The 10 Categories of the Music Fan Spectrum: Where Do You Fit? – National

No two music fans are alike. We love certain artists casually with our entire relationship beginning and ending humming the melody from one of their records.

But there are those we are obsessed with. We can’t get enough. Between these extremes are different levels of engagement that musicians, managers, and labels need to monitor and nurture.

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With Web 3.0 initiatives taking hold rapidly, the music industry is looking for new ways to understand the next generation of fans. Technology is changing the very nature of fandom in ways that will be transformative for years to come.

Spring, a company that partners with artists on e-commerce, commissioned a study of 8,000 music fans in hopes of charting future emotional and possibly financial relationships between fans and artists.

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The result is a psychographic breakdown that places fans into 10 different buckets, each with varying levels of investment in emotion, spend, energy, time, and evangelism.

The first three types of fans can be grouped together as “engaged”. The browser is the most casual music listener (37% of respondents), someone who stumbles upon content, enjoys it on a superficial level, then gets distracted or bored and moves on.

Type two is the Observer, someone who hides around the music but doesn’t really engage too deeply.

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The last type of “Engaged” fan is Curious. They are intrigued by what they hear and are open to maybe being encouraged to become more involved with the community of like-minded people who follow a particular group.

The middle group of fans is known as the “Advocates”. It starts with followers, those who make it a point to follow the musician through traditional and social media. They follow an artist’s Instagram account, bookmark their Spotify playlists, and google stories about the artist.

A small step forward is the engaged fan. They do whatever the follower does, but regularly comment on videos and photos, provide likes on Facebook, and seek better status within the community of fans surrounding that artist. This is the realm of the real fan, someone who really loves what’s going on and wants a piece of it.

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If an artist can take the fan to the next level of the spectrum, they become a “buyer” – and this is where appreciation for a musician’s work can be monetized.

The first level of buyer is the asset. Only about one in a thousand true fans can be classified as active (40% of respondents identified themselves this way). They are a bit more evangelical about the artist and often wear T-shirts, create niche playlists, go to concerts, and occasionally buy physical products. If the artist intervenes in the conversation, the Active will start to flow. And if necessary, they will vigorously defend this artist if someone disagrees with their talent.

If the Active’s love for the artist grows (and finances permit), he becomes a Collector. This group collects everything: all the releases, all the merchandising and all the knowledge they can about their favorite musician. They’ll also shell out big bucks for things like box sets and limited-edition vinyl releases.

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The only level above an active is the Superfan. Only about one in 100 true fans fit that description. Superfans will do whatever they must to make the deepest connection with their favorite musicians. For example, they will follow a number on tour for weeks or months. Others will seek their expertise and stories involving a particular artist. Some form cover bands that only play the music of their favorite bands. And they can even be recognized for their peculiarity by the artist himself.

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If you want to study this group, we must also take a look at the BTS ARMY (Adorable Representative MC for Youth), Taylor Swift’s Swifties, hardcore Deadheads, Beyoncé’s Beyhive, Dylanologists and Beatlemaniacs. Mariah Carey has Lambs, Bieber Beliebers and Jimmy Buffet Parrotheads. The little monsters obsessively follow Lady Gaga. Slipknot’s hardcore base is known as the Maggots. And if you’re a Juggalo, you’ll almost be part of the Insane Clown Posse world.

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So far so understandable, right? But Spring has identified a future type of music fan, the one who has just been invented. They foresee the rise of an uber-superfan, a cult fan who is so deep into a particular artist that they want the original version of something produced by that artist. These people are the ones buying NFTs and other Web 3.0 products that are in development. They also help pay for things like recordings and tours by contributing to pre-funding campaigns through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe.

If they could, they’d love to be able to collaborate with creators to do things like design merchandise. They will purchase multiple copies of any product offered by the artist. If an artist endorses a particular product, that product becomes the fan’s favorite product. And to help raise an artist’s profile, they sometimes put that musician’s Spotify playlist on loop and play it 24/7 with the volume turned down. And wait for the metaverse to hang on. These people are going to go crazy.

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Spring believes the future of the music business lies in getting people as far as possible through these 10 levels of fandom. And it might not be as difficult as you think.

Young people are still the main drivers of music culture and the next cohort of superfans will come from those born between 2010 and 2014. Call them Gen Alpha (we’re out of letters with Gen Z, so it’s time to start over. ) The oldest of these super-tech savvy kids will turn into a teenager next year, marking the start of their journey into musical adulthood. Their relationship to music will be hugely shaped by technology and, to some extent, the COVID years.

Spring’s study indicates that they will be more adaptable, more collaborative and more enterprising than any generation of music fans we’ve seen so far. They will live in a world of AI, voice recognition, blockchains, NFTs, the metaverse, ultra-personalized engagement, and gamification of everything.

We have come a long way. And the future looks interesting.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

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James C. Tibbs