The universal dream?

Over the past few days I’ve noticed several instances where fandom has gone wrong. Times when fans (wilfully or otherwise) misinterpret their relationship with people they admire, when they seem to forget that these people are human beings, ultimately no different than they are themselves.

However, the most depressing instance came as ReVamp‘s recent short tour of South America was drawing to a close. ReVamp is fronted by Nightwish‘s Floor Jansen, a veteran metal vocalist who previously fronted Dutch symphonic metal legends After Forever. Having released their second album last year, ReVamp managed to make South American dates feasible – no mean feat in itself for a band that don’t sell a bazillion copies of their albums, and there was much delight among South American metal fans who don’t often get the chance to see some of the European acts play live.

A few hours ago, a clearly anxious Floor was moved to post the following to her Facebook page:

Dear fans,

After nightmares and many worried thoughts I decided to write this letter in reaction to the negative messages that are going around about me on the internet. Messages that hurt me very much because they’re either not true or they are based on the interpretation of a person with different expectations. I feel the need to explain myself to hopefully stop the negative reactions.

I am a humble person. Happy with what I am doing and grateful for all the support. When I have the opportunity to meet fans that support me, I always try to do so. However sometimes it’s not possible to meet, this is not because I don’t want to, but more
because time or energy doesn’t allow it. It’s nothing personal. Next to this, I must stress that my reason of being on tour is to play good shows! Meeting fans and taking pictures is an extra I would like to offer when time and energy allow it. It’s not something a fan can presume to have.

If I meet people and I ask not to touch me, this again is nothing personal. I don’t like it. Some people (in general) are more physical than others and I am not comfortable with touching strangers or being grabbed. There are dozens of people every day who want this and I try to politely tell people not to touch. It’s a personal boundary I ask people to respect. If you’re a fan you should be able to respect this.

During the first show in Brazil I almost tumbled over on stage because I lost my balance at the moment more than a 100 people at the same time used their flash on their cameras. I asked people to stop using flash because of that, in a nice way… I had to repeat this request a few times. I am not asking it to nag about something, only because we as a band cannot do the show well with it. I am asking for understanding and respect. I’m sad that some people got mad and called me a diva for it.

Filming during shows is not allowed. But everyone does it so it almost became normal. If you, as a fan of us, want to film something of the show I think you should do that. But if you want to film the entire show I must say no. I also say no to people who film on stage, with the camera too close. It’s intimidating and distracting and the person holding it is not rocking along with us, he or she is just standing there, focusing on making a bootleg. Is that support for a band? Is that having a great time? It would please all of us on stage if the focus is more on the moment and not on making pictures and films for later or internet.

Now, I hope I have been able to explain why some things are the way they are. And that I love touring, making music, doing shows and meeting fans. I am not an arrogant bitch, but if you think that I am, based on a brief moment, because you got disappointed and I was not able to meet your expectations I ask you to reconsider these expectations and to look at the same situation again, also a bit through my eyes. I try to understand you as well. I understand you waited and want a moment with me. That is why I do my best to meet people as much as possible (for example: meet & greets every day and photos and autographs with everyone who comes to the hotels and airport) I also try to include our fans into our world by making tour reports. I spend hours on making them. For you!

So, I hope tonight I can sleep better knowing I told you this. Asking for mutual understanding and respect. I would also like to ask anyone with time enough to translate this into Portuguese and Spanish.

with love and respect,
Floor”

All eminently reasonable, yes? Floor is not a newcomer who doesn’t know what to expect: she’s been doing this for quite some time, has played intimate club shows and enormous festivals, has travelled extensively and takes her music and the presentation of it very seriously. Put her name into Google image search and you’ll see scores of photos of her posing with very happy fans, all over the world. Clearly, though, there have been issues at some – not all – of the South American shows. Floor’s message was posted after a show where she repeatedly asked fans to stop using flash photography. When they refused to do so, Floor actually knocked aside a camera that was being waved at her from the front of stage.

