The Lost Art of Fanclubs …

(Yet another Electric piece, I promise I will get better at keeping this current!)

In this technologically advanced age, band and fan interaction is increasing at an atmospheric rate. From getting fans involved remixing tracks or starring in videos, there’s every chance to help out a band you love. Even recently Johnny Foreigner asked their fans to contribute photographs to be used as artwork on their new EP, even offering the senders a free track only available to them, and giving many people the satisfaction of searching for their photograph on the vinyl’s.

With my all time favourite band Los Campesinos! launching a subscription act called Heat Rash, I was immediately brought back to my younger days, and desires to join many a fan club. With Heat Rash offering the fans a quarterly zine with a limited 7” and discounts on merchandise and gig tickets, its one step closer to a band that so many people love.

While many people are prepared to pay the £25 or so that this membership costs, there are incredible risks to those that have paid. With internet sharing and forums at an all time high, there’s the risk that one person will put any of this information online, scanning pages and ripping tracks.

This may be considered generous to those that can’t afford to subscribe to a service, but I disagree. A cost should be put on these things, in the case of Los Campesinos! its not like they’re the most profitable band around, and this could damage it even further. They’ve laboured on the songs and on every detail of the zine, even asking the fans for help, and this could all be destroyed by one thoughtless (or thoughtful?) person chooses to upload it for all to see I know I wouldn’t be happy.

Without bands like Los Campesinos! blogging their albums of the year or new releases, I wouldn’t have found many of the artists that I love today, like Xiu Xu or Parenthetical Girls. And through T-shirt sales that they’ve run I have two of Gareth’s great band t-shirt collection, just adding to the relationship between the band and their fans (these are two of my most favourite things in the world).

We’re in an age where if you search for an album title, within a couple of clicks it will be downloaded for you to enjoy, free of charge. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for bands to break, this piracy means that bands have to look at alternative methods of funding projects.  Bands are making more and more interesting merchandise (Best Coast sunglasses anyone?) to counteract this, and I can’t help but feel Heat Rash is part of this.

Fan clubs were all the rage years ago, but that’s when most of us were in junior school and the bands weren’t quite as cool as Los Campesinos! Personally I always wanted to join a Spice Girls or S Club 7 fan club, but I never reached those levels of lameness. If we go back even further, those cheeky pop upstarts Shampoo were in charge of one of the many Manic Street Preachers fanzines.

With so many blogs and tumblr accounts becoming a replacement to fanzines and fanclubs (every single member of LC! has a tumblr dedicated to them) it’s difficult to see why people would pay over the odds for content, even if it can be considered exclusive (until it turns up online).

I know that had I not found some reasoning to pay the £31 for Heat Rash, with me being a very poor student that was a very difficult decision, had the content appeared online I wouldn’t have looked. And that’s me being honest. In Los Campesinos! I try my hardest to pay for everything I possibly can, even after the leak of their last album Romance Is Boring it was on my iPod on the day of the leak, then on my doormat on the day of release.

The appeal for me with ideas such as these is the physical format. I cannot wait for the first instalment to go through the letterbox, to put on that limited 7” after a hard day at Uni, and leafing through the zine, savouring every single moment. While this cannot match the immediacy of the Internet, there’s something special about that feeling of something in your hands. And while there are people like me, willing to pay that little bit more, the idea and execution of such ideas will be constantly available.



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