I was brought up in the 80’s and 90’s with my family heavily involved in the music business. (My Dad played guitar for Wet Wet Wet.) I remember being at gigs and the fans literally screaming and passing out. The first aid room at the side of the auditorium almost always had at least one person in there at any given time having their hysteria induced injuries taken care of. For the fans there was the hype of the massive show, favourite songs played on radio weeks before, the anticipation of the band coming to your city to play and queuing outside the record shop for signed copies of the single. For some the gig experience included camping out the night before tickets went on sale and camping out again to secure a place at stage front. Die hards would wait outside in the freezing cold for hours and hours to get a photo with the band after the gig, or a glimpse of them as they turn up early for the sound check, some traveling around the whole country after the tour bus with tickets bought for every gig. I remember, in the early days with the Wets, Glasgow city centre coming to a stand still due to the mass of people that had turned up to the record shop for the ‘in store’ performance. Chaotic, exciting, the stuff rock and roll dreams are made of and perhaps all bit OTT???
In some ways I think it is sad that we have lost that sense of anticipation. Waiting and hoping to hear that song you love on the radio, tuning in to TOTP to see your favourite act, the delayed gratification when you can finally purchase the 7 inch or the tape (hmmm) or the CD single and own it for yourself and eventually, oh joyous day, go and buy the full album and have it as a little piece of the band that you own for yourself.
From the 90‘s till the twenty tens the changes in the music industry have been cataclysmic. So now when you hear a band you even vaguely like you can instantly listen to the entire back catalogue and all current music on Spotify, view all their videos, even the crap ones, on YouTube, see them talking rubbish on Twitter, Google them, find them on MySpace, leave a comment on their page if you can be bothered, and just generally have complete and total access right away. No build up, no hype, no anticipation, no waiting. We don’t have to do anything, go anywhere, or make any effort on behalf of the music we like. So it is no wonder the crazy love affair of pop star and fan seems to be cooling.
I think that things needed to change in a way. To be honest the obsessive fan culture that saw us loving our pop stars so much there were national help lines set up when the bands split (thinking of the late 90‘s Take That example!) was a bit nuts to say the least. The idolizing and worshiping of another human being just because they make the music you enjoy does seem a bit excessive, and is (or was) probably not healthy for either party.
But where does it leave the music business? Total and instant access does not in my opinion make us like or value our artists and musicians more. It means we take it for granted, we get used to it being free. But it can’t be free or at least it can’t carry on being free. Recorded music is not free to make, promote or produce so it should not be free to listen to or musicians can’t keep making it. We need, as musicians, labels and managers, to retain a level of intrigue and mystique around the acts that we promote. Sure promote but don’t give it all away (or certainly don’t give it all away on someone else’s website!) or to folk who are not even interested or interested enough to make any kind of move. Maybe give away enough to entice then give away or reveal more gradually as the commitment and trust grows between music lover and artist. In the new media world it is anybody’s game to figure out how that is best done. It will be trial and error, giving away too much, or not enough. However, I believe that there are folk out there, myself included who want beautiful music to love, and will and should be willing to pay for access to that music and some, if limited, access to the artist that makes it.
It can only be to the good if the new fan/artist relationship was a more sustainable affair, perhaps less high drama, but with the possibility of more longevity and mutual respect.
This blog was written by Esther O’Connor. Esther is a singer songwriter based in Scotland. She has been described as ‘David Geffen crossed with Stevie Nicks’ by the Sunday Times. Tom Morton of BBC Radio Scotland describing one of her tracks as “Neil Young meets Beyonce round at Joni Mitchell’s house”, recognizing the retro flare that runs through Esther’s music and her love of a sassy pop hook. Journalists and fans alike recognize that Esther is a trailblazer, a talented musician forging the way ahead in this new musical landscape.
For more infomation on Esther O’Connor and a free download visit http://www.estheroconnorfreetrack.co.uk/