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I’m Your Biggest Fan (part 2)

October 26, 2011

Read Part 1 here.

How do you consume music from your artist? What format (CD, MP3, vinyl), where do you buy, do you buy singles/full albums/special editions, do you pre-order/buy first day of release/use a streaming service?

“I used to buy every release and past release on cd’s, now, with technology evolving, it’s a big part of my Spotify playlist. I used to be the kind of release day fanboy waiting in front of the shop. I use Spotify a lot, it got me back to heavy music on a daily basis.” (Iron Maiden)

“With the exception of the Greatest Hits album, I have everything on cd. I typically buy most of my cds from my local record store (Easy Street Records). I have also spent a good amount of money over the years on limited items from their fan club goods website. Most of the items I buy the day they come out. Back in the day, I downloaded a LOT of live shows from Napster. Luckily, they embraced the fact that we want to hear the live shows and they started to not only release them, but also openly stated that they don’t care if we trade the mp3s over the internet.” (Pearl Jam)

“Initially I had all their CDs they had released when I saw them in 2007. Later, I completed my collection via MP3. I currently have one vinyl and would like to have their other albums on vinyl as well. I bought my CDs at the show, the MP3s on iTunes and bought the vinyl through their webstore. I definitely like bootlegs too, but only of shows I’ve attended.” (BRMC)

“I’m working on my record collection, so far only illegal stuff, it’s not that easy getting it here in Belgium, but I definitely see myself having all their physical vinyls within a year. I would also like to add that I need the music to be in good quality (FLAC) through a decent soundsystem or headphones, not some 20$ earbuds or a laptop speaker, that’s really important.” (Om)

“I first found them through Guitar Hero. Then I downloaded their entire catalog. Since then, I have purchased all of the CDs, all the albums on vinyl, I won a special edition of their latest album through a contest. I’ve purchased a handful of the singles. I listen to their music on MP3 the majority of the time, CD second since that is what I use in my car and vinyl third because I don’t want to damage them and I store them instead.” (Muse)

“The Cure is the only band I own every physical CD, usually for others I download illegally. I own box sets, all the cd’s, a few singles, and some vinyl. My favorite vinyl is an interview with Robert, and a picture of Robert’s face is printed right on the vinyl! I’ll buy cd’s the first day at Best Buy usually. For the re-releases, I usually just downloaded the extra added demos online instead of rebuying.”

“All of the above, except for vinyl. I buy CDs when there’s a good reason (packaging, artwork). I buy where the band tells me to — since NIN is unaffiliated with a label, point of purchase makes a big difference in how much of a cut NIN gets to pocket, and I pay attention to that. For new things, I’m very big on instant gratification — I will stay up until midnight to download a new release as soon as possible. I am a big fan of bootlegs, especially now that consumer technology has caught up and can provide a near-professional experience. The first NIN show I ever went to was one of the three that were professionally recorded by the NIN camp and merged into the fanmade DVD “Another Version Of The Truth,” which I love. I also have all of the source material from my show. It’s amazing to me how looking at all of that can bring me right back to that place again. I have audio bootlegs of every NIN show I’ve been to, and video bootlegs of most of them.”

Despite the prevalence of illegal downloading, the real fans are still buying the music. And not only that, but they are buying it in multiple formats…some of which they don’t even really play (vinyl). This is the classic example of the Pareto Principle at work here…the vast majority of sales are coming from the minority, hardcore section of fans.

I think it’s great when bands that are starting out give away simple, burned copies of their music at shows. But once a band has garnered a fanbase, they should get a little more creative with their releases.

How often do you listen to their music?

“EVERY DAY – No Joke” (Deftones)

“I have many musical interests, so I don’t listen to them as much as I used to. I will go through moods where I will listen to them every day for a week, but then not listen to them at all for 2 weeks. With the twentieth anniversary, I have been in a very sentimental mood and have been listening a lot lately.” (Pearl Jam)

“Every single day, it’s a real drug, I need it. If I haven’t listened to OM in a while, I really, really, really need to do so.”

“Daily. Even if it’s just a song or two, I end up listening to Muse practically every day.”

