About eight months ago I moved out. I had the wonderful opportunity to get a room in a house with three other students who all studied in my home town of Spijkenisse and Rotterdam. It’s a big room in a noisy house and we, the residents of this shelter from the cold, are typical students: We love pizza; we don’t clean anything besides our rooms (at least… I clean my room and the kitchen when the mood takes me) and the walls are thin as paper. It’s also cheap, so the decision was as easy as counting to three.
The house where I used to live has a TV and a radio, both of which were on pretty much all the time and we mostly watched MTV Brand New or listened to Q-music on the radio. It was a nice way for me to stay up-to-date with everything the “mainstream” music industry threw at us, the plebs. When I moved out I made the decision to not buy a TV (there’s fuck all on) or a radio (I have a huge library on my PC) and as a result of that I became horribly unaware of the goings on in the music industry. I picked up on my favourite mainstream artists via social media like Facebook or Twitter, but I hadn’t seen a music video or heard a live studio performance in a while. I’ve also been slacking off in keeping up-to-date with the artist that were just entering the top 40 and so I decided to look up some live performances of some of my favourite “new” pop artists. I watched a few BBC Live Lounge performances and intimate acoustic sessions before I looked up footage from the most recent tour Ed Sheeran did in Ireland. And I was shocked.
Let me say this first: I consider myself a fan of Ed Sheeran, in that I’ve seen him live twice and I’ve listened to his CDs loads of times (I still do sometimes, but I’ve listened to it so much when it first came out that I’ve become a bit desensitised to his stuff). He’s good at what he does and consumers around the world recognise that. All is well, one would think. The thing that got me though was not his new-found worldwide fame, but the response the ones who made him famous gave to him. When I saw him live the host of the evening kindly asked us to keep it down because, after all, we’re dealing with one guy playing an acoustic guitar on stage. The (mostly female) audience were happy to oblige and the gig went off without a hitch. It was a pleasurable experience for me, except for a few girls in waiting in line when we were waiting to enter the venue who were having an animated argument over who Mr. Sheeran would pick to go out with, given the chance. Mildly annoying, but nothing that could invoke one of my rare but fun rants that my friends have come to know and (dare I say it) love.
Fast forward to today. Here I was, sat in my little room, perusing the interwebs and coming across a tour diary by Ed Sheeran. Like I said, I like the guy. I think he’s a pleasant chap and all that so I watch the thing. The change in fans and fan reaction to him is enormous. Gone is the intimacy of the set I saw just over a year earlier, gone are the people who mostly liked him for his music. Instead of the kind of fans that made my first live experience with Ed Sheeran so pleasurable, they were replaced by hordes upon hordes of screaming, arm-wailing, obsessive teenage girls. The amount of sound they collectively produced was so loud that it was hard to hear just which song Sheeran was playing. What happened? Why did it happen?
It’s not that I mind teenage girls being there, of course not. Sheeran is getting the attention he rightfully deserves and he works hard for it. What I don’t get is the disrespect his fans show towards him by actively blocking out any sound he’s trying to make. They relentlessly scream during the songs and yet somehow manage to crank up the volume when the song ends. How is this guy able to concentrate? And why is there nobody in the audience who seems to mind that they’re not getting what they paid for? Of course I understand why his fans are like this. It’s partly the folly of youth, the extreme amount of youthful enthusiasm that only young girls seem to possess (again, nothing completely wrong with that outside of this context) and it’s also Sheeran’s image that attracts these kinds of people and their reactions. But I can’t help but look at this from the perspective of a musician who has played live and acoustic. If something like this were to happen at one of my gigs I would’ve packed my stuff after song one and walked off stage. There’s no room for concentration and to me it would feel like they were only there for me, not for my music. But this kind of behaviour is not unique to the likes of Ed Sheeran. It happens in other sub-cultures too, albeit in a slightly different form. I talk of course about the metal scene, where people mosh until they are either tired or someone leaves on a stretcher. Or the endless discussions about what is “good” metal and what is “bad” metal. And don’t you dare say that you quite enjoyed the last Linkin Park record or that you think that the newest Slayer album was a bit so-so. You’ll be keelhauled! It’s this kind of behaviour that makes me avoid going to concerts like that (and I love Killswitch Engage as much as the next man).
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you had any bad experiences with fans of a specific type of music/artist? Join the discussion!