For the R.E.M. fans among us

A little fandom in the Sunday comics (click for full size):

Pearls before swine

I was cracking up before I even noticed the R.E.M. poster and Stipe portrait in the first frame.

I was bummed that they replaced Foxtrot with all its World of Warcraft/adolescent computing humor with this strip, but this might make it all ok.

Song Blogging

About 2 months ago Matthew Perpetua started a blog called Pop Songs 07 with the goal of writing about every R.E.M. song. He’s not posting the songs, he’s just writing short reviews of them one by one. For those who haven’t been following, that’s a lot of songs covering a lot of time. Thus far he’s done over 40 of them but still has many more to go. I don’t agree with all his analyses, but in a way that’s the point. The fact that he’s doing it, and doing it this way, opens up a new way for fans to discuss the songs, each on their own, and the amount of comments he’s getting from fellow fans offering their own takes on the songs is really interesting.

Yesterday, for instance, he posted about Stand, one of the most successful and reviled of their songs. The 50+ comments demonstrate many of the things music does for fans. It brings up old memories:

“stand” was the first r.e.m. song i can remember hearing. the video was shown on nick rocks. it was a nickelodeon music video show (for kids, obviously–maybe you remember, but it might have been before your time). i think this was in 1988 or so.


When I was 15, Stipe’s long hair and shy smile in this video had me all crushed out. This remains one of my favorite R.E.M. songs, regardless of meaning, connotations, or chart position.

For others, it’s a chance to differentiate themselves from other R.E.M. fans (age has been a huge issue in this fan community as long as I’ve been following it):

Based on the postings so far, I’m a little older than some of you. I’m definitely one of those folks who remember being worried about REM’s move to Warner Brothers. Someone mentioned not being able to get into the IRS years. For me, it’s exactly the opposite: there was such a clear distinction made (by the band) between their IRS and Warner Bros albums, I’ve never been able to fully embrace the later stuff. In many ways, Green was a shock (not in a good way). While much of the album has grown on me, “Stand” just hasn’t.

It also leads to discussion of other topics:

Given the climate change the song is more actual and urgent than ever. I reat that the name Green comes from the german political party “Die Grünen” (german for green), do you know if that is right?


Gabriel, the US has its own Green party. It’s just a word commonly associated with environmentalism, and parties that encourage reform of policies that have a negative impact on the environment.

And of course there is plenty of good natured discussion of whether the song is fun and wonderful or stinks.

Fan forums often have discussions of new records when they come out, and discussions of tours when they happen, but this kind of song-by-song discussion is not something I’ve seen before [if you have other examples, please point them out!] and I think it offers a neat chance for fans to get into depth about what songs mean to them, how they’ve worn over the years, and so on.

A query for the fanfic crowd

I get a fair number of hits to this site from people looking for rock band fan fic. I’ve seen that Franz Ferdinand, Duran Duran, and Morrisey are among the bands who get fanficced (is that a verb?). I had always associated fanfic with narrative genres, especially TV shows, so it came as a bit of a surprise that band fanfic even existed.

So I’m looking for a crash course. Are there some bands with TONS of fanfic about them? Are there particular kinds of bands more likely to get fanfic about them? How do fanfic stories about bands work? If fanfic based on narrative genres plays off of the ‘official’ story, what does band fanfic play off of? Is band fanfic considered just another part of the fanfic scene or is it off on its own? Is there any scholarship on band fanfic or readings about the phenomenon someone could point me toward?

Any insights on these or questions I should have asked most appreciated.

Thx to this thread on Fanthropology for heightening my curiosity.

ReverbNation Street Teams

Yesterday I wrote about ReverbNation’s approach to helping bands spread themselves across the internet by providing an easy means to create distributable resources and track how those resources were employed and with what success. Jed Carlson, CMO, gave me a guided tour of the site recently, and in this second part, I want to discuss their view of fans, Street Teams, and the business model on which they’re banking.

