There have been many times when a few of us have gotten to chatting on Twitter and wondered “aloud” what it would have been like had this technology been available during the 1980’s. Most of us typically announce that it would have been complete chaos, and then of course we laugh off the idea and go about our tweeting way. What I wonder about today though, is what it all would have been like had social networking never taken hold.
I’ve not done any real interviews or polls regarding fan feelings towards the band just prior to Simon or John joining Twitter or Facebook, (What – be scientific and professional? Never!) so that leaves me to only relate to my own experiences. If you’re really curious about how I might have felt, one only needs to go back to the inception of Daily Duranie and read through the archives to know. That’s the funniest part of this whole tale – social networking as we know it has really only been around a matter of a couple of years. Three years ago, we might have only gotten our information from a message board, possibly dd.com or maybe DDM. The very thought of John, Simon, Nick,Roger or Dom gracing us with their virtual presence was just a dream – and a far fetched one at that.
At the risk of rehashing history, that’s where I begin in brutal honesty. Three years ago, I would have openly yelled from any rooftop that the band thought they were far too good, too much like royalty, to convene with the commoners. (That would be us, the fans.) Was that fair? Maybe. Maybe not. I really don’t know. It seemed to me that for years, the plan was to keep the band at arms length from the fans, dangling like a carrot we could never quite reach. I almost wonder if the band was shocked that when they went on tour for Astronaut and found that at least a handful of fans had no trouble staying at the same hotels and cavorting in the bars after shows. We really were not the same ten, twelve, thirteen year olds that they’d left behind in the 80’s. That alone must have been a surprise. Then we had the nerve to actually expect (and some might say demand) that they acknowledge our presence beyond the stage. At first, I was enamored by the whole scene. Here I was, going to Duran Duran shows and frequenting the same places that the band might. As time wore on, it seemed obvious to me that while other bands were able to better embrace their fans, there seemed to be a general unwillingness from Duran Duran to even attempt to do so. Now, before anyone decides to send me a nastygram about how the band can’t possibly do such things because their fans would tear them to shreds – save it. I already know. The dilemma is that by not making the attempt to embrace when possible, and abstain when necessary is that fans (myself included) began to see the band has having a sort of continued and sustained sense of apathy towards the fans. This seemed to continue to grow, whether misinterpreted or rightfully implied the longer that the Astronaut tour went on, and continued through the making of Red Carpet Massacre. The longer I was involved on the message boards, the more I heard about how much the band, and specific members within who will remain unnamed here, would complain about the fans. Comments about certain types of fans who typically occupied the front section at shows. Complaints about fans from certain very large, very populated countries being loud, raucous and rude. Statements about the types of fans that certain members would like to see at shows. After months of reading such things, there was a definite shift in the fan community. The attitude changed, and rather than seeing support, I saw plenty of discontent.
Matters were not helped at all when it was announced that Andy was leaving the band on a permanent basis. They continued not to be helped as time wore on without an album release in sight, and the more that Nick Rhodes took to video to tell us all about the “groooveworld” state the band was in with this new album and how wonderful Timbaland was, the more agitated the community seemed. Naturally, this doesn’t describe everyone – but it seemed to be the overall feeling. Then of course the fan show happened in 2007, and if the band had any kind of an inkling that things were unwell and fractured in their fan community – they certainly should have after this show. I know that at that point, I’d spoken to many a fan that night that announced they’d just been to their last Duran Duran gig. The key here though is that it was never just about the music. It was the feeling between band and fan base that played just as large a part – there was simply no connection. It was purely a transactional relationship: they make albums and play gigs – we purchase their product and scream for them. End of story.
In 2008 and 2009, things did not seem to get better. I did not attend many shows during the Red Carpet Massacre tour, but I did go to the final three shows when the band came back to the US for a final time before taking a hiatus. I have never felt more disconnected to that band than I did for those shows. The shows were good, but there was definitely a spark missing. The connection between the band and the fans just didn’t seem to quite mesh. Then of course we all know they went home, and at some point back into the studio to record what we now know to be All You Need is Now.
It seemed like a fairly sad state of affairs at the time. I can remember discussing the possibility that we’d never see another album out of the band many, many times during their hiatus. We’d hear snippets from the studio and while I could never make heads or tails out of what I was hearing – I couldn’t quite decide if we really got a real “leak” or if it was something that crawled out of the archives. Truth be told, it wasn’t until Simon and then John got onto Twitter and actually started using it in earnest that I thought there might be the smallest glimmer of hope for them. I felt tepid towards them for a long time, although I was still very excited to see that they were genuinely making an effort to get past their own celebrity crap and get to know the fans as people. (Yes, I really felt like it was as though they had to get over themselves – because as fans, we’ve always just kind of been exactly whom we are, you know?) The more genuine that John – and I say John only because I felt like he really did make the best effort at getting to understand who in the hell we really were to begin with – became, the more comfortable *I* felt again. That’s not to say Simon didn’t do his part, but I’ve never quite understood him – and yes, he still scares the hell out of me. Probably intended, and I’m happy to steer clear and let the Simon girls out there have their way. Although on a side note, I still miss my good friend “Moocher” from my days on DuranDuranFans.com (now defunct)…a Simon “fan” to the very end who liked to let me have it, and I gave it right back. Good times.
Since then of course, All You Need is Now came out and knocked my socks off. I can’t say that wouldn’t have happened if John or Simon had never tried Twitter or Facebook. I listened to Duran Duran for twenty some years before I ever traded a single message with any of them, so it’s not like I would not have embraced the new album. The difference for me, and I would imagine many of you out there, is that this time – I feel personally vested. There’s an emotionality that goes way beyond the superficial. You might say I trust the band, and I have to thank John and Simon for that. The two of them – along with Roger on Facebook to a lesser degree – held an olive branch out to the fans via social networking. I don’t know if social networking saved the band, but it definitely has helped to make me feel closer to them, and I am sure I’m not alone.
So what would it all have been like without social networking? Would the fan community have embraced the new album as well? Would the gigs still have that same spark? More importantly, would the band really want to keep going? What about the fans? Where would we be right now?
I don’t know for sure – but I’m enjoying this moment.