moments before the wind.

April 20, 2007

EMP Pop Conference #4 – On Fans

Filed under: authenticity, business, distribution, labels, marketing, music, writing — alimarcus @ 9:59 pm

Jessica Suarez points out the fact that while new media claims to bring fans closer to musicians, it might in fact be creating not only a false sense of connection but also an avenue for exploitation by the business. I just have a story to share.

Once when I was working for a record label, they held a fan contest that asked the fans to submit names of local places where they wanted to hear the artist’s music. It worked like a raffle; one lucky winner would get some sort of signed memorabilia, like a guitar or something. It’s worth mentioning, too, that this particular fan club is one of the most active and close-knit that I’ve ever seen. I would not doubt that it’s one of the top ten biggest fan clubs around, either.

So anyways, as the intern for said record label, it was my job to filter through the emails. And guess what I had to do? Make a spreadsheet, of course, with all the names and contact information for all of these places, call them up, ask to send an instore play copy specially made for a lifestyle campaign, and then spend the hours packaging and¬†sending. I discovered that a fan contest was, in this case, little more than a direct marketing ploy, not far from cold calling those specially tailored lists that people can buy. And in the end, I just chose a random person to be the “winner.”

It’s not that this was immoral or anything. Nobody was being taken advantage of, not really. But Suarez quoted Kelefah Sanneh commenting on “the potential for a community’s exploitation,” touching on exactly what made me a little uneasy at the time. Fans have no idea about the man behind the curtain, about the fact that the Wizard of Oz has an agenda that has nothing to do with anything except their wallets.

But I find it easier to avoid cynicism now that I know about these things. Strangely, it’s knowledge and the ability to prepare that helps to keep the faith. Which is ultimately why I love this conference, in it’s infinite attempts to expand our little bubbles.

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