I’ve come to believe that a zealous fan is an excellent personification of the “double-edged sword” concept. On one hand, fans are the ones who buy and recommend your music. Through word of mouth and the all-powerful internet, they extol your look, message, and ability. You can count on them to drag their friends to your gigs. When you look into the audience, they’re the ones singing along with your tunes, screaming throughout the show, and exhorting others to do the same. In some cases, they’ll follow your band from show to show. The more dedicated among them will virtually pledge their lives to your band. For example, look at the Grateful Dead: elevated to the status of icons — and damned rich ones, at that — by their fan base. Now the next generation of Dead Heads are camp-following the neo-jam bands and, as a result, artists who are total strangers to mainstream radio are selling out sheds around the world.
Consider also the power and ability a computer confers upon one fervent fan to promote awareness of your band. Multiply that by a few thousand, and you can see how bands seemingly come from nowhere to suddenly fill major venues.
On the other hand, the fans are also the ones who will hold up the line at the CD booth after your show, stop you on the street, interrupt your meal, ramble interminably about how awesome you are, call their friends over to meet you, ask for photo ops, want to know who your favorite drummer is — anything to prolong what is, for you, an inconvenient to downright painful, largely one-sided conversation. When dealing with fans, you should think twice about divulging any means by which you might be directly reached (i.e., phone numbers, where you shop, eat, drink, and so on). All communication should be routed through your web site, management, a dedicated email address, or whatever third party you can think of in a moment’s notice.
These folks are people to whom you unarguably owe a debt, but that debt can be fully paid with respect and a sincere, friendly attitude. I believe the following to be well worth bearing in mind when dealing with fans: despite the adoration they exude, these people are strangers. Plus, the term “fan” itself originated as an abbreviation of the word “fanatic.”
Need I say more?