Once Floor’s message was posted, reactions were predictably polarised. Happily, the majority of messages were supportive and understanding, but as always, the shallow end of fandom’s gene pool was well represented. Feast your eyes on some of these responses:

“It didn’t convince me, shemale. You should hug ur fans cause they will do nothing wrong
with u and u should not shove the fans camera, what is the fucking if he or she is filming
the concert? Anyone has its own way to appreciate the concert. Anyway, I just hope u come to brazil again with Nightwish cause I really want to meet, Tuomas, Emppu, Jukka, Marco and Troy, for sure they are fuckin friendly, different than you that should stop to think that we will rape u just touching on u.”

“I don’t like strange people touching me either. The big difference is… I´m not famous.
When you’re famous people will have a lot of expectations about you […] I think it comes
with the job.”

“1) only the people of Brazil take pictures with flashes?
2) in 2012, in the Nightwish show, people were not taking pictures with flashes?
3) where it’s specified that the shows can’t be filmed?
4) this gives you the right to take the cellphones of the people without permission?
5) this gives you the right to ask for a stagehand warn people in the audience that they
would be evicted of the show if didn’t stop filming and photographing?
5) that blames the fans have to be close to the stage if there isn’t a grid that separates
the stage from the audience?
6) is it necessary to be ironic with fans in some speaks?
7) why some people can touch you and others not?”

“Personally, to me, you have always been respectful and vice versa. But I was extremely
disappointed in Curitiba, unfortunately. Were not the expectations that were high, but I
believe there duties of both parties. I have done my “obligations” (not [used] flash, didn’t
ask for After Forever’s songs, didn’t touch you, not disrespected you), fulfilled my role.
Unfortunately, your attitudes still disappointed me, bothered me the way you acted with
some people, even though the show has been extraordinary.”

“I deeply admire floor but i think she is a public figure and she must do what she is
paid for doing…”

“hope you don’t be able to sleep well, cuz what you did was disgusting”

“You owe it to your fans, without them you will not have anything, think again girl, you
are very ill-advised.”

“I didn’t know taking people’s cameras and cellphones without permission is being kind to people. Neither knew people are forbidden to film the entire show in shows that are not declared as non camera-friendly… neither knew I people are obligated to do what the artist wants them to do and not enjoy the show the way they want. You’ve been acting as a beginner, as a person who is not used to being onstage. Artists have to deal with this kind of stuff, it is part of their job. Being truly kind is another thing u must do. If you don’t like it, I guess you’re working in the wrong field.”

“Floor, I’m so disappointed, I thought you were a people person. If the fans hug you, or
kiss you is a demonstration of gratitude for the admiration they have. Remember without us you’re just a talented unfamous singer… I used to see you as a Cristina Scabbia or a Doro, those women deserve my respect and all my gratitude for being such fans of their fans… Sorry Floor but you lost a fan… I think you’re an amazing singer but don’t say you love your fans because that’s not true.”

“I even cooperated with the Kickstarter campaign to fund your US Tour and this is the way you treat your fans??? No photos??? No touching???”

“It’s always our fault… don’t be stupid, you’ll find cameras and flashes wherever you
go, that’s your job, you can’t complain about that.”

“Boundaries are open… but don’t believe it’s real!”

“SO SHORT STORY SHORT
Things that a fan cant do:
Touch
flash with camera
record the show (even if allowed)
Ask for music
Hug

SO BASICALY I CANT BE YOUR FAN ?”

“You guys are seriously saying that I should do whatever the ARTIST tells me? Like follow their instructions to how to behave and act in a concert?”

“So I will be a ”real” and respectful fan only if I follow ALL those rules: “No photos,
no filming, no waiting outside hotels and airports to briefly meet the band.” If I buy
their albums, tickets and merch stuff, listen to their music and be a passionate fan with
a hope to meet them I will NOT be a good/real/respectful fan?”

“I disagree with the word “stranger” … The people who were there to see this woman her
fans, people who love her work.. What problem with filming and all this? Here in Brazil
we call FRESCURITE AGUDA and it only heals when lose all the fans and support.”

“You look so horrible doing that. it’s not your first time on camera, Floor, it’s not
your first time on stage, come on!”

“Don’t take pictures, don’t touch me, just give your money, and all u guys agreed with
that apologize… I love that type of blind fans… I have a simple solution, don’t come
here again!”

“Being a rock n roll artist and not wanting to be touched is The same Of being a soccer
player and wanting not to be sweaty… Go back to your boring opera and classical stuff!”

