Sycophantic fans are the single biggest danger that your band is going to ever face. Now I know that to some of you-that may feel obvious, your singer practically needs a babysitter for Christs sake! But that’s not exactly it. It’s something that impacts every member of a band and which is the reason for 95% of the shitty second records that come after a great first record. The other 5% is because people are lazy fucks and can’t be trusted with everything and should probably just be shot for being bad. Bitter hatred for the human race aside the point is that your fans are the people who are going to ruin your band and bring you into being a useless husk of your former self, shooting yourself in the foot time and time again so that you can never have the success that you truly want and deserve. So how do you do that? Simply by sucking it up and accepting that there is a very real danger to the beast that is the sycophant.
Here’s the fundamental issue you have to deal with. The thing that is going to fuck you into oblivion and which is quite frankly super mean to superfans. Most superfans aren’t super educated. Look, if someone likes your band more than any other band in the world this essentially means one of two songs. The first is fairly obvious, that your band is the best of its kind and thus for very specific reasons can turn this person into a willing and extremely profitable sycophant. The other is that you’re not the best band of your kind and there is no real personal connection the fan has with this band and they just don’t know about the better bands doing what you are doing. So what does this mean about your average sycophant? Well quite frankly it means that they don’t have great taste and also that they value having a personal connection with some band.
Now that’s totally fine, some people don’t want their music to define their lives, but realize that just by being the biggest band in a subgenre doesn’t mean you’re the best and most importantly you should not let yourself get lazy. That’s where things become seriously problematic. You wrote your first record of post blackened folk rock for your band and people in your genre fall in love with you. You can’t just use that as an excuse to shit out your next record, unless somehow you are that good, and again odds are you are not. There are a ton of people out there who take the fact that they have fans as a given and not as a weird blessing, or curse in disguise. Sycophants aren’t really the fans that you want to be impressing, those people have already been won over, you need to be looking at figuring out how to impress industry people, the folks who hear it all and know everyone.
Here’s the thing with hardcore sycophants, especially in independent music, they are just thrilled to meet the band and if the band is nice to them they will never say a bad thing about the band. There is a whole subcategory of fan who are just thrilled to meet the band, eagerly wait at the merch table for the band to come out and sign up for meet and greets. That’s really cool, I totally get it and want to empower those people. This is what they are passionate about and we can profit off of it, so why not? Everyone is a winner. Regular readers know I’m a huge advocate for the superfan. But you need to look at what the average demographic for that sort of person is and the odds that you are really the best out there. The point being, they aren’t usually the most educated people in the industry, and while it’s certainly good to have them on your side because they make money realize that beyond their financial sway their opinion means nothing if you can’t go out and impress people who are actually movers and shakers with your music.
You can fool a lot of entry level fans with fake drums and digitally produced guitars for your rock band, but label people will know that you didn’t put a ton of work into your record and will call you out on it. And if you don’t have a legitimate excuse or way to balance that out then it’s only going to hurt you in the long run. Remember that these people are long in the tooth and see through a lot of your tricks. They have seen countless bands rise and fall and don’t have the time to spend on a band who can maybe do something cool one day if they get their shit together. The opinions of your sycophantic fans doesn’t really matter if you are not creating a truly good product. There’s a lot of bands that have sycophants but also a lot of good reasons to hate them and are thus going nowhere, IE: almost ever y band who is big on the local level. However there are some bands, a select few who have truly good songwriting and spend the time to create good records such that even if the music isn’t everyone’s thing they still demand respect.
At the end of the day the opinions of your fans while helpful is not going to be as helpful as the opinions for the people who are trying to make a buck off of you and hopefully also make you a buck. You need to look at the creative process from all angles and realize which angles are actually generating money and which are just there to spend money on bands. Taking fans for granted will only kill you but so will thinking that their high opinions of you are correct. Instead you need to separate yourself from the art and realize that this whole thing is really fucking hard and anyone telling you otherwise is bullshitting you. Suck it up and create something worth listening to or go shoot yourself, what do I care.
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