September 16, 2010 by therealmez
As a fan of music and a member of multiple band and artist forums, I can appreciate the sense of community within a fandom: you can share the laughs and the jokes, the frustrations, the quirks, the rarities, the experiences, and the obsessions that no-one else can understand.
In light of the opening of a certain unspecified artist’s fan club, I felt the need to add my two cents on the concept of official fan clubs that are set up by the artist and/or associated parties (to prevent any flaming on any specific artists I’ll keep the article nameless though I’ll be referring to one club in particular). My thoughts are thus: fan clubs should be set up by fans, for fans. There should be no cost for joining, nor should there be any type of reward for paying a membership fee.
The club in question allows all fans to become members for free which subscribes them to a newsletter, however, if you’re prepared to pay a membership fee for one of three “packages” – the most expensive of which is almost $180 USD (or £116) for one year – you can get access to forums, pre-sales, exclusive or signed merchandise, competitions to win tickets, even to win meet & greets with named artist.
Now, I don’t want to sound old-fashioned, but is this kind of community really portraying itself as a welcoming place for all fans? I mean, paying for the chance to meet and have your photograph taken with your idol? Not all of us can afford this. Should the students, out of work fans and those barely scraping a living really have to settle for less than someone rolling around in money? It strikes me as highly unfair for those who help towards the cost of that fine Persian rug to get jumped to the front of the queue at gigs, when some have been camping at the venue since 8am. Through “membership” of one online forum/group I’ve achieved things I’d never have dreamed of, and it cost me the price of a train ticket.
As far as I’m concerned, these kinds of fan clubs are money-grabbing ploys for artists who probably already have more money than they know what to do with (all the little known bands I know get by on a Facebook fanpage or low budget website!), and in their selective membership they create snobby fans. The great thing about music is it doesn’t require wealth to be appreciated; a typical fandom is a goldmine of diversity and it should stay that way. The point of a fan club or fan site is for fans to be united and have a place to exchange stories, feelings and experiences. Every fan site I’m a member of has a vast range of people from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles – a membership fee attracts a whole new type of person. It also destroys the initially classless community and introduces the “You’re not a paying member? Then you’re not a dedicated fan” argument that seems to crop up more and more. A person’s fanaticism shouldn’t be measured by their wealth, only by their love for the artist.
I’m not trying to suggest that those with smaller pay packets can’t see their favourite artist perform live, get their album signed or have their picture taken with them, only that there shouldn’t be the option to pay for – and therefore guarantee – these privileges: it only forms elitism and discrimination. With the right spirit, and the dedication, you can achieve incredible things without spending a pretty penny.