“I went from CARACAS, VENEZUELA, a country IN WAR and I just wanted to give a hug to you and what was your reaction? I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO TOUCH ME… You’re like Simone Simons, from EPICA… Please YOU LIVE AND YOU HAVE WHAT YOU HAVE BECAUSE THE FANS GIVE YOU THE MONEY YOU HAVE… I never meant to touch you…. It’s just that I just paid ENOUGH MONEY to see my favorite singer and then you think you are madonna…. C’MON! You’re just a racist and I have pictures of you REJECTING ME AND REJECTING OTHER PEOPLE just because your mental cultural differences? Let me tell you something THIS WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN FOR ME and my family and friends will never forget it! such a pity, I won’t be your fan anymore and I’ll communicate this to Tuomas Holopainen from NIGHTWISH… I HAVE ENOUGH
EVIDENCE”

“From now YOU ARE A STRANGER FOR ME TOO and you’ll pay this thing too… see you in Nightwish racist!”

“I may not be a fan of someone racist who refuses to [consider] their fans, […] telling
them “[Don’t touch me]” because you’re [the same kind of] racist [as] SIMONE
SIMONS… [Til the day I] die, I will not buy a Nightwish album with you [again] and
I hope that you take the band more fast what you think… are not cultural differences
your not you’re SUPERIOR to anyone is only your problem of race. I want my money back and I’m going to sue for [racism]. I’ve got my ticket and if I delete these messages
you SUED”

“I’m saving the screen captions of everything I’ve posted here… you won’t last in
Nightwish. Do you want to know why? Because they’re just looking [for] a humble singer, a person to count on… NOT A DIVA…”

“Racist garbage is what you are”

“If she doesn’t want people to be close to her SHE SHOULD JUST GIVE OUR MONEY BACK that would be fair!”

“why some singers from her country (like her and the singer of Epica) think they’re better than anyone? Floor Jansen NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO DELETE THIS YOU HAVE DONE NOW you should be ashamed AND I want my money back”

“YOU’LL PAY THIS, see you when Nightwish era comes.. do you know why? because we (the fans) are who feed you SHAME ON YOU Floor Jansen. We thought you were more humble… you’ll never replace Annette or Tarja. YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU HAVE BECAUSE “WE PAY TO YOU”. Think of that honey…. you’re DISGUSTING”

“Hey dear Fanbase of MADAME Floor Jansen, she’s just calling us “STRANGER” for paying [for] those expensive tickets to see her live with her band… well, Floor, let me tell you that if you call me a stranger YOU’RE JUST A GOOD FOR NOTHING FOR ME AND I WANT MY MONEY BACK”

“Crybaby.”

“Maybe you are not prepared to be a public person. Anyway, I am not your fan anymore, the way you treat your fans are very disrespectful. Don’t forget they are the people who buy your CDs, buy tickets for your concerts… And I won’t spend my money with you anymore, you don’t deserve it 😉 You should be thankful to all your fans!”

Sitting here, reading all this back… well, it makes me a sad panda. I realise these comments were in the minority and that most fans are perfectly reasonable people with reasonable expectations, but I despair of a world that allows this mind-set to exist. Where musicians are treated like wind-up toys, where their right to privacy is routinely disregarded, where they are expected to behave however their fans please because “it’s their job”, where the music matters so little to people that it comes a distant third behind meeting/taking photos of the people who made it and taking bad photos and/or video that even the least talented cameraman would sooner slit his own throat rather than post on the internet (and spoiling everyone’s gig into the bargain: the rest of the audience and the band themselves).

One wonders what horrific events might have to unfold to wake people up to the very real dangers of this kind of fandom. These people have completely warped and unrealistic expectations of the people they claim to idolise: frankly many of them seem scarcely different to Annie Wilkes from Stephen King‘s Misery. Is it any wonder that some musicians are very wary of being manhandled by members of their audience? People who they’ve never met who feel it’s OK to hug them and kiss them. People who seem to feel that their favourite musicians owe them a blood debt for buying their records. People who feel they have no right to privacy. People who, in short, don’t seem to think that their favourite musicians are people.

Musicians are people too. 

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6 Responses to The universal dream?