“Pretty much everyday at my desk on my Zune (that’s right!!! I have a Zune!!!)” (Ozzy)

“It depends. When there’s a new release or I’ve rediscovered something in the back catalog, I’ll become fairly obsessed — for an album, I might listen to it 2 or 3 times a day for a week or two. Since it’s a little quiet on the NIN front right now, I’ll go weeks without listening to anything, but they’re still “there” in my day-to-day life — framed prints on my walls, my iPhone wallpaper, etc. I often mark anniversaries of concerts I’ve been to by listening to or watching a bootleg of it.”

“I listen to them live more than sit down with their recordings/ Internet stuff. I have given their brand new singles a few listens at home and am getting familiar with them. They sound good and I am looking forward to the new release (even though the new album cover kind of sucks). I am admittedly a little burned out on their debut album (from way too many listens), but I’m sure I’ll be listening to their new release a lot when it comes out in a few weeks. I also have a few good vids I’ve taken from their concerts that I check out from time to time and let friends check out.” (Steel Panther)

The superfans are consuming some kind of content from their band- usually the music- on almost a daily basis. With everything available out there, that is extreme loyalty.

There have been many articles written claiming the death of the album…I don’t think any music fan desires for that to go away…especially within rock music. But that doesn’t mean that the traditional release cycle shouldn’t change. Current attention spans and appetites don’t warrant the wait for years for a new album. We need to be fed content constantly. Whether that be singles as they are written and before they are compiled onto an album, or live sessions, or leftover tracks from a past album….fans crave their band’s music constantly.

How many times, if any, have you seen your artist in concert? Do you travel for shows? Do you have to be front row/in the pit?

“I have seen Pearl Jam as a whole 61 times. I have also seen the individual members of the band in their various side/solo projects several times. I absolutely travel for the shows. I have seen them in a total of 19 states, plus 10 times in Canada (6 provinces). I have been on the rail several times, and I have seen them from the very last row at the very top of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Obviously, being close is great, but more important is who I am with for the show.”

“12 times. I always do it in the pit. I even went @ the front row 2 months after having my knee broken.” (Iron Maiden)

“I have seen them 16 times over the last 20 or so months. I went 12 times last year and I’ve been 4 times this year. I started going to shows in January last year. It became a regular occurrence with trips to the House of Blues Sunset and The Key Club every few Monday nights. It’s about a 50 mile drive from where I live, but it’s no big deal to get there. I also took friends to see them in Vegas one weekend (300 miles away) and when my family was on vacation for Sea World, I met up with a friend at the House of Blues in San Diego to watch them (that’s around 200 miles away). 4 venues, 2 states, 16 times, and almost 2500 miles total. About enough driving to warrant an oil change in my vehicle. As far as being up front, they usually give the guys grief for being right onstage- they want the women right there so they can bring them up on stage. I usually like to be right-center of the stage a few people back from the front for the sound and sightline. I stood in the back once and another time watched from the balcony and it’s not as much fun as being right there.” (Steel Panther)

“I have seen BRMC 15 times. The farthest I traveled to see them was outside of Washington D.C. at the Virgin Festival, my craziest travel for them was a Vegas overnight trip…I will happily travel for them. And yes, I definitely need to be in front, preferably in front of Peter.”

“I’ve honestly lost count, but I think I can safely say at least 20. I’ve traveled to at least 5 states to see him.” (Ozzy)

“I have seen them 12 times. I have traveled to a number of their shows. They are the first artist that I have gone beyond Vegas to see live. I have to be in the front row and/or on rail. It is a completely different experience than in the seats or a few rows back. I’ve waited in the early morning just to secure my spot on rail. I’ve only been off of the rail/front row once. The rest of the time, I’ve been right in front, or on the seating section closest to the stage in front row.” (Muse)

“I’m not quite sure exactly but it has been over 10 times. I’ve seen them every time they have been in LA since 04. I’ve also seen them in San Diego, Vegas, and Chicago. I’ve seen them at venues as small as the Avalon and at festivals as big as Lollapalooza and everything in between. I would much rather be in the pit but I have seen them from a seat. Not as fun but still great.” (Deftones)

Ah, the concert. For some of the hardcore fans, this is what it is all about. It’s where the music takes on a new meaning, where we engage in a communal experience with people who are like us.

