Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Sam: A fan… It means that you like something, so whether it can be a fan of a certain music, or a fan of a certain artist, or a fan of a certain movie—it’s… you enjoy watching or reading or listening to whatever you’re a fan of. You’re not forced to like it, you’re just kind of like, ahhh… gradual… on your own…
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
Yes! I guess, probably, music is the most relevant, and probably movies and TV. But I’ll just do music, because that was the most recent. I’ve been a fan of the Jonas Brothers for a very long time, and then, y’know, bands come and go, they broke up. You can still be a fan of something [that’s not currently active], but… They just got back together, and it’s like the fire of the entire fan group just reignited. And it’s been fantastic to see the older fans, the original fans, who are now my age and a little bit older, and then the younger generation of fans, because now, with their new album, they have new fans along with the ones who’ve been there for a while. So it’s cool to see how they’ve grown and it’s just exciting that they’re back. And then also, [I’m] a fan of Taylor Swift, or things on TV and movies, so… you find like a little group [to be in].
How often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
I don’t quite know what that means. I don’t belong to any fan group pages, but… yeah… I don’t know.
Let’s reword: How often do you interact with any kind of fan communities at all, either online or in person, just overall?
So, if what I’m understanding is correct, just relating it back to music, if any musical artist posts on any kind of social media, I guess in the comments, would that count as interaction? I mean, if I’m just scrolling through their Instagram or something, I’ll just read a couple of the comments. Or if I have friends who also enjoy the same topic as me, we’ll chat about it, but it’s not like a daily—I mean, a daily thing, but it’s a tiny bit of my day. It’s not something that consumes me. It’s something that I enjoy, but I’m not like, (haunting, fan enthusiasm-emulating gasp)!
It’s like a cursory kind of thing?
Okay! That’s fair. Please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces.
Yeah, so it’s usually just other fans commenting on certain things, or in person talking about it. But one thing I saw recently in terms of fan groups—so like, the Taylor Swift fan group is a really big fan group. Everything that happened with her and her old record label—how she’s being awarded Artist of the Decade—and her old management team was not allowing her to play her old music at the award ceremony because, technically, they own it. And because of the backlash from all the fans being like, “What the heck? That’s not okay,” they decided to allow her to play her songs. So, it’s cool to be a part of something that can drive change, especially when it’s unfair.
Is that a normal occurrence in fan communities? The actual media listening to a fan group?
I mean, it’s usually when someone or something wrongs the artist, or the movie franchise. I remember when Disney and Sony were having that argument about how they were going to take—because Disney owns Marvel, and Sony and Disney were working together with Spider-Man—they were gonna take Spider-Man out of the Marvel Universe, and the fans went crazy. It shows that if enough of the fan base has an impact, it can impact the bottom line. Which, y’know, money drives everything, so.
Describe your ‘history’ with a fandom. What made you join? What made you stay?
Well, I’ve never officially joined any fan group. In general, I join because I like whatever movie or artist or group—I don’t join any of the fan groups, but I say that I’m a fan of certain things. And then I stay because I enjoy the band or the TV show or the movie. But if, at any point, I don’t like listening or watching anymore, I’ll unfollow them on social media, or not care anymore, and them just take a step back.
In the cases that you do step back, has it been from the content itself or from something to do with the fan base itself?
Nah, it’s usually not the fan base, it’s mostly the movie/TV series/artists themselves. It’s not really anything that has to do with the fan base. I don’t really… y’know? They aren’t the… like, I’m not a fan of the fan base, I’m a fan of the artist, so.
That’s fair. If you knew then, when you started being a fan, what you know now as a fan, would your fan experience be different? Would you join it again?
I honestly don’t see that much of a difference. I think the only difference that’s really changed is with social media being as big as it is now. It makes it easier for people to communicate with each other and to meet up and hang out. But I don’t think it’d really change anything, because I think the change happened organically. As social media and technology got bigger and more prominent in our lives, it just integrated itself [with] fan bases.
How important are your fandoms to you? Why are they important?
I mean, they’re not important to me, personally. Like I said before, I’m a fan of the artist, or the TV show, or the movie. I’m not a fan of the “fan club.” I haven’t met anybody through fan groups or anything. I’m just a fan—I enjoy listening or watching or doing whatever, but I don’t join the groups and all that stuff.
