by MATT BACON >
One of the things that I love about music is the sense of possession you get out of it.
The fact that you can have a record that is your favorite record of all time and no one elses. We all have records in our collection that we are heavily invested in yet none of our friends know about. This can be the case for even big bands. Do you think, for example, Thin Lizzy’s Chinatown is held up as the greatest record of all time by a lot of people? It’s a goddamn good record for sure, but I doubt many would even call it their favorite Thin Lizzy record. That being said, I’m sure there’s one or two people out there who have a deep and personal connection with that record and who listen to it time and time again. And I’m glad for them, because music is about possession. Music is about realizing that sometimes a single record is going to be special to you and no one else and then getting as deep into that as possible, and the best part is that for most dedicated music communities this is more the norm than a weird anomaly.
I think that in truly dedicated music cultures this leads to a sort of collectors mentality similar to baseball card collectors. That’s why we find no end of coffee table books, unique pieces of merchandise and massive vinyl collections. A lot of people like to get a sense of possession about one band and then try and find ways to showcase that passion so they can share it with everyone else. This can be for anyone from an underground band like Vektor who have a surprisingly massive megafan base, to someone like Chicago. The idea being that certain groups have somehow created an iconography that can be incredibly powerful and attract people to spend thousands of dollars on a single band in order to help demonstrate their passion. It goes beyond fandom, though that certainly is a part of it, but I think it’s something else entirely.
See in many cases it’s not just because these people are superfans, or at least it’s something a little more precise than that. Superfans can manifest themselves in many ways, for example I fly literally all over the world to see SubRosa, but I don’t really have a ton of SubRosa merch on display in my home. I own all their vinyl and a few pieces of merch but by looking through my stuff you wouldn’t think the band consider me to be one of their biggest fans. The people taking possession are the folks who go out of their way to showcase their fandom around their house, be it with signed guitars, framed records, coffee table books and much more. It’s important to understand this distinction and then start to think about how that informs the way that bands should present themselves and how that informs how people like to participate in music. Thy participate in this because they want this thing to be purely theirs and theirs alone. Do you see what I’m getting at?
It’s not a question of much more beyond giving people something for them alone to latch on to.
It’s the moment where providing all of that weird merch starts to pay off and you begin to understand why the music industry is so attractive. It’s attractive because it gives us a place to live out our fantasies and shows us that we can touch peoples lives to the point that they change their entire mode of living because of what an artist has to say, and not only that ,but they will change their lifestyle for years on end because they are in love with what a particular band had to say. It’s this love that drives the whole thing forward and what we need to tap in to as fans of the music and people trying to sell music. You want to give your audience the sense that this beautiful thing we have belongs exclusively to them. People want to realize that their passion, run through the lens of an artist, is truly special, and they should because it is.
Realize that this sort of possession doesn’t have to just belong to a certain band too.
It can belong to a whole genre or even just a label. Look at all the people who have decked out their homes with New York hardcore merch or are total SubPop junkies, covering their walls in Melvins posters. You want to be able to tap into thise fans who feel that their passion for the music is one of a kind and then give them the outlets that they need in order to help continue to actualize that. That’s the entire reason people get into independent music. The stuff that was being forced down their throats wasn’t for them and they wanted to feel special. So what do they do? They uncover the beautiful side of their passion and thus invest a tn of money into the art. Most people aren’t willing to do this so we need to value the ones who are and then be able to cultivate it with even more goodies that honor their passion.
In an industry of broken hearts and fall aparts there is something inherently good about catering to the dedicated nerd, the person who cares about nothing more than finding their soul in the music and going from there. Far too often artists are dismissive of fans and don’t appreciate the fact that their entire being is define by what their favorite musicians have to say. It’s all about the love for the music and about the desire to do something more with lives that often feel broken and cut short. So if we can cater our work so that people realize the personal significance it has to them then why not? It’s only going to work in our favor in the years to come.