Biting And Feeding The Hands That Feed: Audience-Musician Interactions Online

We know that audiences are engaged in all kinds of practices online that change the ways they relate to one another and to the things they’re into. But how does all that affect the people they’re talking about – and sometimes talking to?

In a keynote talk at Transforming Audiences 3 in London last week, I address that question, drawing on the interviews I’ve been doing with musicians.

As always, the talk is cc licensed for noncommercial use with attribution, so read it, and if you dig it, share it:

2011TransformingAudiences.pdf

I’m still working through this material, so all feedback is welcome.

TwitterFacebookDeliciousFriendFeedLiveJournalStumbleUponDiggLinkedInMySpaceTechnorati FavoritesShare

Fans or Friends? An interview

I recently did an interview with Dave Cool for Bandzoogle’s blog.

We covered topics like how social media have affected online fandom, benefits and challenges of social media, whether bands need to use social media and/or have their own website, whether they can keep mystique, whether they ought to be trying to be friends with fans, and even a bit on how I mix personal and professional in my online identity and why.

Read part 1 and part 2.

TwitterFacebookDeliciousFriendFeedLiveJournalStumbleUponDiggLinkedInMySpaceTechnorati FavoritesShare

How to interview and SXSWi highlights

Back from my first SXSWi. General impression: A lot of wonderful people there, but way too many people. It was hard to find even the people I already knew, let alone meet new ones, though I did manage both.

I led a core conversation about interviewing, meant to pool our collective wisdom about how to be a good interviewer. It got nice write ups here and here.

I made up an interviewing cheat sheet, which you are welcome to use, reuse, recirculate or ignore as you see fit. Download it as a PDF.

My two favorite panels were Ze Frank’s and Devo’s. I have long admired Ze Frank’s amazing experiments in audience participation, including When Office Supplies Attack and Angrigami, and I expected him to be hilarious, which he was. I was not expecting him to be so insightful and moving. He spoke about how much emotion is out there on the internet, and how much it blows him away when he sees how people take the fun little tools he’s created at his site, like this flower maker, and use them to display and share profound feelings with one another. He also talked about making The Show as an experiment in living at the edge of continuous anxiety about not having anything to present and the ongoing process of learning to have faith and patience in his own creativity.

Devo presented a panel called “Devo, The Internet, and You” which was simultaneously a discussion of how they are seeking audience participation in their next album and a wicked wicked send up of corporate speak approaches to treating online audiences as marketing data.

Here is a link to their (unembeddable?) powerpoint which is more than worth the 1:43 it takes to watch it. Judging from the comments on the YouTube site, its status as parody wasn’t apparent to all, but it was crystal clear if you were there.  The highlight might have been the questions, when the audience slipped right into the same mode and asked lingo-laden queries that were as funny as the presentation (“I am really impressed at how you’ve managed to leverage synergies and I’m just wondering if there are any synergies you haven’t been able to leverage?” “Location seems to be increasingly important in this new millennium and I’m wondering if you are planning to offer location based services”). Mike Monello, of Campfire NYC, who’s a leader in transmedia storytelling (in addition to having been a maker of Blair Witch Project, he also does the transmedia for True Blood among other cutting edge projects) declared the panel “the definition of transmedia storytelling.” It was perfect.

I also enjoyed seeing Peter Sunde from Pirate Bay (and Flattr) skyped in from Sweden (“If I set foot in the United States I’d get sued so hard I’d never be able to leave”) who didn’t really say anything but was exceedingly funny and charming at it.

My biggest disappointments? Daniel Ek of Spotify offered no hope of a US launch anytime soon, and, yeah, that Twitter CEO keynote interview. Suffice to say the interviewer should have been at my session.

My biggest frustration? The panel on music curation. Anya Grundmann who’s in charge of NPRMusic.org was wonderful, but I was ultimately infuriated by music writer Chris Weingarten who at one point had the insight to say that “it’s not about finding a music blogger who has taste like you, it’s about finding a group of people who have similar taste” but ended up just whining that only the real (i.e. published in Rolling Stone like he is) music critics were capable of real critique and the rest were just wannabe fanboys driving the experts out of business. No sympathy here. And a total misunderstanding of the levels of in-depth critique fans practice every day.

p.s. best perks? Macallan’s ongoing free tastings of their 12 and 15 year scotches and free chair massage. I want that at all events I attend.

TwitterFacebookDeliciousFriendFeedLiveJournalStumbleUponDiggLinkedInMySpaceTechnorati FavoritesShare

Music Fandom vs. Narrative Fandom

Over the years, I’ve found myself mulling the differences between fandoms organized around narrative and those organized around music. It’s now a topic on which I have to pull together my thoughts in 1000 words or less for Henry Jenkins et al’s book on spreadable media. This post is really just me thinking outloud in a rough stab at a start. I would LOVE your feedback on the distinctions I’m drawing and those I’ve missed.

