I had never considered that music could be part of fandom.
Call me crazy or ignorant, but to me fandom was TV, film, books or hobbies. It was things created for you or by you that you can watch or read; music is neither of those things. In a fandom you gain inspiration, you make friends because of it, you pass your love of it to your children, and your life will most likely change because of it. It was a disagreement that made me to stop and review my opinion. On a podcast we discussed whether David Tennant fans were still Doctor Who fans even if they were only watching for him. Strangely I started off saying that no, they weren’t Doctor Who fans and then I began to reconsider my answer.
This was no different. The more I tried to prove why music wasn’t fandom, the more I realized it was. My first reaction was that maybe there was simply another term for it.
I was already on tumblr living the life of a multi-fandom fangirl when I stumbled over Bandom. It was something I was aware of but no more than general knowledge. The term itself is a very interesting one, as this very informative article points out, it can often mean two different things:
1. A fandom about bands or;
2. A specific type of fandom consisting usually of one of three bands:
My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, & Panic! At the Disco.
Now I think defining a term based on just three bands is very exclusive and from the number of One Direction posts I see in the same vein I would try to include them as well. After all fandom isn’t just SuperWhoLock or Harry Potter they are just some of the loudest voices.
Although “bandom” is a great term and it makes for a great tag on fanfiction sites, it’s just a wrapping for what appeared to be another piece of fandom. Wrapping up an orange doesn’t mean it isn’t fruit anymore.
I have attempted to acknowledge when I have opinions that aren’t fully realized. Acknowledging that I held such a narrow viewpoint of fandom I set about trying to understand what I was missing.
Music has been somewhat of a foreign concept to me. The more I try to “get it” the more I fail. Sometimes you need to realize that you need to keep your mind open and accept random opportunities that may lead to you realizing you were completely wrong.
That opportunity to see music in a new light came a few years ago when I was introduced to the film 24 Hour Party People. I had seen John Simm as the Master in Doctor Who and I was intrigued to watch other things he had done. My wonderful partner offered up this film where Simm plays Bernard Sumner, the lead guitarist of Joy Division and later guitarist and vocalist of New Order.
Although I didn’t know anything about the bands talked about in the movie before I watched it, it seemed like a good opportunity. It also seemed safe because even if I hated the music I knew I liked Simm as an actor. I like to stress when I write about fandom that you don’t always jump into the pool from the diving board. Sometimes you have to be tempted into the waters by someone you trust because they know you’ll enjoy it. Sometimes an actor you like is the perfect pair of life jacket in those unknown waters.
A movie about music is a strange intro point to music I know, but it showed something that I had never seen before, fiction or otherwise. It showed that bands were real people and had real setbacks. That loving a band was more than just loving a personality or a song. It was about loving a musical product, whatever it was, and identifying with the bit of each musician it carried with it. Successful musicians (however you define successful) carry a message among those notes brought about by a collective mind. I’m learning the extent of that now. I’m learning how I knew absolutely nothing about music.
The moment you become aware of your own faults is both a wonderful and terrifying moment. I shudder to think that at one point music existed in amazingly broad categories for me: rock, country, rap, jazz and classical. When someone asked me what kind of music I liked I would say, “pretty much everything… except rap and country.” I loved my fair share of songs and I can name bands I like, but I never looked into them or sought out information about them. I only ever considered the output and never thought about the people who created that output or what their influences are.
For my NaNoWriMo novel that I wrote about here, I looked into music even more. I’ve been exploring and researching a tiny slice of music history. Namely Canada and the UK in the mid 70s and their blooming punk scenes. As I usually do when I find something interesting, I surround myself in it.
Naturally, I talk about it at work and a co-worker helped me to stumble upon the fact that these two music scenes, despite their distance did draw so much inspiration from such an unlikely place: a group from New York that was commercially floundering, but hitting all the right notes for beginning bands, the Ramones. The Ramones influenced a slew of bands including Teenage Head in Canada who later influenced the Tragically Hip, the Sex Pistols and the Clash in the UK who became two of the most iconic punk bands to date. Musical influence is one of the first things journalists ask a new band. It is like asking a writer what their inspiration is or where they developed their writing style.
Wanting to write television because you adore Doctor Who is no different from learning to play bass with the help of a Ramones album. Listening to a record or mp3 and wanting to make music is the perfect example of something you love going beyond all your senses and tricking you into thinking you can do something you otherwise thought you couldn’t.
That to me is the definition of fandom.
I was in a place where I didn’t understand all the pieces necessary to judge for myself whether music could be a fandom. After all, the term fandom is so broad that I think naturally we try to narrow it a little. We aren’t just residents of Earth, we have a nationality; we have our own tribes and families. The concept of being part of an elite group is treated with more reverence than being part of a big group. We want to be part of something small and special and that means making as many rules and conditions and placing them on something to keep people out.
Aside from bandom, the only other terms that repeatedly pop up when looking into fandom’s view of music are terms like “deadheads” the name given to Grateful Dead fans and “Beatlemaniacs” for fans of the Beatles.
However, in a broad sense we’ve had fandom for genres of music for ages. Look at someone who adores Doctor Who and wears the K-9 and TARDIS pins, the scarf, and the sonic screwdriver with their everyday clothes. Now compare them to the punks who wear leather or denim jackets, band pins and patches and safety pins wherever they can fit them. Where are the differences? (And there’s the fact that Peter Capaldi used to be in a punk band…) It’s just another tribe that we identify with to feel special and different. Saying bandom is a fandom about bands is redundant because bands are already part of fandom.
Maybe I’m the only one who has had this conundrum.
What I know, at this moment, is that seeing John Simm on stage singing with the real, proper Bernard Sumner is amazing. See for yourself and tell me they aren’t having fun.
If you liked the music, check them out on iTunes or your local music/record shop.
What about you? Is music part of the general “fandom” experience? Is bandom a better term? Leave a comment.