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.

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

  • The Head and The Heart News and Headlines November 8, 2011 Says:

    [...] The Head & the Heart, Manchester, November 6, 2011: How to lose fans and alienate bloggers – IndieCredential.com [...]

  • Janeen Says:

    Dear Indie:

    I have been to 6 THATH shows — all have been general admission standing only — and not once have I witnessed any of what you encountered at this show.

    My apologies to you for your experience — but to use this one incident as a generalization of all THATH fans..is pretty ignorant.

    I have been to many GA shows for many other bands…and have run into horrid crowds here and there.. but I know enough to realize that not every show for every band is going to be that way. Sometimes you get stuck by a annoying group of people. It happens. But I don’t generalize a band’s fan base based on 1 particular group of people or experience.

    And I am sorry you find them boring — but you seem to be in the minority (based on other critiques I’ve read about this band). In addition – THATH just sold out several headlining shows throughout the US and have been the music guests on several late night TV shows – including Letterman, Conan & Fallon. Obviously they can’t be that boring.

    Oh – and Dave Matthews is a huge fan – for what that’s worth. He had them open for his shows with Tim Reynolds last December in Vegas.

    I was one of those retweets – however I only tweeted once, as I felt that was all you were deserving for making such generic disclaimers about THATH’s fan base (but I obviously had to take the opportunity to respond further on here).

    I’m counting the days to my 7th THATH show — at the amazing BEACON THEATRE in NYC. Yup – the legendary Beacon Theatre. And I know it will be one hell of a show.

    Sincerely,
    A loyal and not nasty THATH fan – which therefore throws your generalizing opinion about us out the window.

  • Elissa Says:

    Dear Indie:

    I completly agree with Janeen. I have been to 7 THATH shows, and have met some truly beautiful fans. Yes, there are some drunk middle aged women that get a little cooky (cat calls to Jon or Josiah), but its to be expected. I think THATH has brought together some beautiful fans. I’m glad to be one. I think Letterman said it best “I think I like the new folk better than the old folk” in reference to THATH being introduced as ‘neo-folk’. :D
    Sorry about your lame experience.
    Cheers!

  • Justhipper Says:

    Thanks for the responses, but when in a room of 40 people, half if them are acting like big enough dicks to spoil a show I feel pretty justified. The fact that over a week later I’m still being trolled on Twitter further backs me up.

    I am aware that not every fan falls into this category, but in the UK where they’re virtually unknown, the shows are likely a VERY different experience. It’s been the same one for a number of American acts I actually do like – The National and the Hold Steady being the examples that spring to mind.

    As for Dave Matthews liking them- seems a dubious honour – I recall him being fairly uninteresting and that his fans were mostly backwards baseball cap wearing frat boys of the ilk who liked Hootie and the Blowfish and Phish and tried to heckle Low off a stage when they opened for Soul Coughing. Hardly great company to keep.

  • Janeen Says:

    Sorry — still not justified. My first John Mayer show (back in 2000) – 2/3 of the room at Irving Plaza in NYC (which holds much more than 40 people) was filled with screaming pre-teen girls – it felt like an *NSYNC concert – and while the show was completely ruined for me (pushing, screaming, etc) I knew enough not to judge his overall fanbase by that and saw him a few times after that — although now I wouldn’t give the guy a red cent.

    Exactly how unknown are THATH in the UK? I believe this was their third tour in 2011 in Europe alone…they can’t be THAT unknown. And actually – if you go to their FB page, you’ll see that they have quite a few of UK/European fans..and the #’s are growing.

    I never heard of “The National” and I only saw Hold Steady as an opener — They opened for… guess who? Dave Matthews Band.

    Speaking of Dave Matthews — I guess uninteresting is what you have to be to have a 20 year long career and continuously be one of the top selling tours every year. Again – what a way to generalize a fanbase.

    I’ll be honest — I’ve had many bad experiences with crowds at DMB shows. But 71 shows later… I’m still looking forward to the next. You suck up a bad experience and move on…but I don’t use those experiences to generalize the fan population as a whole.

    BTW — “Hootie” is now Darius Rucker – a very successful country star. Sounds like you’re stuck in 1994.

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