Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fan Image?

This is something I've been thinking about lately; it's kind-of relevant but I'm tagging it as off-topic purely because this is a ramble, and as such some of this may not make sense and I may contradict myself a fair bit.

To start things off, it's no secret that I like the Sonic the Hedgehog videogame series (emphasised by the fact that I made a point of changing the desktop background of every computer in the Mac room to a Photoshopped image I made of Shadow with lyrics from Magna-Fi's "All Hail Shadow" next to him at one point a while back) but I have to say I do not consider myself part of the Sonic fanbase, on the basis that I actually enjoy a lot of the games he's in.

To clarify - the Sonic fanbase is pretty infamous for being full of people who are generally idiots, who have nothing better to do than to whinge and whine about trivial things on the internet. Examples of this include the fact that "Sonic sucks since Adventure", "they ruined his design by giving him green eyes", and my favourite being the assumption that anyone who liked Sonic '06 is a furry. Yes, some people actually believe this. This is far from true about a good deal of Sonic fans, but that doesn't stop it being the general image people have of the fan community.

So why have I brought this up then? Because it's dawned on me that the same thing seems to be the case with musical artists. I've came to this conclusion by thinking about some of the artists I can't stand, and realising that a big deal of my hate for them comes from the kinds of fans we associate with them.

Case in point? Lady Gaga. If I'm being honest, out of all the terrible manufactured pop artists out there today, her music is probably the most tolerable. So why do I have so much hate for her stuff? Because of the kind of fans I see. If you think of a theoretical Lady Gaga fan in your mind, you're probably thinking of an obsessive Social Justice Sally-type 'little monster'. From the outside, this is not the kind of person most people would want to associate with, which is probably the source of a lot of Gaga hate.

So how has this fan image been created? From the source itself. A fair bit of Gaga's "message", if you will, is about all this equality stuff. Wanting equality between social groups is great, but if your message transmits the idea to fans that the whole world is against them and that they should be overly proud of their differences, all you're likely to end up with are a lot of annoying egotistical kids who become defensive whenever any of The Great Gaga's teachings are brought up in debate.

Not every Gaga fan is going to be like this, but from the outside people are going to look at what is being presented, put two and two together and come up with this image.

I personally could see this kind of negative image of a fanbase being a threat to an artist, as it means that people outside the current fandom could be dissuaded from showing interest in their work - purely because they either feel threatened by current fans or worry about being associated with certain types of people.

So what could the Temporary Veterinary lads/my fictional coursework 'artist' do to avoid having a negative fanbase image? I think the main point is to try not to close the door on any kind of groups from the artist's image - whilst they're going to have a target audience, they shouldn't make a big deal about shoving this in the audience's faces - because doing so may put off the people who may be hovering over the barrier between one potential target market and another. For example, if you have someone who's mostly a fan of rock music, but likes some pop music to extent, they'd probably be turned away from a pop artist's video which employed every single pop video trope ever, yet they'd probably still check out a pop artist who's video has just a couple of these pop video elements (which would probably still be enough to satisfy fans of pop music, thus keeping their 'target'). Failing to create this relatively open image would create a locked in, defined fanbase which seems completely out of touch to anyone who isn't already part of it.

...And to prove that this is actually a concept I've thought about, as opposed to one of my typical "everything is terrible" points - I do indeed believe that the opposite of this can happen, in that a positive fanbase image can be beneficial to the artist - for example, Cash Cash are a fairly mainstream-sounding pop band, yet I've never once heard dumb things like "why do you like The Beatles, isn't that old people music?" or "if Hardline are so great, why don't they play on the radio?" from Cash Cash fans, in the way that I do from fans of other pop groups. I can put this down to them drawing in a fairly open fanbase, because of the way they are presented. Let's look at the video for their Forever Young cover (because it feels like I've posted Party In Your Bedroom over 9000 times now) -

Yes, they have used some traditional pop video conventions, yet they haven't overdone it to a point that filters out everyone who isn't a pop music purist. They've used things like a club setting and bright lights to bring in their target market (pop fans), yet they haven't thrown every single thing you'd associate with pop videos in there, because that would create an illusion to those who aren't pop purists that they are not welcome. The video as it is invites in the pop fans, yet leaves the door open for fans of other genres, meaning that the Cash Cash fanbase is more varied, and therefore more open to other things which are about.

I've been very general by talking only about genre characteristics, but there's usually more to shaping the fan image than this; in some cases it feels like the marketing/artist image of some artists is pretty much headhunting the people they want in their fanbase e.g. in Gaga's case if you don't buy into overdramatic narrative videos/wacky costumes then her music videos offer absolutely nothing for you, and if you disagree with any of the social issues Gaga discusses on her Twitter feed then you a supposedly a terrible human being. Therefore, if you're not a liberal who loves unique(?) self-expression then you're not welcome into Gaga's fan club, meaning that her fans are a very closed group - who annoy those who are not part of it.

This has been a post.


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