By Lynne Margolis
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If anyone attending the 2013 South by Southwest festival had any doubt about social media's role in building artist-fan relationships, the "Girls And Tech: Why Young Women Rule In Music" panel, held March 13 at the Austin Convention Center, likely sent them scurrying to build GIF-laden Tumblr accounts.
Moderated by Rae Votta of MTV Networks, the all-female panel, a SXSW rarity, featured Lindsay Gabler, Recording Academy Social Media Specialist; Shana Krochmal, Out magazine; Danielle Strle, director of production, Tumblr; and Megan Westerby, vice president of marketing at the Collective.
The panelists asked audience members to indicate when their passions were ignited on a fan worship timeline, from the Beatles and the Jackson 5 to Duran Duran, New Kids On The Block, Hanson, Britney Spears, and Justin Bieber, among other artists, and noted that yesterday's fan club founders and members, panelists included, are today's social media influencers.
Just as letter-fielding club presidents once did, today's Tumblr and fan page builders are serving as unofficial publicists/marketers, and, as the panelists agreed, they're impacting artists' marketing decisions. In fact, artists sometimes use key fans, rather than mainstream media, to release information.
Holding up a New Kids On The Block scrapbook, which sold for 99 cents in 1990, Krochmal displayed the blank space on the cover for fans to cut and paste their own photo among the band members' faces. That, she said, was an early form of utilizing Photoshop to insert oneself into band photos. According to Strle, a huge community of teens is teaching one another the finer points of Tumblr, including advanced Photoshop and coding, turning themselves into an army of minitech wizards.
"As fans, you learn so many things that you don't even realize will help you in your career," Westerby said. And this experience belongs on résumés.
"Treat your fan experience like work experience," Krochmal added.
Gabler, a New Kids On The Block "worshiper," mentioned that many fans have not abandoned their early loves and now spend significant amounts of adult time and money to attend reunion shows, cruises and other fan-based activities. Westerby added this means that fans deserve respect even when they're young. And chances are young fans are having the most fun at shows because, as Strle explained, "They don't have their cool on."
"Every single person, male [or] female, have an inner fan," added Gabler.
Bands who know how to tap into that fan base will be the most successful, they agreed.
"If you want to know how to market to fans, ask them what they want, and then give it to them," said Krochmal.
The panelists unanimously agreed young fans are not only driving the explosive success of acts such as One Direction, they're going to be running media campaigns — and companies — in the not-too-distant future.
Also At SXSW:
Café Tacvba revved up a hot-ticket NPR bill that also included Nick Cave & The Bad seeds, Alt-J and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, while Iggy & The Stooges held court down the street at the Mohawk. Additional artists performing at Mohawk included Japandroids, the Specials, Sky Ferreira, and Ghostface Killah. Meanwhile, at Rachael Ray's Feedback House Party at Banger’s included guests such as guitarist James Rotondi (aka ROTO), formerly with Air and Grassy Knoll.
(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR-affiliate KUTX-FM's "Texas Music Matters," regional and local magazines including Lone Star Music and Austin Monthly, and newspapers nationwide. She has previously contributed to the Christian Science Monitor (for which she was the "go-to" writer for Beatles stories), Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine. A contributing editor to the encyclopedia, The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen From A To E To Z, she also writes bios for new and established artists.)