when we were all thinking “what if this band makes it big again – how cool would THAT be?”, I also wonder what is really driving people away from the fan community.  Sure, everyone has their own lives – although I had my “own life” back in 2005 and still made time for the band and making new friends.  That doesn’t seem to be what’s really changed for most people…

I don’t think the band has ever been the type to just get out and be with their people.  In fact, I  daresay that the band doesn’t really think we “ARE” their people.  🙂   I’m not asserting that they should think that way – I’m simply stating what I feel to be true.  It’s not really my job to decide if the band is doing something the right or wrong way – it’s my job to see it from the fans’ perspective.  One of you can do the hard work from the other side of the fence!  As such, over the years I’ve heard fans say over and over again that the band doesn’t try to connect with us.  They’d don’t twitter, they really don’t facebook on their own, I know there’s been rumor of some posts way back when on dd.com  when they had a message board – but there’s never been any substantiation of that, and they really don’t make too much of an attempt to hang out with fans before or after shows.  Yes, we might get lucky and stumble upon them at a bar or club…which, in THIS fan’s opinion anyway….has always been a bit of a circus spectacle.  Hmm, perhaps they don’t want to hang out with us BECAUSE of our behavior.  Gee.  In any case, perhaps this has driven fans away.  They’re tired of supporting a band that doesn’t seem all that terribly interested.

The band has been inconsistent.   *I* am not saying albums have flopped, so stop writing that hate mail right this second!  I’m observing things from a fan prospective.   I think that in general – there are fans that jump on the bandwagon with one album that jump off for the next one.  It happens to all bands, to all fandoms for that matter, and the strong tend to survive.  I have to wonder what the next album will bring as far as new fans, or old fans that have come back into the fold.  I’ve been on message boards where the longtime fans have come down hard on people who have fallen away when the albums haven’t lived up to expectation, and my response to that is “WHY?”   Sure, I feel pretty strongly about my own fandom.  I’m proud to say I’ve been a fan for almost 30 years now….but isn’t it our job to welcome new fans or returning fans?  At this point, the band could really use our help to welcome people in, not be the bouncers for those we deem to be not worthy.  Just a thought.

The fan community itself is a tough place to navigate.  I don’t mean specifically DDM – I’m talking the community as a whole.  I’ve run into fans over and over that complain about the fans themselves.  It’s a big game of who has met who, how many pictures so and so has with the band, how many times someone has gone VIP, and my personal favorite…”I have information that I can’t/won’t share.”  *gasp*   It’s a shame that the fan community at its worst turns into a place where only the toughest and most strategic can thrive.  Shouldn’t we be welcoming new people rather than trying to run them out of town, so to speak?  Shouldn’t we be sharing information, since the band is the one thing that connects all of us?  Many fans, like myself – have been a fan now for nearly 30 years. (29 in my case.  That’s ridiculous!!!)   Isn’t it time we realize that no matter how many photographs we have, drumsticks we’ve caught, VIP tickets we buy,  this isn’t a game where there are winners or losers.  It’s a fan community.  Emphasis on the community.  The friendships you make will take you far beyond the time the band ever gives you. Sure, the fantasies are great, but let’s be real for a second and realize that the band is merely the backdrop to the fun times the community has together, whether the community is strong at 15,000 or mighty at 2,000.  I think that for a lot of fans, they’ve gotten tired of playing the game.

I don’t know what exact combination of reasons has brought us to a few thousand devoted members on DDM, although I know the list of reasons is FAR longer than the very select few I’ve mentioned.  I only know that we’re as strong as we are connected – and we as fans have a LOT of work to do in that arena. (yep, the pun is definitely intended!)

-R

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