The Head & the Heart, Manchester, November 6, 2011: How to lose fans and alienate bloggers

the head and the heart live in ManchesterFor those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have witnessed some or all of an exchange between me and a couple of fans of The Head & the Heart, a band we saw opening for My Morning Jacket last night (6th November).

When we turned up to the venue, The Ledge went to the bar and I wandered down to the front – there was loads of space. Having seen The Head & the Heart at Latitude and found them boring in parts, but with moments of potential, I thought I should give them a second chance. We knew they’d be on early. As early as doors and with maybe 20 people in the Manchester Academy 2 and space at the barrier, a woman immediately started hovering about, bumping into me.

When I turned around, wondering why she felt the need to violate my personal space when she could easily have stood at the barrier elsewhere, she asked who was the opening band.  I told her, and she said “Oh good.” Then she asked who I’d come to see. I pointed out that it was a My Morning Jacket gig and she seemed surprised I wasn’t there for The Head & the Heart – even though 15 seconds earlier she’d seemed unaware they were opening. I told her no, I’d seen them before and found them a bit ‘meh’. The following exchange then ensued:

Woman: Are you American?

Justhipper: Yes.

Woman: Are you from Seattle?!?!

Justhipper: Erm, no.

Woman: Oh. That’s too bad.

Justhipper: I’ve not flown over for this gig, if that’s what you’re asking.

She then turned around and began hanging over an American guy stood to my left.

About this point a host of people turned up, all of whom were wearing matching Head and the Heart fanclub bracelets (admittedly, at first I thought they were MMJ fans and we were going to have an unpleasant 3 hours) and started cloistering around us, talking shite and jostling for position – despite the fact that only about 40 people were in the room at this point. I’m sure some of them were even arguing about who should be allowed to stand closest to the band.

This was, to say the least, somewhat annoying, which is the point that I tweeted about it. I’ve been subjected to the internet fanclubs of a few bands of late, and frankly, it’s really f***ing annoying that they seem to think that use of a band’s website and a few pounds for a newsletter and a membership badge gives them proprietary rights over the band (Hold Steady fanclub, Unified Scene, I’m looking at you! You’ve ruined 3 gigs so far for us with physical violence and talking! At least one long-term fan I know won’t go to Hold Steady gigs anymore because she’s so fed up with dealing with crap from you, the fanbase.)

A few songs into the set and I decided that I had been right about the Head and the Heart, they were a bit boring, somewhat twee, and not worth much more of my attention. I may have tweeted to that effect.

When I got home I found that the band had retweeted me twice – one of the tweets was the one complaining about their fanclub – and this it seems was fuel to the fire of the True Fans. While the band may have done it to be funny, to the rabid and the insane fan, trying to impress with loyalty, this was merely permission to troll me. So now I’ve had 2 fans hassling me all day today – as if this haranguing would do anything to change my mind.

The thing is, although the band may have been taking things in good humour, they’ve mostly just stabbed themselves in the foot, because what they’re doing is encouraging their fanbase to compete for attention by being nasty to critics – whether innocent tweeters expressing an opinion, bloggers or journalists.

They’re suggesting that the way to be a good fan is to take a fascistic view of  anybody expressing a contrary opinion. I’ve seen it before – one need only read any messageboard associated with Suede to see the carnage, bad feeling and general unpleasantness it propogates amongst music fans who should be united over a common interest. It’s hard enough to be a “fan” when other fans constantly question your right to be there – it makes it 10x worse when the band are seen to be suggesting that fanhood requires that extra step of stamping out disbelievers and critics.

What I would say, Head & the Heart, is it’s hard enough being a young indie band struggling to get yourself heard over the din of jaded cynics like me. Maybe you should think hard about the sorts of fans you want and the tone you want to set for them – do you want people who enjoy your music, introduce new listeners, turn up to gigs and dance or people who act like an advancing army, competing for your attention and determined to prove their loyalty by destroying everyone who isn’t in the club? I’d say the latter isn’t going to do much to help you gain new listeners – and they may even put some off.

66 Responses to “The Head & the Heart, Manchester, November 6, 2011: How to lose fans and alienate bloggers”

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