  1. buzzandhum says:

    Not familiar with the name or band, it wasn’t until a few paragraphs in that I realised that Floor Jansen is a woman. But as soon as I realised that, the sexist, entitled responses became depressingly predictable. God forbid a woman musician should have the right to bodily autonomy or to protect herself without abuse and threats…

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Reminded of the recent story about Avril Lavigne stipulating a three-foot separation between her and fans for photos at a meet-and-greet she was charging hundreds of pounds for, because she’d been groped by a fan on a previous South American tour,

    I’m wondering how much this is a South American thing.

    • HippyDave says:

      The Lavigne story caused a great deal of internet hilarity, but – whilst the outrageous fee for her meet’n’greets was just that: outrageous – the fees seemed to get most of the attention, and the few people who sniggered at the three-foot separation thing seemed utterly oblivious to what had happened to Lavigne. It was almost as if people felt that she shouldn’t complain about it: “Oh, you earn a truckload of money, that should more than compensate for being manhandled!” Leaving aside the issue that Lavigne – being signed to a major label – probably doesn’t make as much as some people imagine anyway, that complete disregard for personal boundaries is a perfect example of how entertainers are being dehumanised.

      South America is an odd market. The chief issue is that so comparatively few acts get to play in South America: you know there is something up when bands as universally popular as Iron Maiden play certain places for the first time this late into their careers. Starved of appearances by these kind of legacy acts (let alone the newer ones), South American fans do go endearingly batshit when they get the chance to see these bands in action – to the point of paying ludicrous ticket prices for the privilege (promoters in South America push up ticket prices to insane levels as they know fans are desperate enough to pay them, and they are frequently equivalent to a month’s wages (or more), which leads to its own problems in turn). Small wonder, then, that some of them get carried away. That’s no excuse – they should pause and realise that what their expectations are unrealistic and that everyone is different – but I can quite see why it happens.

  3. Wednesday says:

    This post has really struck a nerve with me – invoking emotions of both anger and sadness… you’ve hit on all the right points, about why this is so wrong; and it’s plainly obvious to see why Floor is completely correct and these individuals are so very much in the wrong – which scares me a little, that some people can be so blind to it all.

    I always feel nervous about bothering artists, because I have enough empathy to be able to imagine how I would feel in their place – and I am always amazed by how tolerant and friendly most musicians are despite all this… whether that involves any form of physical contact, or not (and, unless I know them well, I prefer limited / no contact myself!).

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone could spend one week in the shoes of the person they choose to criticise? I imagine there’d suddenly be a lot of retractions from these “ex-fans”…

    • HippyDave says:

      I expect so, Wednesday, yeah (or at least I’d like to think so). Then again, reading back some of the comments, you have to marvel at their complete lack of empathy. The comments feel like a huge wall of “Me, me, me”, and I wonder if any of them really understand how selfish and childish they sound to other people.

      I too am astonished at how tolerant many musicians are, faced with “fans” who genuinely see what they do as a “job” (regardless of the fact that, increasingly, many musicians have to get ‘regular’ paid employment to enable them to make their music in the first place). They expect x, y, and z from musicians and get offended if they don’t get it, regardless of the reasons for it not happening. It occurs to me that the popularity of “campaign” sites like Kickstarter are in part responsible for this: people with the mindset I’ve described look at the things one artist is offering and wonder why another artist isn’t doing it (“Why aren’t you doing x? Don’t you want to be successful?”). They fail to understand that one person’s preferred boundaries may be very different to someone else’s, for any number of reasons. That outlook betrays the fact that they’re not even looking at the musicians as people, just manufacturing machinery: produce the music (and goat forbid if they take too long about it), then do whatever the fans want.

      It’s a sad state of affairs, and it seems to be getting worse, not better. People always seem to have a weird relationship with fandom (witness the numerous celeb-obsessed gossip mags that clutter the newsagents shelves), but that always used to be the preserve of celebs who are very well-known (the “household names”) – with the advent of the internet, it seems anyone can become a household name, almost overnight, so that sort of unwelcome attention can be turned on anyone at a moment’s notice. Having seen the detrimental effect that web-based notoriety can have on entertainers (not just musicians) close up a few times now, I wonder in some ways if the human race was psychologically ready for the “world at your fingertips” that the internet provides. Heh: “world at your fingertips”… No wonder some people feel unnecessarily entitled to whatever they want…

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