Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World

By Jonathan Gray; Cornel Sandvoss et al. | Go to book overview

19
Customer Relationship Management
Automating Fandom in Music Communities

Tom McCourt and Patrick Burkart

Fan cultures receive much attention in contemporary media studies, and for good reason. As social and cultural phenomena, they offer researchers a chance to observe seemingly pure play—authentic and often charming self-disclosures and shared identities among enthusiastic participants. However, cultural industries increasingly are seeking to rationalize and routinize these expressions of identity and solidarity in online contexts in the hopes of reducing uncertain demand (Burkart & McCourt 2006). Since consumers face an ongoing avalanche of products in the form of recordings, videos, and texts, it is imperative that marketers steer the right items to the right consumers at the right time. Discovering affinity groups, and tapping into their searching and sharing operations, has become a lucrative business. “Word-of-mouth is an incredibly powerful discovery tool for music fans,” according to eMusic's COO, David Pakman. “Our new 'neighbors' and 'top fans' features deliver the virtual equivalent of that. For the first time, a music service will introduce you to your musical 'neighbors' and kickoff a more personal way to discover new music” (Choicestream 2004).

The major record labels are tethering online spaces to their newest digital distribution channels (Burkart & McCourt 2006). The “automation of fandom” denotes their management of virtual communities through sponsored online “hosts” and automated content software that defines and controls each fan's online “experience.” As they attempt to displace informal fan sites, their legal strategies have also hampered open file sharing and threaten the “relative anonymity and diversity of public criticism”

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