Fans, Social Media, and Creators

Nancy Baym shared a really good presentation she delivered at by:Larm on Online Fandom (download it here).  While her talk was directed at musicians, I think any kind of Entertainment Designer can benefit from it.  This PDF went right into my EverNote.

She made a couple points I would like to expand on:

Fan Culture is Gift Culture

The most important thing to understand about fan culture is that it is

based on gifts, not money.


That doesn’t mean there’s no money involved, but it does mean that

even when there is money involved, money tends to function as a gift

rather than a payment. This is in dirapproach to audiences as a market.

I have hammered away on this topic for quite some time.  I love how simply she puts it. 

Too many entertainment designers think of their audience as customers who are chomping at the bit to hand them fist full of cash...  and they wonder why we are loosing interest in them.

Fandom is a two way street.  Content Creators need to ask themselves, "Am I giving my audience enough?"

Now that is not enough product, although that is important, it is also about giving your fans gifts.  One of my favorite bands, Queensryche, often writes new music while touring, and will post live tracks to their site to gage fan reaction.  That is a good example of a gift.

Fans like stuff

Fans like stuff. They collect, they give each other things, they show

their things off to one another. In the digital realm, goods include

sound files, images, videos and so on.

How true is that?  My house is a veritable shrine to the franchises and bands I love.  I have a 3 foot Millennium Falcon in my office.  But there is a difference between merchandise and collectables.

The compact that exists between fans and entertainment designers is that the stuff they have for sale will be the best quality they can afford to produce, and that they are not just trying to fleece money from their fans.

Whenever I think of merchandise gone wrong, I think of the Kiss Potato Heads.  What the hell is that all about?  When I think about Kiss, potatoes don't really come into the picture.  Most cringe worthy merch ever.

Fans value creativity

Artists tend to focus on their own creativity, and that is the locus

around which fans organize, but they also use others’ art as an

opportunity to flex their own creative muscles and they enjoy seeing

and hearing one another’s creative works.


Some of the things fans make are art, remixes, cover versions, fiction.

I have talked about this topic a lot.  I just wanted to bring attention to it again.

Entertainment Designers and Fans

We need to spread the word, and I hope the folk Nancy spoke to were actually listening.  The creative world has changed, and if we don't change with it, none of us are going to make it.

Do you think she missed something in her presentation?  What do you think Entertainment Designers should do to make fandom and interaction easier?