Let’s rephrase the question a little bit. How important is being a fan of the things you are a fan of?
Ohh, okay. I mean, it shows support. It shows that you enjoy listening to the music or watching the movie or TV show. Or, say it’s like an independent artist. I started following a couple of painters on Instagram. Even just following them shows that you’re interested and enjoy what they’re doing, and, I don’t know, it makes me feel good to promote the smaller people, also, the more independent people. I mean, like I said before, it comes to money, and with social media and everything, these groups, depending on how many social media hits they get, they get paid for that. So it’s… y’know, being a fan helps them financially, I guess, but I just… I enjoy the whole thing of it.
Has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so?
Interesting question… I’m trying to think of it in terms of, like, other than music and stuff. I mean, in terms of my identity, I guess the music you listen to, the things you watch, y’know, turns you into the person that you are down the line, like I don’t like watching horror movies—I don’t know if that has had any impact on how I am what I am. I don’t know, maybe it keeps me—again, with the bands that are coming back, like Aly & AJ, Jonas Brothers, a lot of the bands I used to listen to when I was younger that are coming back now—it keeps that nostalgia alive in me, I guess, but other than that… Maybe if you’re a fan of certain clothing brands or ethical companies, I guess being a fan of those companies can definitely shape who you are, and I would say that that has helped me especially because I’m trying to be more eco-friendly. So, following certain brands and being a fan of certain companies that are leaning more eco-friendly and trying to help in that regard has made me think of ways that I can help, so… I guess so, yeah.
Do you create content as a fan? Please describe.
I mean, every once in a while… I went to see a band I used to listen to when I was little. I saw them and took a picture and posted it on Instagram, but other than posting on Instagram, if a band or artist I’m following posts something and I reshare it… Other than that, nothing. I don’t go out of my way to post something and be like, “Yeah!” but if I see something that I wanna share, I’m like, “Alright, yeah, sure.”
Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your experiences as a fan?
Hmm… I don’t think so. No.
Okay! Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences?
In terms of being a fan of certain companies, again, because I majored in environmental studies, I started looking into more environmentally-conscious brands, and I learned about the whole zero waste lifestyle, and trying to lessen the amount of waste that you have, so I guess in that regard, yeah, but in terms of movies and music, not really so much.
Do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
If it comes up in casual conversation that’s like, “Oh, blah blah blah, I went to see so-and-so in concert,” and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I love them!” Or it’s like, “Oh I read a book by so-and-so,” and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I love that author!” But I don’t outwardly say it unless it comes up in casual conversation. I’m not like, “(Gasp) Oh my gosh, I have to tell you about this,” unless I think that the person I’m talking with would also enjoy what I’m a fan of. Then, I would bring it up and be like, “Oh, y’know, by the way, I think that maybe you would like this.” But other than that, not really.
Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
I mean, if you’re in the fan community, wouldn’t that dictate that you’re already… in the… fan… community? So… I would assume that it’s kinda self-explanatory that (laughs) if you’re a part of a fan community, then you would be a fan… of… that… particular… entity—that’s not the right word, but you get the idea.
That’s really all the questions that I had, so was there anything that you wanted to circle back to or passionately rant about?
Hmm… Oh. There is one thing. Sometimes I feel like fan groups go a little too far. So, I don’t remember which two fan groups—you always see in the news… It’s like, different fan groups just in terms of musical artists, like Beyoncé is called the Hive… the Beyhive, yeah. So sometimes I feel like these fan groups just cause unnecessary drama between each other, and I feel like the fans feel like they know the artist, like they know them on a personal level. But, unless you’re actually friends with the person, I don’t think you could actually know them. But I feel like they start these wars that are unnecessary, like think of the Katy Perry fan group and the Taylor Swift fan group. It’s like, okay. Maybe they had a little tiff in real life, but I feel like the fan groups sometimes push it over the top and over the edge, and I just feel like sometimes that’s just… a little bit too much, because… I just… If the artist or person isn’t making a big deal out of it, why are you making such a big deal about it. I just feel like they go a little bit overboard, and then in those cases, I’m like, “Ugh. God, am I really considered a fan?” I feel like I’m on the outskirts, then, of the fan group because I feel like fan groups are kinda like a circle. You have the outer rim—people who like them and are like, “Oh, yeah, cool”—and then you get closer and closer—like a bullseye—and closer to the center, you have the SUPER FANS that are die-hard. I feel like those are the people that feel like they’re best friends with the artists or the band or the director/actress/whatever, I feel like they feel it in their soul that, “OMG this is my best friend.” And then, as you move out [away from] the bullseye, there’s different levels to fan groups. So, I feel like sometimes I’m on the outside—depending on what I am or what I enjoy. In my head I have a visual representation of where I stand on the bullseye, if that makes sense.
