I miss the casual fans already

Farewell to the Casual Music Fan is an insightful essay about the repercussions of the 1,000 True Fans model. Very much worth a read.

The gist is that small numbers of hardcore fans may be able to sustain musicians, but they can’t sustain musical populism.

13 thoughts on “I miss the casual fans already

  1. Link is back. Looks like a temporary outage.

    I can’t figure out where people are coming from who really believe that their little part of the elephant is the whole thing. You need to be surgically attached to the worst radio station in town to even know who the current hitmakers are.

    But anyhow, the essay makes good points about how this isn’t utopia after all.

  2. Maybe ‘fan’ is undergoing a redefinition?

    FAN: someone who likes your art enough to want to incentivise you (reward, or pay you to carry on, say).
    APPRECIATOR: A pre-fan or non-fan, who finds your art tolerable or agreeable
    AUDITIONER: someone who is seeing whether or not they like you
    AGNOSTIC: someone who doesn’t know about you
    ANTAGONIST: someone who doesn’t like your art (or you as an artist)

    It seems to me that a gated performance/exhibition can extract money from all of them (including other halves dragged along).

    However, by my definition above, only fans will stump up any money online.

    I suspect there’s a schism between those who believe in ‘dark matter’ (an invisible and as yet unidentified demographic that can be soaked for cash) and those who don’t.

    No doubt revenue can be extracted from this untapped demographic via taxation…

  3. Then again, maybe they’ll all pay online just as offline – if they are curious to have an artist perform (including coerced other halves).

    Focus on the fans, and the others will follow as and when especially inspired/persuaded.

  4. In other words, I’m saying populism is simply in a lull. As per Arnie, it’ll be back.

    It’s already on its way.

    We’re just in the middle of a paradigm inversion, from ‘publishers charging consumers’ to ‘patrons paying public performers’. Fans are changing from submissive to dominant, and artists from indentured to emancipated.

    Copies are free. The work will be paid for by those who want it.

  5. I read the article and the older ‘music is not water’

    I agree with about 80% of it and the other 20% doesn’t negate the rest but is rather weak. The conclusion that catering to super-fans is ultimately worse than not is a hard pill to swallow and smacks of over-extrapolation. If you focus exclusively on super-fans and treat them as your driving revenue stream then, of course, that’s short sited – but treated properly they can be your advocated and multipliers. If conference pundits are pinning the ‘future of music’ on super-fans then your fault for attending a freakin conference on the ‘future of music.’

    Meanwhile, pining for the shared experience of U2 at the gym is just nostalgic old-people-talk. At the risk of being accused of lazily tugging at the elephant’s tail: gaming, gaming, gaming.

  6. >>> Such a development will not be unprecedented in the unfolding history of music. For instance, you have to be something of a super-fan to know what to do with, how to listen to, and how to interact economically with classical music. Jazz is another genre that caters by and large to super-fans.

    Yeah, jazz and classical music were obviously both intended for live performance. On a related note, PBS programming is not intended for live performance, but they do go live for the purpose of fund-raising, and it is at this point that they flush out the “super-fans” with premiums.

    From what I can tell, the musical “super-fan” model inverts this: the live performances are strictly pay as you go, and the content releases try to flush out the super-fans. Although a band may be able to book a better venue if they can demonstrate they have X number of hardcore fans in the area.

    In either case, the focus should probably lay with creating quality content, rather than super-engagement.

    Or with youtube ;)

  7. I don’t have an over-arching rule to pronounce about the “death of casual fans”, but I do think about how many bands and performers I like on a very casual basis, and think, speaking only for me, that’s not going to change.

  8. I wonder if the tight connection between music and fashion/identity construction isn’t at least some guarantee of populism. I was just looking back over a post I wrote back in 2005 on reading Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You where I was trying to explain with the trend of increasing complexity he describes in narrative popular media hasn’t been paralleled in music: http://www.urbanhonking.com/ideasfordozens/2005/08/everything_bad_is_good_for_you.html

    More than any of the other consumable pop media, we use music to distinguish ourselves from other social groups and to construct our own identities. I think this will mean that musical populism will be around for a long time, even without any music that’s actually very popular.


  • pop is fashion — Lucas Gonze’s blog

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