Narratives have characters, plots, and holes to be filled by fan creativity. Music doesn’t. Sure, you can get into discussions of lyrics, and there are many fan lyric interpretation sites out there, and heaven knows you can obsess on the musicians, but for all the time I’ve spent in music fandom, lyric interpretation has never seemed all that important to the social life around music. Music fans interpret what’s best and what’s worst in an artists’ catalogue, and they review shows, but it’s just a whole lot harder to talk about the significance of that chord change or the way that bridge takes the song into the third verse than it is to talk about what that shot of the window at the end of the scene was meant to imply or what a character meant when she said what she said.

Narrative also leaves space for much more fan creativity. Music fans may make their own videos to accompany songs, or form cover bands, or write fan fiction about musicians, but with the important exception of remixes, which remain a fairly marginal fan practice, I’ve never seen fans write songs in the same way that fans of a TV show will write stories using the characters. Music fans don’t seek to complete the music through interpretation and creativity. The music arrives complete. Fans can’t fix it or rebuild it in the same way they can with stories.

Music fans are far more likely to focus on news and information. Narrative fans certainly do this, building timelines and keeping abreast of production, casting, and so on, but music fans seem to do this as their primary activity. It’s all about when the album will be released, what the setlist will be, when the tour will happen, and what songs were played what night in what order. This is why music fan communities on the internet tend to get very quiet when the most recent album has been out for a while and the band isn’t touring. What’s to discuss?

Music fans also share the very objects of their fandom by making mix tapes, playlists, writing mp3 blogs, and sending one another recordings and bootlegs. On occassion, narrative fans will share a recording of a missed show with another fan, but, like lyrical interpretation in music fandom, this seems like a marginal practice in narrative fandom.

But I’m thinking that perhaps the most important distinction between the two fandoms is the way that music fans take the resources of their fandom outside of that fandom as part of their self-presentation in other contexts. Think t-shirts with band names (Rob Walker’s excellent book Buying In reports that Ramones t-shirts have outsold Ramones albums 10 to 1). Think playlists embedded on social network profiles. Think bumper stickers (I think “Republicans for Voldemort” is the only narrative fandom bumper sticker I’ve ever seen, though I’ve seen hundreds of stickers naming bands). When I used to work in a record store and grandmothers would come in at Christmas time to buy a gift for the grandkid and ask “what are all the kids listening to these days?” we’d respond “what kind of haircut does your grandchild have?” How does a Lost fan dress? Can you spot a Star Wars fan walking down the street? Narrative fandom is invisible unless it’s being discussed. Music fandom is much more likely to be made visible as an intrinsic part of self-definition in a wide variety of situations.

The upshot is that we should be wary of taking the practices of narrative fandom on which most fandom theory has been built as exemplary of all fandom. Different kinds of materials call for different kinds of practices, and if we’re to build theories that encompass all of fandom, we need to account for these distinctions as well as the similarities.

TwitterFacebookDeliciousFriendFeedLiveJournalStumbleUponDiggLinkedInMySpaceTechnorati FavoritesShare

Best Twitter Exchange Ever: Burgess vs. Keen

Normally I wouldn’t rebroadcast others’ (public) Twitters on here, but I cannot resist sharing this wonderful bit of banter between Andrew Keen, Mr. Cult of the Amateur, famous for his argument that all those non-professionals on the internet are destroying culture what with their lack of professional editing and all, and Jean Burgess of Queensland University of Technology, an expert in digital “vernacular” and co-author with Joshua Green of a forthcoming book on YouTube I’ve been lucky enough to read already.

It started with Keen tweeting about working on his “bookie-wookie.” Jean retorts (It’s a Twitter exchange, so scroll down now and read bottom to top, not top to bottom):

picture-2picture-1

Give him credit for maintaining a sense of humor, but with “You think “teh” is a misspelling? Ah, that explains everything,” it’s definitely Burgess FTW!

And while on the subject of  tweets that beautifully demonstrate the linguistic creativity and playfulness of Twitterspeak, I point you to Music Ally’s summation of the ten best tweets sent by Peter Sunde while on trial recently in Sweden for his role as co-founder of Sweden-based-world’s-largest bit torrent tracker, The Pirate Bay.

UPDATE: I fixed the broken link to the MusicAlly blog — thanks to those who alerted me to my mistake.

TwitterFacebookDeliciousFriendFeedLiveJournalStumbleUponDiggLinkedInMySpaceTechnorati FavoritesShare