As someone who’s closing in on 500 concerts in 5 years for this site…I feel like I can self-appoint myself as an expert in this arena. And I would say that most concert experiences are lacking in a lot of areas that could be easily improved.

The main thing is lack of information. Who are the openers? What are the set times? Oh, you mean I have a general admission ticket but I can’t access the pit?! Cameras aren’t allowed? These are basic things that are often left a mystery until I arrive at the venue…but when a band or venue takes the time to provide this info I am so grateful.

I know there are a lot of people beyond the band involved in the touring system…but there’s a lot the band can do through social networking to get people to the show. Fan clubs would be first and foremost…allowing the superfans to feed off each other (manifesting in a street team, or the like), meet up at shows, get access to tickets first, and brag about how many times they’ve seen the band. As you can tell from above, that’s really important.

Secondly, Facebook events provide a good way to get the word out about a show while keeping a community aspect about it. Third, I think these VIP Meet & Greets before shows are a great way to give superfans that extra experience that will not only generate more money but will give the fans something to tell all their friends about.

How important is the live show in comparison to the music?

“It makes the experience more intense. For Maiden, hearing 20,000 people singing the chorus is something unbelievable. It’s a form of communion. It’s a religion, our religion.” (Iron Maiden)

“The live show is the essence of what Pearl Jam is all about. Something happens at a Pearl Jam show that is unlike any other band’s shows. The audience participation is such a huge part of the performance; lots of sing-a-longs and familiar physical movements. That is the best thing about having fan club seats…they are always the closest to the stage, and you among the people who know exactly what is expected during a show…it is very Rocky Horror Picture Show with the amount of participation…lol.”

“I am a HUGE fan of live music. So it is very important for the live show to be good but it doesn’t have to be exactly like the album. I love to see artists put forth a different spin on their songs while live. I get a much bigger rush from seeing Deftones play full force with my ears ringing while getting pushed around.”

“It’s all interrelated, but for me, with NIN, the live shows are what sold me. There’s a tense, raw passion to the live shows that gets somewhat hidden in the tweaked-to-perfection studio tracks. Also, for me, the people behind the music are just as important as the music itself, so a live show is an opportunity to watch them for a couple of hours, live and unedited, where anything could happen. That’s a huge draw for me, and it’s what made following them for a week so attractive. I wasn’t getting bored seeing the same show every night; I was watching what their lives were like from day to day. A weird kind of intimacy develops at that point, where you know what they were wearing yesterday and whether the show went OK. I started to understand how people can get somewhat confused under those circumstances and start imagining a closer “relationship” than that of audience/band.”

“It’s extremely important. Sure an album can sound good because it’s been mixed and produced to perfection, but if you can’t hold your own live, then you’re no real artist in my eyes… you better sound just as good or better! That’s what draws the hardcore crowd, you can attend numerous shows and always know it will sound better than the album and that you will be rocked hard.” (The Dead Weather)

“As far as live shows, their incorporation of comedy, along with their excellent musicianship, makes them a must-see live act. It takes their music and makes it even much better. There’s a reason they can pack out places regularly on work nights. I’ve seen them jam with very popular actors, comedians and celebrities, like Tony Romo, Steven Adler, Dane Cook, etc., etc. Easily the best guest performance was when Sebastian Bach jammed with them. I’m glad I brought my camera that night. And we saw Hollywood Jesus on Sunset walking back to our car after that show. It’s one of those things you just have to experience.” (Steel Panther)

“The live show is everything to me. I’ve never seen a band so passionate and pure about what they do and it shows when they perform live. I’ll take them live ANY day over just listening to it on my own.” (BRMC)

“It creates a new experience and feeling with the band that you can’t get from cd’s. Being there in the moment surrounded by people who also love the band (hopefully). Cure live shows are beyond whimsical.”

