Today marked the end of a quiet, relaxing weekend with some of my favorite people. I “met” these friends who came out for the weekend in 2002. Yet, we had talked for years before meeting face to face. Fandom brought us together as we all loved the show, Roswell, and found ourselves chatting on various message boards before arranging to meet in person. Those first meet-ups were both a little scary but also a ton of fun. We found ourselves watching and re-watching favorite scenes and discussing all aspects of the show. The show, unfortunately, didn’t last beyond the three years. Despite that, we still have plenty to talk about, including fandom in general.
While a TV show fandom brought us together, all of us have participated in other fandoms. My friend, Kate, for instance, loves the band, Hanson. Robyn loves to go see live music but also traveled for other TV show conventions. Therefore, it is pretty common that our discussions lead us back to talking about current and former fandoms. Through the discussion, I began to wonder if certain fandoms are easier to belong to than others or easier to stay in, especially in light of some recent blogs that Rhonda wrote about various fan conventions.
Fandoms surrounding TV shows, movies, books, etc. definitely seem easier to belong to for a variety of reasons. First, anyone can join the fandom and participate in a big chunk of fan activities. Everyone can turn in to watch the latest episode on TV, right? Money doesn’t factor much unless the show is on cable or through some other subscription service like Netflix. Second, after an episode, fans can and do rush to the internet to discuss all aspects of what they saw. Fans can all participate in the same time unlike some music fan activities like going to a concert in which only some fans can attend. Third, fandoms surrounding a fictional story easily allows for fan fiction. Fan writers can take what they read or watch and expand the story in some way. Again, money does not matter. It does not separate fans from other fans.
Music fandom is different. While there are some shared experiences like hearing an album on release day or watching a brand new video, most of the rest of fan activities are not ones that all fans can and do attend. Concerts only featured a small percentage of fans at any given time. The ability to go to fan events like concerts are often dependent on one’s financial ability. While, yes, all fans of a certain band can tune in when that band is featured on TV, not all fans can afford all concerts and certainly not all in the front row. Likewise, fan fiction is much less likely in music fandom as there is no fictional story to expand. There is just the history of the band and real people as opposed to characters who have been created.
All that being said, there are some other factors. TV shows, movies and books often have a smaller life cycle. It is a big deal when a TV show, for example, lasts ten years. For Duran Duran fans, the band has been going for almost 4 decades. The limited time of existence could make those kind of fandoms tough. How do fans keep the passion alive when there is nothing new to talk about or get excited about?
At the same time, there is additional factor of the celebrities. The chance to meet a rock star, for example, is limited. Sometimes, fans can meet the rock star of choice through concert meet and greets or through CD signings. Perhaps, one can have a brief encounter at the stage door after a show. If music fans want a picture or an autograph, they either have to hope for some magical luck at finding the celebrity of choice before or after a show or they have to hope for an official signing. Music fandoms generally don’t have fan conventions like TV shows, movies and books have. Rock stars are not appearing at some weekend convention where fans can buy autographs or buy a photo with the star.
Music fans must rely more on money and luck in order to have any chance for interaction with their celebrities of choice. TV show/Movie/Book fans have a greater chance at being able to have access at fan conventions. Often times, those conventions happen in between projects, too, for actors and actresses. This could help to keep fandom alive, too, as there might be less down time.
What I now wonder if there isn’t a way to combine elements of both types of fantoms in order to keep fans happy and to keep fandom alive. As more of a music fan, for example, I would really like more chances to meet my favorite band members without having to have luck or a chance to meet them after a show. Perhaps, if more fans had that opportunity then there would be less competition, making fandom a happier place.