You mentioned being on the outskirts and seeing these super fans. In that case, would you reveal yourself to them as a fan, if you see that there’s this unstable space going on?
Online, probably not, because I don’t really know the person, but if it were an in-person—like, say I’m friends with someone and they’re just going ham on a certain topic, and I’m like, well, y’know, I’m also a fan of this, but this is my perspective on it, and it’s kind of… I’ll give them my perspective in-person, but I feel like, online, I don’t really know these other people, so I don’t really feel like—like, who am I to give my opinion? Everyone has their own opinion on things, but… I don’t know. I’m always weird about online things. So, if it’s in-person, sure. If it’s online, not so much.
How are you weirded out by online stuff?
I’m a highly suspicious individual when it comes to online things. I just, I dunno, it might be a cool way to make friends and everything, but I also… I mean, in that way, it is cool… meet people with similar interests as you. I find it easier to meet people and have those connections in person versus online, and say that you have one person in the fan group that’s from Australia, another person from Alaska, and different places—I find it hard to bridge that gap. But yeah, in person, I’d voice my opinion. Online, eh… if it’s some random person that I’ve never [met], like say I’m looking in the Instagram comments, and it’s just some random person, I’m like ehh… unless it’s something blatantly wrong that I for sure know the answer to, then I’ll just make a comment and be like, “Actually…!” But, if it’s some random person, I don’t really care. If it’s someone I know, I’ll be like, “Okay.”
Can you describe an instance where you experienced fan communities in person?
Oh! Okay, I have an example of this! When I went to the Ed Sheeran concert. So when you go to any kind of concert, you’re sitting next to random people. Sometimes they’re great, sometimes you’re like, “Oh my god, get away from me.” So when I went to go see Ed Sheeran, we sat next to this guy and his mom, and we ended up becoming really—like, talking with them, y’know, they were super friendly, we exchanged phone numbers, and we ended up hanging out with him a bunch more times afterwards. In that regard, that’s the one time where being a fan of something [means] you can meet other people. Yeah, that was a cool time. I don’t think that’s happened at any other—oh, wait, no! When I saw the Jonas Brothers in concert, we met two girls in front of us who were au pairs, who were from other countries but nannying in the States, and they came to see the Jonas Brothers, too. Got to talking with them. In the moment—I know especially at concerts—I feel like the people who sit farther away from the group that you’re seeing have more of a bond because you’re like, “Yeah, we don’t care if we’re this far away, we’re here for the music! We’re here to see what’s going on, even though we’re far away, we don’t care! We’re still fans!” I’ve been to concerts where I was on the floor, but I didn’t get that same vibe. The times that I’ve been farther back—we know that the seats are bad, but we accept it and we’re there anyway, and we’re just gonna dance like idiots anyway.
Connection via tragedy? (laughs)
Yes! Exactly! Because you know, if you’re gonna pay $60 for seats and it’s all the way up in the nosebleeds, you know you’re not gonna be up close and personal with the artist, but sometimes that’s even more fun because—it’s just a different experience.
So if you’re closer to the artist, do you feel like you would have a closer connection with the artist and less of a connection with the fans?
I don’t think, necessarily, because when I went to go see Demi Lovato, I was on the floor, and she walked right behind us. I think it’s cool to see them up close. I don’t necessarily feel a connection to them because I don’t know them personally. It’s cool to see them up close, but I feel like I’m not gonna pay crazy amounts of money to be physically closer to them, because if I was anywhere else in the stadium—yeah, I’d have a worse view, but I’d still get the musical experience. I’m there to listen to the music, not look at the sweat that’s dripping off of their face as they walk by like, “Oh my go-!” y’know? And I don’t have a problem with getting cheap seats because I know I’m gonna see them from farther away but still be there and experience it. Like with Taylor Swift, I got tickets—they’re up in the nosebleeds, but I don’t care. I’m just so excited to be able to go. And like I said before, depending on where you sit, you get a different experience at the concert. And I like being in the back. I think it’s fun.
