“Not a MySpace Band:” Internet fans are the new 13-year-old girls

When I was 13 and in love with a lot of pop bands, I would occassionally read interviews with them where they said things like “at least we don’t appeal to 13 year old girls” or “we want to appeal to more than 13 year old girls.” I got the message — REAL bands didn’t have fans like me. When I met the internet, one of the first thoughts I had was that if it had been there when I was a 13 year old girl, I’d have been so empowered as a music fan by being able to hide my age. I’d have passed for an older teen at least, and would have been respected in ways I couldn’t be in person.

But now I see that the new ’13 year old girls’ are internet users. What’s worse than having 13 year old girl fans? Having… INTERNET fans. Yep, if that’s where your hype begins, then you’re really suspect. Witness this article in which Canadian band Hawthorne Heights responds to the charge that they are “a MySpace band.”

Bucciarelli’s agitation seems warranted, as most people who bash Hawthorne Heights claim that they’re a “MySpace band” who only got popular via the internet:

“It might account for a fraction of our success,” Bucciarelli reasons. “It seems that every interview we do we get people asking us about MySpace and it being the reason behind our success, and to do that is to completely ignore that we toured for three straight years.

Note that getting popular through MySpace is constructed as a charge that merits “agitation” rather than, oh, pride? How about “yeah, we’ve been really good at combining MySpace with touring. It’s worked great for us.”

Now I have nothing against Hawthorne Heights, I haven’t heard them but kinda like their Bronte-esque 19th Century name (or is it the name of a gated community somewhere in a Neal Stephenson novel?). I choose it as an example of a phenomenon where people assume there are two kinds of fans (1) the REAL ones that you earn through [fill in form of traditional fan-garnering here] and (2) the internet ones. As though they were two distinct sets of individuals.

Last spring I noticed a lot of backlash against The Arctic Monkeys, word was their rise was based entirely on “internet hype” — what could be more suspect? This article from Boston.com outlines how the internet drove their success:

No packaging. No pitching. No payola. The notion of a band finding a fan without the machinations of middlemen inspires utopian visions of art uncorrupted, a power-to-the-people model of music making and consuming. But while Web-generated hype may be more credible than the carefully crafted fluff coming out of boardrooms, it isn’t without its pitfalls.

The pitfalls? Online fans can… CLICK ELSEWHERE JUST AS EASILY! Which, as the article points out, makes them pretty much like the record labels. And as I might add, suspiciously similar to those mythic “offline fans.”

And who are the offline fans these days? How many fans who pay no attention to a band’s online presence are left? I would like to see some real figures on what percentage of people who see live music and buy cds are true “offline fans” getting turned on to music only through the timeworn networks of radio, tv, record stores and friends. Cuz I’m guessing that just about every band who makes it these days is picking up a seriously healthy chunk of their listeners through the internet. Maybe dissing them isn’t such a good approach.