Ignoring the Music Business
While many fans represent their connection with Bruce Springsteen in terms of his music "touching them," a very personal and immediate interaction, they nevertheless admit that their listening is part of a lengthy and elaborate act of commodified exchange. Fans know that when Springsteen writes a song, he cannot simply perform it for his audience; the song must travel a complex circuit involving band members, record company executives, managers, producers, recording technicians, mixing engineers, promotion people, designers, printers, record store owners, clerks, the press, radio DJs, concert promoters, roadies, and merchandisers before it ever reaches anyone's ears (see Darnton 1989). As 20-year- old college student Russ Curley told me, "Ideally, you would have music, and the people who were going to listen to it naturally gravitate toward it. But things are complicated when you have a capitalist society and system where music is big business" (interview, November 2, 1993).
Many scholars of popular culture focus on this circuit and accept as commonplace the importance of large, centralized, business institutions in the organization of fandom. As I have explained in the Introduction, theories abound in which fans are described as the product of, or response to, various kinds of business practices, from the creation of a star system to the development of media "hype." The music business is almost always portrayed as powerful and manipulative, while fans come across as either completely duped, obediently shelling out their cash for useless trinkets and shallow experiences (the view of Frankfurt School theorists and most champions of "good music"), or struggling to fight the good fight, resisting corporate greed and trying to create a better world (the view of postmodernists and neo-Marxists). In both cases, scholars tend to see fandom as something primarily shaped by a relationship with the mass culture industry.
Although the fans to whom I spoke did see some truth in these theories, they were hesitant to endorse any one. As Anna Selden, a law student in Florida, re