Hitchhiking the Ze Frank way

The Register-Guard reports on an innovative twist on the ways online fan communities provide social support for one another. One of the Ze Frank fans in his online community needed a ride cross country. Now:

Instead of holding up a cardboard sign along some busy freeway, Vaughn is getting rides from fellow members of an online community centered on a vlog (video Web log) known as “The Show with Ze Frank“. He’s known as “RunningFool” or “HumanBaton,” the names given him on the Web pages that track his progress.

It started as a lark, a simple Internet request for a ride to Southern California for winter break. But it morphed, as things have a tendency to do on the Web, into something much different: a cross-country challenge in which fans of “The Show,” inexplicably known as Sports Racers and partial to rubber duckies, offer to pick him up at one location and drop him off at another, where he is picked up by the next volunteer link in the coast-to-coast chain.

Ze Frank, as I’ve written before, has a real knack for generating user participation, so I’m not surprised to see this emerge amongst his fans. Cool stuff.

Online music fans dig more music

A just released study by the Digital Media Association finds that “digital music consumers” report that they are more into music than they were before they started using the internet as a source of new tunes. I was interested to read that they not only find new artists (to be expected) but they also get into new genres. When I was working in a record store in the late 80s/early 90s, people were defined by The Genre they listened to. Grandmas would come in just before Christmas asking what “all the kids were listening to” so they could buy a gift for their grandsons (rarely granddaughters) and we’d be able to say “well, what kind of haircut does he have?” and make reasoned guesses from there. But then there was a lot of noise about the kids genre hopping, not binding themselves to any particular kind of sound. If the internet is spreading taste across genres even more, that’s an intruiging development. The survey also finds that online music consumers also drop 2-3 times the annual dollars on buying music that offline heavy consumers do.

Furthermore, using the net to listen to music:

has increased music fans’ overall music discussion with friends and co-workers, with more than 35 percent now talking about music more. And, more than 75 percent of online music consumers report they have recommended a particular service to a friend or co-worker.

So the internet is not just changing online listening habits and spending habits, it’s changing conversational habits. I love it!

This resonates completely with my own experience. After LIVING BREATHING music for so many years, after I stopped working at the record store, finished the PhD, became a prof, had kids, etc etc, music started slipping away. I just didn’t spend the time listening to it, and I just didn’t find as much new stuff that interested me. When I got my first iPod for Christmas, 2002, and digitized my CD collection, I found that just having it on my computer meant that I listened more since that was where my body was. Then I found that having the shuffle function meant that I HEARD my music for the first time in years. So much of it I’d listened to so many times that it went straight to subconscience when I listened, but with shuffle, each song’s juxtaposition with unexpected other songs made it new again. I started hearing things I’d never heard in songs I’d heard hundreds of times before. Then I started finding recommendations and buying records through Parasol Records. And then I got into Last.fm, which re-energized my sense of self as a music fan and made me even more of a listener and music talker-abouter.

This is one slice of a big picture of what the internet does to fandom — give people a way to explore, to consume, to get creative (not discussed in this study), and to talk with one another and their engagement as fans is magnified. The more we can do with our fandom, the more we will.


Online Fandom is going on holiday for a week or so.

Wishing you all peace and light in the New Year.

EMI vs Cricket Fans

The Serenity and ABBA cases may have been resolved, but as far as I can tell, this Cricket fan site is still under threat of legal action from EMI. The crime? Altering lyrics to copyrighted songs for parodies included in a free booklet”

EMI says The Fanatics’ Ashes songbook breached copyright because it included altered lyrics to songs such as Go West by the Village People and Daydream Believer by The Monkees.

The Daydream Believer parody included the lines: “Cheer up Michael Vaughan, How bad must it be, To a be a poor pommie whinger, And you’re watching on TV?”

The group put the songbook together in a bid to get Australian fans to outsing England’s Barmy Army during this summer’s Ashes series.

Fanatics founder Warren Livingstone said the group had removed the songs from its website and was considering what to do with 100,000 booklets that have already printed.

“We need to work out whether we have to shred these or whether we can in fact hand them out outside the ground,” he said.

“We’re giving them out for free so it’s a little bit astounding actually. We’re just a supporter group, we’re just trying to have a little bit of fun and so to have this action from EMI seems pretty heavy-handed.”

(link from ABC Sport)

Why oh why do people think it’s a good idea to get so legalistic on stuff like this? I mean, ok, if you’re selling copies of copyright material, alright. But FREE PARODIES? Eventually we will all be afraid to be fans in case we accidently sing aloud in public and find ourselves the target of litigation.

People of the Year

So as you’ve no doubt heard,Time has decided that the Person of the Year is the users of Web 2 apps who are, uh, revolutionizing the world as we know it or something like that:

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I’m not going to watch Lost tonight. I’m going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I’m going to mash up 50 Cent’s vocals with Queen’s instrumentals? I’m going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Sure, why not, (though I kind of liked Muhammad Yunus)?

The LA Times, for their part, have offered Ten moments the web shook the world which, like the Time story, struck me because although it doesn’t make it explicit, it shows what a big chunk of this ‘revolution’ is fan-driven:
They start with Snakes on a Plane:

No, “Snakes on a Plane” did not go on to challenge “Titanic’s” box office record, but it did become the first studio release entirely championed, developed and, for a time it seemed, directed by film fans on the Internet. The moment when the movie’s cast and crew went back to the cameras for Internet-ordered, gore-boosting re-shoots will go down in history as the first time the Web grabbed the production reins away from movie producers.

Then they trash the promo site for the movie Running Scared:

the studio created a game that allowed visitors to take on the role of hero Joey Gazelle, played in the film by Paul Walker. Players could dive into the game to shoot it out with bad guys, drive fast cars … and perform oral sex on Gazelle’s wife, with an interactive guide showing to how to do so more effectively. After a few raised eyebrows in the mainstream media, New Line removed the game.

Lonely Girl shows up next (” The most riveting entertainment story of the year was neither the Mel Gibson nor Tom Cruise”), along with a number of other ordinary folks who became web stars through these new platforms. MySpace, which has transcended being a fan space, but still uses fandom as a major point of similarity-assessment, gets a paragraph.

They include a dose of politics (George Allen’s Macaca moment) which could be interpreted as a move by a Webb fan to discredit Allen (and which is very reminiscent of the Two Gallants arrest in Houston fan vids on YouTube).

All of which is to say that in the big picture of ‘ordinary people are becoming media producers’ narrative, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re seeing a new mainstreaming of fandom and a shift that makes it easier for ordinary folks to become objects of fandom. If you tell the “Web 2″ story and don’t talk about the centrality of fans, you’re missing a huge piece of the plot.