They view fans as a funnel. At the widest end are the people who listen to the music. Then there are those likely to buy (converting ‘fans’ to ‘customers’ is one of their missions). Then there are the “promoters,” those who place widgets around the net and spread your music on your behalf. ReverbNation gives the bands easy ways to give fans what they need to be promoters and to track which fans are doing the most and the most successful promoting.

They see Street Teams as the narrowest end of the funnel. Fans can sign up to be on a Street Team. Band can launch ‘missions’ (spreading the music, promoting shows, recruiting new fans, driving traffic, and spreading the word offline are the five mission types built into the interface). Bands can build in rewards (e.g. backstage passes for the five team members who bring the most hits). Street Team members can choose whether they want to join a mission or not, and on their site, the mission and those who have been most active in accomplishing it are displayed. In contrast to a site like FanCorps, they have very limited means for Team members to talk to one another – no chat rooms or forums. Instead, the focus is on the bands.

Right now the Street Team piece is in Beta. Four bands are testing it, and it is set to go live no later than mid-June.

I asked where the money is to be found for them in all of this since all of these services are free for the bands and the fans. They have three primary revenue streams. First, the pages have ads (which I think are rather discreetly tucked into the corner) and artists share 50% of the revenue that views of their pages generate (in other words, the more page hits a band gets, the larger their share of ad revenue will be). Second, the artists can sell their music on the site using SnoCap and ReverbNation takes a modest cut. Finally, they offer bands some “premium services” for a prices. These include what they call “Fan Reach” which allows bands to do highly targetted fan contacts (like: send an email to all the fans in Ohio), and the ability to have the ReverbNation resources appear without ReverbNation branding.

What I like about this scheme is that there are no built-in motivations to screw either the bands or the fans. The more money the bands make, the more they make, and the less the bands make, the less they make. If they don’t put the bands and their needs first, they won’t make money. That’s a powerful incentive to remember their own mission.

Update: Fan Reach is free, not a premium service.

ReverbNation’s Spread and Track philosophy

I wrote recently about a couple of Street Team websites that help bands identify, coordinate, manage, and reward hardcore fans for getting the word out about them. ReverbNation plans to launch Street Team capabilities this summer and their CMO, Jed Carlson, gave me a sneak preview. In the process he also let me see a lot of the ‘under the hood’ mechanics of what they offer bands, and gave me a short course in the ReverbNation philosophy. I’ve been covering ReverbNation since their beta and had the general sense that they were good guys. Now I’m sure they are.

To understand their motivation for Street Teams it helps to understand their general philosophy. Today I’ll talk about that. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how they see fans, their model of street teams, and their business model.

I had thought of the site as fan focused, but I was wrong. They like fans, they’re all for fans, but they are all about the bands. They’re only going to develop things for the fans if they clearly help the bands. As Carlson put it, they are “artist-centric.”

What I find particularly savvy about their approach is that their mission is not to have a “moat” like MySpace, but to be a one-stop-spot where musicians can build resources that they can then export all over the internet. ReverbNation is mean to be the “home base” from which bands can “spread their seed” all over the internet [better virtual seed than a trail of pregnant fans, I guess?].

Rather than competing with MySpace, Virb, and other sites, then, ReverbNation is aiming to provide resources and that artists can use when they create a presence on those sites. They only expect a small percentage of ReverbNation activity to happen at their own domain.

The twist is that when this seed is spread, through embedded media players, images, messages, whatever, it contacts home and ReverbNation can provide bands with statistics about what went where, what got hit by how many individuals, and more. They also collect some stats about fans with accounts on the site, so that a band can see statistics such as the age and sex distribution of their fans. I asked whether their site might be a skewed sample, and was assured that it may not be random, but that if a band has an older audience on the site, they were going to have older crowds at their shows. Conversely, if a band can see that they’re drawing young people, they can work to have their shows all-ages.

I asked how they are doing. When I first checked in, they didn’t seem to have very many bands and even fewer with known names. Carlson says they are coming up on 9,000 artists, their growth is doubling monthly, and that they now have 17 of the top 40 indie artists on the site. Pretty impressive.

Tomorrow… their view of fans, street teams, and business models.