If that all weren’t enough – which I believe it is – there was a Katy Kafe with John Taylor put up on DDM last night. I just gave it a good listen, and I’m pretty tickled to be able to comment on one of it’s topics in the blog today. Specifically I would like to focus on John’s thoughts regarding Twitter; primarily because he speaks directly about the connection that fans are making, both with the band (he and Simon) – and one another.
The one sentence that I found to be the most profound in everything that John mentioned on Katy Kafe was that Twitter is really giving the fans the opportunity to be more connected. That connection gives the fans a sense of unity and power – he couldn’t have been more “right on” had he tried. I believe that it’s the very reason that fan communities exist and thrive. Fans strive for that connection. They want to know they aren’t the only people on the planet that feel that certain way about whatever it is they are fans of. The need for connection isn’t limited to only music fans – it’s everywhere. It amplifies the enjoyment someone might receive from going and participating in shows, games, etc. For example, I’ve always said that while shows were always fun before I really knew people in the community – the very best concerts I’ve been to (specifically in the case of Duran Duran) have been the ones that I’ve attended with friends. I can’t imagine traveling to the UK alone to see the band, in fact, I don’t think the idea ever even entered my head until I really got involved in the community! The interesting thing that I think John is missing, through no real fault of his own, is that this FAN connection existed before Twitter, and even before Facebook. Message boards created that sense of community – and before that there were fanzines and even earlier – fan clubs, to a very limited extent, lit the fire in the bellies of the communities that exist today. There is however, one real difference between the fan clubs and message boards and Twitter – and that is band involvement. Sure, the band was somewhat involved with their fan club – they might have signed a welcome letter that was sent to new members. They might have done an interview or two for a fanzine, or taken special photos that went out to the fan clubs, but all of that was purely static involvement. Twitter and Facebook are entirely different animals. They require time, although as John openly states – they shouldn’t be slaves to it. (I hope they don’t feel as though they are, because that would completely change, if not ruin, the effect it’s having) They require energy, and to some degree – I really believe they require some caring on the part of the band. That emotion does make a difference. Fans can tell when the band isn’t into it, and there’s no bigger turn off than seeing a band member look like he’s just “phoning it in” for the sake of being able to say he was there and did his duty. When it gets to that point, they ought to just do themselves a favor and take a vacation. I think the fans have been connected for quite a while now, but having the band take an active interest – seeing that they at least SEEM to want to connect with their fans in return, has made all of the difference.
I know that for me, and I’m just an average fan like anyone else, having the band involved has kind of taken the whole idea of being involved in the community up a notch. Let’s be honest and fangirl-like for a second here: who amongst us ever thought in our once 12 year old heads that we’d EVER have a chance to really chat with John Taylor? Who thought that Roger would comment about us BY NAME on his facebook wall or have Simon directly mention us in a tweet reply? Granted, I’ve never had any of that happen yet – but that’s not really the point. I’ve seen it happen with other fans. I see that John takes an interest in what we think. Simon seems to like getting some of the corniest jokes I’ve ever read from us…and Roger, well, Roger is just as sweet on Facebook as I’d hoped. (Yeah, he’s still a favorite. Old habits die hard. Sue me.) I don’t even think they have the time to read many of our replies, but the hope probably exists in all of us that at some point, they just might read what we have to say, and will comment back. Three years ago, the best I could have hoped for was a chance meeting. Now there are three of the four members actively seeking our involvement. I don’t know what to say about Nick there, except that I hope at some point he feels comfortable enough to try it out. Regardless, I have to think back to the days during Astronaut, or even Red Carpet Massacre, where it was clear that there was some discord in the masses (fans). I think it was then that I started losing my way in the community. I had friends, I was connected with the people I chose to be connected with, and after that, there just didn’t seem to be much left. My friends were going to be my friends whether I loved the band and what they were doing or not. I didn’t feel very attached to the band, and I certainly didn’t love the album enough to feel connected to that either. The band, to me, felt very unattached to the fans. It didn’t seem as though they really knew or cared as to what kept us together as a unified group. It’s not just about the band and whether or not they keep going – it’s about the fans as well. Personally, I felt so disconnected to the band, I really started questioning whether or not I still belonged in the fan community. Perhaps I’d really outgrown my place. I searched for that feeling, that connection – hoping that I’d feel something, ANYTHING. As my group of friends started to dwindle – people went off in different directions as their lives moved on, I kept up hope. It very much felt like the fan community was fading, and to be honest – I worried that time was up for the band. Then the announcements and snippets from the new album started coming out, and then John and Simon got involved on Twitter, and at some point prior – Roger used his Facebook page more effectively. I can’t say that the change was instant, but it’s obvious that for many fans, including myself, this has made all of the difference.
It’s not just about the music. After 30 years of involvement with the band, they are a part of our everyday lives in many ways. We fans feel like we know them (of course in reality we only know who they want us know!), and now it feels as though they are getting to know us in return. The once “one-way” relationship is now “two-way”. That, my friends, is the real difference. What was once purely a connection between fans of a band is now a circle of relationships that includes the band.
It’s refreshing to hear that John has picked up on the importance of the one monumental benefit that Twitter provides, especially for celebrities and bands. I know that when Twitter first started getting real press, I was very cautious about it’s purpose. I just didn’t think it was necessary for a fan to know absolutely everything about the celebrity they were choosing to follow – nor did I feel it was that important for me to tweet about going to pick my kids up from school and so forth. Who cares?? The trick is that it takes only but a tweet or two about things that DO matter in order to spur interest or to create a connection. Sure, John could have chosen to tweet AT us, never bothering to reply or answer, but he really doesn’t do that. He tries to bring us along for the ride, so to speak. Simon, on the other hand – will sit up for hours, braving the Oscars just to tweet with fans. Granted, he may have told us all to shut up, and he might have even fallen asleep at the computer or even tweeted that poor Kirk Douglas looked like he was talking out of his ears (gotta love Simon’s tweets…), but he was at least trying. Let’s face it – we fans are tough to handle at times.
I know plenty of people in the community that won’t agree with that statement. They’ll say that the fans don’t matter, that we’re a dime a dozen, and that the band would keep going whether we’re here or not. I call foul. The fans DO matter, and while I’m not saying we call the shots (Not in the least, nor should we.) – my assertion is that without the fans, the band would have no real purpose, and without the band, well, there really wouldn’t be a fan base. It’s a two way street, and in reality it’s really much more than that. We need each other to thrive as a community.