Variations on a Theme: Perspectives on Fan Relationships
Throwing your money around.
Many years back a friend took me to Brooklyn to see a traditional West African dance performance. I am a big fan of the music of Senegal and was excited to be able to see the real thing here in NYC. The crowd was mostly Senegalese, many dressed in traditional formal clothes of the region. The performance started with a line of drummers who created a wall of sound that filled the entire hall without any amplification. One by one dancers came out on stage and improvised dance solos to the ever-changing beats and patterns being improvised by the drummers. At the height of one of the dancer's solos the woman in the audience sitting in front of me jumped up and rushed to the stage clutching a handful of dollar bills. When she got to the stage she threw it directly at the dancer. "What was that?" I asked. My friend explained that it is tradition in Africa to throw money or even jewelry at the dancer when you are moved by the performance. This was their way of showing appreciation for something that moved them emotionally. As you may have guessed, this had a huge impact on me.
You played with who?
Many years ago I was living in Vermont and one of my guitar students asked me if I wanted to go hear a concert that evening. She spoke Spanish and was asked to be a translator for a Brazilian singer that was performing in town. It sounded like it might be fun so I went to the show with her which was a benefit to save the rain forests in Brazil. Afterward we went to meet the band and escort them out on the town (downtown Burlington, VT on a Wednesday night. Whoohoo!). It really turned out to be a lot of fun. A group of about ten of us went to a local bar, hung out for hours and had a lot of laughs. I was speaking with one of the guys telling him how I had recently developed a love of jazz and some the musicians I liked the most. I mentioned Wayne Shorter and he said, "Oh yes, I have played with him a number of times." I thought to myself "What? Maybe it is a language thing. Why would this guy be hanging out with us in a dive bar in the middle of Vermont?" It was one of those assumptions you make that "important" people only hang out with other "important" people. These guys were just like us. Normal, unassuming folks who just love to have a good time. The guy I was speaking to was Milton Nascimento. We instantly became friends that night and over the years whenever I see him we still look back on those couple of days in Vermont as a very special time. Since then I have become a huge fan of Milton's music, I have every one his recordings, I go to every performance when he is in town and even the music for the first dance at my wedding was a Milton Nascimento song. First impressions are everything.
So what does all of this mean to me? It means that the relationship between the musician and the fan is a living/breathing thing and it needs to be treated with great care and respect. It also means that each artist has his/her own viewpoint and that a "one size fits all" approach will most definitely not apply to every scenario.
What part of the fan relationship do you value the most and why? How are you putting it into action? What is your variation on this theme? I would be very interested to hear your stories.
Until next time....