Why Being a Fan Is More Powerful Now Than Ever Before
These days, the modern fan isn’t what the stereotypes say: hysterical, screaming teenagers. Fans are artists, writers, and entrepreneurs and, more so now than ever before, they have control over the charts, box office and everything in between. Therefore, social media marketers and brands themselves can learn from fan engagement, focusing on what garners the most attention among them. In other words, fans have more power and influence over the artists and groups that they are actually fans of, something that hasn’t ever been this prevalent.
In the past, the only influence a fan could have was by purchasing things like records, concert tickets, and artist-owned merchandise, since things were more controlled by the label. Without the internet and social media, buying something as simple as a band tee would have to take place either at that band’s concert or at a store in the mall. However, today, with shops on sites like Etsy selling everything from tote bags to bucket hats and artists creating their own websites to sell official merchandise to fans, repping your favourite artist is much easier and more accessible. This in turn leads to fans acting as a “walking billboard” for whatever artist they choose to represent through clothing or accessories.
Fans also have much more control over the charts themselves and the popularity of artists. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen a smaller, upcoming artist on my TikTok “For You” page promote a new release, only for that artist to blow up through said TikTok and gain more listeners along the way. This can also occur with artists who already have a populated fan base. Take Conan Gray, for example, and his song Heather. Through just a fifteen-second snippet of the song’s chorus, Heather turned from just another song on the album to one of Conan Gray’s top songs, being released as a single along with a music video to show for it. Despite the fact that Conan Gray already had a fanbase and releases prior to Heather, the song’s popularity online really put him in the spotlight and gave him much more publicity, all thanks to the fans who posted that fifteen-second snippet.
Aside from the modern fan’s influence over the more technical aspects of things, being a fan of something, whether it be a music artist or TV show, can act as a method of self-discovery and expression. When I look back at how I’ve grown through the various phases and steps of my life, I find that I’m able to connect that growth to my interests at that time. We can learn a lot about ourselves through our interests and what we’re fans of, and even though the actual journey differs for each and every one of us, it’s something we can all relate to. This can be explained in the sense that, sometimes, we are so moved by someone else’s work that it impacts how we think, feel and approach certain aspects of our lives.
Oftentimes, one of the core elements of finding yourself is having a sense of belonging and surrounding yourself with like-minded people, and participating in fan culture is one of the easiest ways to do so. Imagine a scenario in which you’re meeting someone new, with one of the first questions to be asked is “What kind of music do you listen to?”. Say that person replies with one of your top artists. That shared interest immediately gives both a sense of connection and belonging between you and the stranger. This is exactly how it works in fandoms. A shared interest as simple as a band can result in an incredible connection between two like-minded people.
Going even deeper into this sense of belonging and connection, going to events like concerts or posting about your favourite singer on social media can allow you to see and interact with people who have the same interests as you do, leaving you feeling less alone. A popular element of fan culture is posting about your favourite artist on social media platforms, especially Twitter. Social media can be a space where people find community and that sense of belonging, and it makes the world a lot smaller. For example, a shared interest in an artist like Harry Styles can bring people together. Even if one of them is all the way across the world, social media makes that connection possible. As a result, we are exposed to so many different types of cultures and beliefs, which can impact our own and help us discover more about ourselves.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, fans are more than just excited, screaming teenagers. They’re creative artists, imaginative writers and more. Whether it be through creating art that centres around a certain band or designing a sweater for your favourite movie, fandom can be used as a form of self-expression. Hundreds of thousands of talented fans even manage to sell their work online, through those previously mentioned Etsy shops. This can also lead to fandom being used as a pathway to understanding what makes you genuinely happy and what you are passionate about. In my case, I was completely lost in what I wanted to do with my life when I was in my last year of high school. I remember taking a look at what I considered “constants” in my life or things that I stayed passionate about, and the first thing that came to mind was music. Today, I’m majoring in PR/Advertising with a minor in Music Business, hoping to go into the music industry as a career. All of that comes from being a passionate fan of music ever since I was young, and it really helped me discover my genuine interests and goals in life.
Fans are a force to be reckoned with. They hold an immense amount of power in shaping the world around them and have accomplished incredible feats, from making One Direction into one of the most popular boy bands of all time all the way back to the Beatles revolution. The best way to close this is with the words of Harry Styles himself, who spoke about fans in his 2017 Rolling Stone interview: “Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”