Earlier you mentioned fan wars. Can you describe one?
Stupid ones like Nicki Minaj vs. Cardi B. It gets me mad because a lot of the times, the fan wars are women against women. That’s what I’ve noticed—female artists against female artists—and it’s so stupid, because instead of pulling each other down, you really should be picking each other up, especially as women, and especially Cardi B and Nicki Minaj… They’re both women of color and they’re rappers. How often do you find that? Not very often, and instead of hating each other, you should be—not joining forces, but—respecting each other, and not doing these stupid wars. Think of it in the big picture. It’s really… there are so many worse things, and if you pulled—I don’t know, it’s just… the negativity is unnecessary. I think it’s stupid.
Do you know what the fan war was about?
I don’t know, it was probably something stupid. I don’t even remember what it was. I saw it on TV and I was just looking at it like, “This is so stupid and idiotic, because they’re both women of color rappers…” That’s like, never happened in hip hop, or rap, or R&B, besides for Missy Elliott. It’s very far and few between, and we should be celebrating it instead of trying to see who is better than who. They’re both great, they’re both completely different, but we should still be celebrating them, instead of being like, “No, she’s better!” “No! She’s better!” That’s the one that I could think of.
Earlier, you brought up old fans vs. new fans (laughs). You seem to have something you want to say about that.
I have… conflicting feelings about this. So… I think any fan is good. I’m proud of an artist who has fans. Like, great. But I also feel like, in terms of, like, the Jonas Brothers, or groups that have come back from being gone a while—I’ve just seen it specifically with the Jonas Brothers. We have the original fans who’ve been there from the beginning, like Camp Rock days, like The Beginning. Then they had this new album come out, and then he had a whole generation of younger fans, and it gets me mad sometimes, like—we wanna go to the concerts again, too. We wanna relive all this great nostalgia that we have. I remember being like, “I wish they would have a presale just for the older fans so we could have a chance to get the tickets [easier].” I also noticed in terms of [visuals]. It’s really interesting, because when I went to go see the Jonas Brothers, it was a whole music festival, but everyone was there for the Jonas Brothers. I feel like the younger—it’s so stupid, because I’m only 24, and I’m not that much older, but—people in high school and middle school go to these concerts and they’re dressed like it’s a fashion show. And I was looking at these girls, and… the concert was outside [at night], and it was cooler and near the water. I wore pants, a zip-up, I had my band tee—like, I was comfortable. I wanted to look cute, but I wasn’t gonna be fashion show-esque. These other girls go out to the nines and were… not even really dressed up, but were in the crop tops and the short shorts. It felt like they were really trying. I don’t even know if I’m describing it correctly, but I was with my friends, and we were surrounded by a bunch of older fans and newer fans, and you could distinctly see the younger people and how they were dressed. The older fans were all in our band tees and everything. The younger fans… were more seeing it as a fashion show and showing off. I don’t know, it was interesting to see that, because I’m like, “Oh. Oh, wow, I feel old. (laughs) Okay, this is weird.” There were other parts during the night where I just felt—it’s so horrible to say—I felt like more of a fan than the younger girls were because I knew all the old songs and all the new songs. Oh, I know what it was. I feel like sometimes newer fans are only fans of the songs that are on the radio, or the songs that they hear every day, but I know when they dropped the album, I listened to the whole album, I was so excited to hear their new sound because it was completely different from the old one. But when I went to the concert, those younger girls that were in front of us and around us only knew the words to the songs that you heard on the radio, and during the songs they didn’t know, they would sit down, and at songs they did know, they stood back up. It’s so horrible to say, but I felt like more of a fan, in a way, because they would pull out their phones and just be on Instagram and scrolling. Oh, another thing. I feel like they see it more—so like, when I went to the concert, I didn’t record anything, I didn’t go on Instagram, I maybe recorded one video… But these other girls… they’re viewing it through their phone. So they have their phone up and they’re looking at the concert in their screen. And I’m like… (whispers) the concert’s over there. Just… move your phone and see the concert. You don’t need to post it on social media right away. They see it as a way to get more likes and it’s a way to show, “Oh, look where I am right now,” instead of living in the moment, they’re more like, “Oh, how can I take a picture, how can I record this, how can I make this look cute for social media.” And I think that has to go with also how they’re dressed, because I feel like they’re just focused on the social media aspect of it. That was a long tangent (laughs).