“It is very important. The live show has changed my perception of certain songs and made some songs that I initially disliked into some of my absolute favorites now. I also enjoy the atmosphere of meeting fans and chatting with the band and/or band crew. And the live show creates a deeper connection between the artist and the audience. With that said, the music is what drives the live show. If the music isn’t good, the live show suffers.” (Muse)

The way that a really good show makes me feel is what has driven me to write this site for so many years. It was great to hear other people express the same passion as I feel about their live music experiences. All of the bands included in this piece are known for being great live acts; it a key part of their artistry.

Basically what it comes down to is the show is important…it needs some thought. There are a few bands that I’ve seen live and it ruined the music for me forever because the show wasn’t any good.

What types of merch do you own from your artist? Is there anything you’d like to see them put out?

“Mainly shirts, dvd’s, beer glasses.” (Iron Maiden)

“I have cds, dvds, t-shirts, sweatshirts, socks(!), a laptop backpack, a Patagonia backpack, books, many posters, and I’m sure things I am forgetting. I would love a beach towel!” (Pearl Jam)

“Cds, posters (signed), shirts, lighter, patches, shot glasses, stickers.” (Deftones)

“Oh boy…shirts, books, cd, dvds, shot glasses, wristband thingies, tank tops, posters, stickers, picture discs, action figures… lol I have a lot of Crue stuff actually. I’d like to see…. I dunno, maybe a trivia game or phone app. Just to keep my knowledge sharp! :)”

“I own several limited edition pieces, as well as shirts, pillows, posters, the normal stuff.” (Ozzy)

“I own a bunch of Muse tshirts and a necklace. T-shirts and vinyl are really the only thing that I go for when purchasing merch.”

“I love the BRMC merch… they have great logos. I’m a skull person, so I love most of their merch. They currently have a sugar skull iPhone case for the 3g, and I wish they’d put one out for the 4. I liked what NIN did with the iPhone cases, and wish they’d do something similar. I wish they’d put up old posters too.”

“There isn’t a whole lot of merch of OM going around unfortunately. I have a poster that came from America, and I have a T-shirt on the way. That’s about it when it comes to Merchandise. I would love a couple more shirts, hoodies or posters, yeah!”

“I own their debut CD, a Steel Panther bumper sticker and a rare CD with videos on it from the record company. I’ve also caught a couple of guitar picks from the band. I’d actually be kind of embarrassed to wear one of their shirts or their other apparel. I gave up on collecting a lot of band “merchandise” in high school. I use that money to go to more shows instead of getting some shirt that shrinks two sizes and probably didn’t fit it in the first place. $40 for a T-shirt or a ticket to another concert? That’s an easy choice for me.”

“I own two tour shirts, but most special of all I own this necklace from the Dream Tour in 2000, and apparently they were only sold at a few shows. It’s this rare rose necklace that I wanted so bad in high school, and once in awhile they pop up on ebay. My boyfriend knew I wanted one, and he found one on ebay and surprised me with it! I cherish it so much. It’s a symbol of my own stretch and ability to get through tough times. Nothing I’d really want them to put out. I also have this friend who is an artist named Plasticgod, he takes musicians and celebrities and creates art pieces that depict them as lego type figures. He is also a huge Cure fan, and he has a few Cure pieces, one inspired by the inbetween days video, and one of Robert that I’m actually waiting on right now.”

“I own multiple t-shirts, all vinyl, compact discs, pins, posters, limited edition albums and stuff of that nature.” (The Dead Weather)

This is where a lot of bands leave money on the table. T-shirts need to be all sizes. And yes, there are women who are fans that appreciate a shirt made just for them. I think a band should have something unique that represents who they are…something beyond the album cover tees. When a smaller band sells merch at a show, that is usually giving them gas money and food money to get them to the next place. So, not only does buying merch give more money directly to the band, but that merch becomes advertising for them.

One thing that I don’t understand is why most bands don’t try to sell merch to concert attendees shortly after the show. I don’t like to carry stuff around, but I would probably be tempted to buy something if I was emailed about it right after, while I’m still buzzing about the show. A classic example of this is posters; it’s the only thing I collect, and it’s a terrible thing to buy at a show usually. But anytime a band sells them on their site after, I buy it.

