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✘ The artist-fan connection on stage is changing
And: Hipgnosis forced to sell catalogue?; Fan funding, yes or no?; Scaling and monetizing communities; Live Nation launches meditation app; Luxury media
A shift is happening in the way artists talk about being artists. At the same time, a shift is happening in the expectations that fans have when going to live concerts and festivals. The advent of social media have brought unprecedented levels of parasocial relationships into the world of fandom. Fans connect to these personas in real time via posts, livestreams, interviews, TikToks, and more. There’s rarely a way to return that sense of connection. Of course, there’s replies to comments, shoutouts on livestreams, reposts of Reels, etc. But the closest most fans still get to their favourite artists is still in the live setting. There’s an argument that this has led to the recent spate of stories where artists on stage are pelted by objects. Sian Cain reported on some of these examples in The Guardian last week.
The give and take of energy
During live concerts there’s the possibility of this amazing sense of energetic give and take between artist/band and crowd. I noticed at North Sea Jazz this last weekend that this flow has become severely dependent on how ‘real’ the artist is on stage. Audiences throughout the festival, with both bigger pop stars to obscure jazz artists, the whole vibe changed if the artist bared their soul. Whenever there was an artist who clearly told the same stories with their songs as the day before and the day after, connection broke down. Artists who opened up about how hard it is to tour right now, how their voice won’t cooperate due to infection, or how they struggle being misunderstood got masses of energy from the crowd. Little Simz stood in front of thousands and told the crowd about her touring hardships: “This shit isn’t easy, it’s hard work.” There was a time not long ago that major touring artists would not say that. Now, it’s exactly what helped her connect with her people. Thousands provided her with energy and she released that into the next track.
In a contrasting vein, Jacob Banks’ energy didn’t get past the front of the stage. He also played one of the bigger stages, but despite the number of people there, there was little of that give and take of energy. It didn’t help that he used a backing track for parts of his sound, but something else was missing: energy. You noticed in the crowd, people started talking, and then leaving. Would it have been different if he had opened up, like others have?
Changing modes of behaviour
There’s large swathes of evidence that our social fabric has changed and continues to change due to our ever-extending online presence and connections. What this has meant for live performance is that it has changed from being different from mediatized experiences to becoming another mediatized experience. No longer is the live performance the ‘real’ versus the - let’s use this term - ‘artificial’. Another way to describe this would be to call live a ‘primary’ experience and the recorded ‘secondary.’ This hasn’t just changed because of the ever-present recording devices offering mediatized experiences of the live event. What’s also changed is what I mentioned in the intro here - a changing mode of parasocial relationship. Perhaps we need to accept that this now means that there’s a general fan experience that goes beyond what we have known before.
We all know the fainting fan seeing their idols (think Michael Jackson, Madonna, the Beatles). Now, we have the phone-throwing fan. Take the man who threw his phone at Bebe Rexha recently, he thought ‘it would be funny’ to see if he could try to hit her. But let’s step beyond this response and think about how difficult it is to inject yourself into this parasocial relationship as a fan. To make it less one-sided, it could well be that fans start to enter the physical world of their object of fandom. Of course, this isn’t new, just think about Ricardo Lopez sending Björk a bomb letter. This new ‘phone-throwing’ fan, though, doesn’t quite fit the obsessive natures of Lopez and his ilk. This is more common fandom expressed in a strange new way. It shouldn’t be normal, but our online modes of interaction have brought us here.
A new social contract
So where does this leave us? First, a call for artists to express themselves, to talk about how difficult their profession is and can be. Do that, and your fans and audiences will reward you. Second, we need a new social contract and an acceptance that fans’ parasocial relationship is indeed one-sided. I’m not sure how to effect this, but maybe this post can be a conversation starter. If we, as fans, get our energy from our favourite artists when they open themselves up and bare their souls, then we, as fans, need to accept that we can only step into their world on their terms.
Hipgnosis investors urge the Music royalties fund to sell some songs to boost its failing share price (Leah Montebello)
“The investment trust’s shares are down around 30 per cent on the London Stock Exchange in the past year as rising interest rates have shone a light on its debt and refinancing. HSF has also seen deals with artists dry up, and in May Rod Stewart turned down its attempts to add him to its collection. Some top investors believe the solution is to sell less attractive assets to reinvigorate the stock, and buy back shares.”
✘ There was always a chance this would happen. Because Hipgnosis connected its fund to its share price to its success at growing the revenues off its catalogue, the risk was that a downturn would flip the spiral. Investors got on board to make money, not to help the music.
🤟 Should artists ask their fans to fund their music career? (Nate Fisher)
“But, more often than not, the nature that relationship isn’t centered around money. Injecting the expectation of a return in the middle may threaten the underlying connection between artist and fan. Superfans want something meaningful from an artist (i.e. content, connection, access), not a return on investment. If those fans want to spend money, it makes sense to sell them a product, not ask for money and then give them a financial return on top of that (and, what if the return is negative? Think about what that does for the artist to fan relationship!)”
✘ Caveat, this was written by Nate, who works at beatBread so the answer is that fans shouldn’t fund artists, but their investor network will. Fair enough, but he also raises a lot of salient points that resonate about how the fan-artist relationship evolves in the minds of certain platforms versus what fans actually care about.
🪴 Scaling and monetising communities (Tim Exile)
“In a private community space, three key functions drive value towards relationships:
Interaction – ways for members to interact and co-create
Coordination – ways for community leaders to establish and enforce rules, such as moderation tools, roles and permissions
Culture – ways for the community to create a shared culture such as emojis, gifs, memes & other content”
✘ Excellent piece here by Tim, which will be helpful if you’re already working through the difficulties of community building and added monetization practices. He regularly shares great insights via the Endlesss newsletter, so I would recommend signing up.
Live Nation launches new meditation app, Mindful Nation (Nyshka Chandran)
“Mindful Nation, available only for iPhone users, includes classes for mindfulness, sleep and day-to-day life, led by expert trainers. There are also on-demand sessions and music playlists from artists such as Janax Pacha and Chris IDH. Users can search for classes by trainer, class or "vibe." The app promises over 1,000 different available sessions.”
✘ I’m totally unsure what to make of this. Apparently it was meant to be an employee only perk, but they launched it out into the world. I don’t know if we needed another one of these apps, and the fact that Live Nation is behind it already means I look for a money flow that’s not beneficial to any artist.
⏏️ Luxury media (Jihad Esmail)
“Traditional business models no longer work in the internet age because they’re dependent on monetizing access to content (production) or selling ad space (distribution). The business of internet-native media shouldn’t be primarily concerned with either of those things. People must pay to support a specific POV – a subculture. This is what we call luxury media: a framework for the economic sustainability of internet-native media.”
✘ Big fan of this thinking, and I hope you will all read this article in full. At the same time, I don’t think we’re getting close to ‘luxury media’ taking over the Internet while ads still power the businesses of some of the biggest players, but we see the shift!
Rosalie’s music sits in between a lot of different genres, which is probably why Spotify also nudged it towards its own made genre categorization: vapor soul. I love the muffled sonic nature of the music, the clarity of the emotion, and a voice that tantalizes you into the song’s world. Listen to Half Life.