No, it’s okay! Is it a performance? These new fans—them going to these events, dressing up real cute, and recording videos—is it more of a performance of being a fan rather than being a fan?
I don’t think it’s a performance of being a fan, but I think it has to do with the effects that social media has had on the younger generations. They feel like they have to post everything—every minute of the whole concert. I hate when I’m going through Instagram and I see someone recorded the entire concert, and I’m like, “Okay, I know you were there, I don’t wanna see all 45 songs.” Did you look at the concert at all, or were you just looking at it through your phone? And I feel sad for them, because they’re not experiencing the concert, they’re experiencing it through the lens of their phone and social media instead of living in the moment and feeling the energy of the crowd. I feel like they’re so much more focused on getting the likes, looking good, and that kinda stuff. Like, proving that they were there.
Could it also be that they’re proving themselves as a fan?
Hmm… I don’t think so, because even just being at a concert… Like, you wouldn’t go to a concert of a band that you weren’t a fan of. I know that I wouldn’t spend money to go see someone that I had no interest in seeing. So I think that they’re already a fan of whoever they’re seeing or whatever movie they’re watching. I just feel like they have to prove to all of their friends, like, “Oh, yeah, look where I was. Didn’t I have a cool night? Wow, look what I did.”
You mentioned feeling like you’re more of a fan than the new fans, and earlier you mentioned that bullseye concept. Would that place you closer to the center of the bullseye than them?
In a way, maybe I’m a few steps in, but I’m definitely not the center of the bullseye. I feel like people who are more at the center of the bullseye actually are a part of the fan groups—like they have the physical groups—and they go to all the backstage pass [events], and I think that has to do with money because a lot of the super fans are able to do all these meet and greets because they have the monetary ability to do so. I would never be able to do that because I don’t have that. I don’t have the hundreds of dollars to cash out to spend five minutes [with the artist]. I also just don’t feel like it’s worth the money, but maybe I’m a few more steps in from [those new fans] but I’m not the center, by far.
So there’s definitely some kind of hierarchy there, in this particular case?
I don’t know if I would consider it a hierarchy. When I think of a hierarchy, I think “more important,” that’s why I see it more as a flat bullseye. No one’s more important than the other, but you can see the different “levels” of fan-ness (laughs).
Regarding being closer to the artist?
Hmm… not even that. I would just say in the center of the bullseye, you’re… I wouldn’t say you’re obsessed, but like an extreme, mega fan. Like, you’ve met them a couple times in person, and whatnot. If you’re at the center, there’s a lot more to it than if you’re on the cursory.
Is there stigma either way?
I feel like sometimes [with] the super fans, there’s stigma about them, regardless [of] what musical act or whatever [they’re] viewing. I feel like maybe in terms of the outer edge, not so much, but as you get closer to the center—I know there’s certain people where it’s like, that’s what their world revolves around—I feel like there’s a stigma against them. They’re seen as “weird” because that’s just… it.
That stigma of “that’s their whole world,” is that coming from inside the fandom or out?
I think both, because [on] the outer edges of being a fan, you understand the people in the middle of the bullseye, but you’re also like, “Huh. Alright, they’re really hardcore fans.” I feel like people on the outside, people who aren’t fans of the group, don’t really understand, so.
Alright, that’s all the other questions I have! I’ll ask again, is there anything you wanna touch back on or any final thing that you wanna say?
Hmm… final thing I wanna say… I feel like, for me, when I think of fans, I think of the TV/movie/music thing, but I feel like there are so many other things that people can be fans of [that] we really don’t think of. When we think of “fandoms,” we think of those top three categories, and I wonder if there are “fandoms” for other… like, I don’t know if companies have fandoms. But I mean, I guess people who are fans of Chanel have tons of Chanel bags. I guess it could be in the same [category], but I just wonder if there are fandoms for groups that are not music or movies or TV shows. Food for thought.