To me, the newer band doing the best with merch right now is Mastodon. They have a huge variety of things, special/limited edition items, seasonal items….and they know how to push it out to their fans.

Another great DIY take on merch is One Eyed Doll.

Do you collect anything related to your artist?

“So far I’ve gotten the setlist and the last round of shows I’ve been too…so I’ve begin collecting those. They never give out picks, the only one I got was when I talked to Peter’s tech in SF. I love that pick so much. I know where it’s been. But yeah, I kind of obsess over getting the setlist now. I also have two signed items – a cd and a poster from the Amoeba show in SF.” (BRMC)

“Occasionally I’ll purchase a magazine with them on the cover. I don’t seek it out as much as I used to for other artists. I also collect items from the live shows: ticket stubs, setlists, drumsticks, picks, wristbands etc.” (Muse)

“I keep my ticket stubs and entry wristbands, usually just for NIN because theirs are particularly attractive.”

“I’ve collected anything you can imagine of Ozzy’s including those silly bobbleheads from the Osbournes MTV show.”

Fans love to collect things that have meaning beyond what you can go to a store and buy. Owning something that is limited, unique, or truly priceless is something they crave. They appreciate swag handouts. I’m not even that big on it and I have boxes of things I’ve accumulated over the years. Taking the extra time to pass things out at the end of the show means a lot to the fans. It’s the difference between a stagehand tearing up a setlist when a fan has been yelling for it and them turning around and cursing the band for it, or just handing over the piece of paper and really making their night.

This is generally the stuff that they become most proud of. Fans are displaying these items at work and at home. And then there are those that take it a step further and make it a permanent statement.

Do you have anything on display in your home or car (or perhaps a tattoo) related to this artist?

“I have an entire piece on my lower right leg including his signature, that he did sign in person. It’s pretty awesome. I have a signed guitar and several signed records including a gold record for Crazy Train.” (Ozzy)

“Most of my stuff is digital- I have some great pictures and videos I’ve taken at their shows that are really cool. I do throw flyers and ticket stubs in a huge box and I have tons of that type of stuff for my kids to marvel at when they get older. I want them to think, if anything, that their dad sure did go to a lot of cool shows!! That’s how I want to be remembered- as a dad that rocked.” (Steel Panther)

“Okay…the tattoo story. I have a tattoo. Doesn’t have anything to do with the band specifically, but it was picked out by Mike McCready (guitar player). I met him in Memphis in 2000 on a day off between the Memphis and Nashville show. He was walking down the street and on his way to an appointment to get a tattoo. I said I always wanted one, but was afraid it would hurt. He invited me and my friend to go watch him get his done so I would see it wasn’t too bad. During breaks, he helped me pick out a little shamrock that is on my left shoulder. (I also have pictures/video of him getting his tattoo.). For many years I had a large custom cut metallic silver stickman on the back window of my car. When I moved to Seattle, I thought it would be weird to have it, so I no longer have one on my car.” (Pearl Jam)

“I have a framed print from a show I was at. I’ve also framed my ticket stubs and wristbands. I plan to put up a shelf soon to display my collector’s edition of Ghosts, which comes in a black fabric-covered sleeve and the NIN logo in metal on the front — very sexy. I’ve also knitted a scarf with the NIN logo and some artwork in it. I have a tattoo that’s sort of related — the keyboardist at the time of my first show has a computer power symbol tattoo on his nape, and I got a similar one only with a fountain pen as the center line to symbolize that I’m a geeky author. My next tattoo will mix together the artwork from two NIN songs that are very meaningful to me.”

“I have a poster from the 2010 Echoplex show in my office at home (I looooove this poster, it is so great). I have the pick out on display on my shelf. I also have a sticker on my laptop (the amp sticker). I have a poster up at work as well in my classroom and have the pictures I took with the boys after the Vegas show up at work as well in the corner of the poster. I keep meaning to put a sticker in my car and my next personalized plate on my car will be BRMC related. I also have my signed CD out on a shelf in my office.”

Stay tuned for Part 3: social networking, media, and money.

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