If ever there was a year to feel lonely, this is it. Words like ‘self-isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ have become casual parts of everyday conversations. We have been forced to spend prolonged periods of time in lockdown and separated from our loved ones. Meet-ups have been largely limited to staring at a frozen image of your friend while Zoom tells you ‘Your connection is poor’.
Ironically, Zoom seems to have hit the nail on the head, because the pandemic has undoubtedly made it harder to connect with others.
Listening to your favourite artist’s voice and watching sitcoms from a pre-social-distancing world have been some of the ways we’ve reminded ourselves that humans outside of our ‘bubble’ exist. But music and TV can also help us battle the lockdown blues in another way - through fan clubs.
Now, I realise that fan clubs can sometimes get a bit of a bad rep. After all, if being ‘cool’ means being laid-back and blasé about everything, then it’s deemed ‘nerdy’ to be super into something. But if you really enjoy a particular artist’s music or a certain TV show, then why hide how much you love it? Generally, fan clubs are a fun, friendly space where you can build a strong sense of community amongst others who are just as ‘nerdy’ about an artist as you are.
Besides, music began as a hugely social medium, and the only places you used to be able to listen to music would be opera theatres, ballrooms, dance halls and the like. Even more recently, before earphones were invented, music was designed to be played out loud and enjoyed by everyone in the room.
Nowadays, the preferred way we listen to music is through headphones. It sounds clearer than playing it out loud, and it’s also more considerate to those around you who might not want to listen to that same Luke Combs song ten times in a row. Music has become far more private, and the introduction of streaming services only increased this personalisation.
Before, when the charts used to mean something, people would listen to the songs and albums that were popular, because otherwise you wouldn’t know what everyone was talking about the next day at school. By contrast, we now have Spotify and Apple Music curating our own personal playlists based on our listening habits.
Even so, prior to the pandemic, music still had a social side. We could bond with friends over the hits that were being played at nightclubs, and we could experience the unrivalled unity of belting out the lyrics to your favourite songs with 60,000 other people at a concert.
Sadly, the pandemic has put a temporary end to concerts and nightclubs, and music has become more private than ever. This is why I believe fan clubs are a great way to keep the social aspect of music alive.
For every artist, no matter how well-known they are, you can pretty much guarantee there’s a Facebook group for their fans. Whether you want to start off by joining a group of 10 other people that also discovered that super indie band you like, or whether you prefer to opt for the well-known fan groups, such as the Beliebers or Directioners, there’s something for everyone.
From my experience, the content posted by these groups includes hidden ‘B-sides’ by the artist that most people might not have heard; stories from fans about why they fell in love with this artist’s music; and general excitement about new songs that the artist has just released. Some artists make more of an effort than others. Luke Combs’ official ‘Bootleggers’ fan group, for example, enjoys exclusive merch deals and ticket links, and there’s even a Secret Santa being organised this year. Others aren’t artist-led, and therefore don’t offer as much exclusive content, but are still enjoyable nonetheless.
If you can’t settle on a particular artist’s fan group, there are also general ‘genre groups' you can become part of instead. For example, if Hip Hop’s your thing, then you can join ‘Hip Hop Now’ or ‘Hip Hop Debates UK’, where there are daily discussions about the best Hip Hop songs, albums, and the most under-rated artists.
I’m the sort of person that loves making playlists and sharing songs that I’m excited about with friends. But I’ll admit that my music taste can be quite peculiar (to put it nicely), and I’m sure my friends don’t want to be constantly bombarded with all my weird and wonderful music recommendations.
So if you get similarly excited about music and feel the urge to spam people with playlists, then fan groups give you the perfect outlet to do this. Especially if your friends aren’t as into a particular artist as you are, it’s reassuring to know that you’re not the only one fan out there.
In the world of Facebook fan groups, there’s no such thing as ‘bad music taste’, and, at least in my experience, there’s rarely any competition between fans to prove that they’re a ‘bigger fan’ than you. It’s just a space to express your love of a particular kind of music, and to enjoy a sense of camaraderie with other fans.
For example, when Luke Combs was pushing for the Number 1 spot over Ariana Grande in October, the ‘Bootleggers’ group felt more like a football club than a fan group. Everyone was streaming and sharing to try and get Luke to Number 1, and even though he had to settle for Number 2 in the end, it felt pretty cool to be part of the collective team effort.
With the recent hope offered by a potentially successful vaccine, it seems there might be light at the end of the COVID tunnel, and we’ll be able to build a sense of community again by being reunited with loved ones. But until then, I think any opportunity to connect with others is worth trying. So why not give a Facebook fan group a go?And remember, most fan groups are private. So you can still talk Heavy Metal with your friends, without them knowing that you secretly signed up for yet another‘ One Direction Secret Santa’…