Print & Magazine

’21st Century Fan,’ CMJ New Music Monthly

“We’re a link between the fans and the bands.” How Webmasters, including Hieroglyphics’ Stinke, served as a crucial connection and replaced faceless record label marketing strategies.

Today’s fan clubs are a lot more than just buttons and membership cards.

Originally published in CMJ New Music Monthly
August 2000
Pages 44-45

Story: Tamara Palmer
Photo illustration: John Sosnovsky

“I’m hanging on your bedroom wall / I see you when you ain’t wearing nothing at all / I’m looking for my No. I fan / And well be doing more than shaking hands…”

– Ginuwine, “No. I Fan”
The cover of the magazine, featuring the rock group Slipknot. The 3 band members appear in what look to be white mental asylum uniforms with a barcode on their respective chests. Every member dons a striking mask adorned with haunting paint and latex, reminiscent of a scene from a horror film.
CMJ New Music Monthly, August 2000

This R&B love god’s refrain neatly summarizes the typical fan fantasy for those enamored with more than their heroes’ music. I don’t think I would have minded a personal audience with John Taylor when I was the ll-year-old president of my junior high’s Duran Duran Fan Club (a small chapter with about eight members). Todays technology offers a better chance at personal interaction with your heroes (beyond John Taylor, who isn’t quite as in-demand as he used to be). The Internet has transformed the meaning and purpose of the fan club beyond buttons, posters and oohs and ahs over autographed pictures.

“The people have taken charge,” declares Jon Whitney, Webmaster of the East Arlington, Massachusetts-based “Access is to the world, which includes the bands too—they get on these [fan mailing] lists as well.” His four-year-old umbrella site is home to more than 35 independent artists and five labels, and receives 100,000 hits per day. Whitney also maintains an array of separate sites for labels and bands, including Thrill Jockey and Kranky, and artists like Meat Beat Manifesto, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Aerial M and Wire.

Long-established fan clubs now rely on the Web as a primary locus of operation, and thousands are strictly online affairs. “There are mailing lists and newsgroups which act as a forum for all members,” Whitney notes. “Legendary Pink Dots, for example, don’t have a ‘fan club’ but would like to consider the e-mail list Cloud Zero a ‘friend club’—they’re very personal with their fans.”

The LPD’s site is warm and inviting even to the outsider, augmenting the typical tour and release data with valuable advice for musicians trying to break into the business. “Chances are, there will be an innocuous sentence telling you that the contract is valid for the ‘period of the copyright.’ Don’t sign it!” they caution.

“We did, to find out that [former record label] Play It Again Sam’s publishing wing (SC Confidence) apparently has us under contract for 70 years after our deaths. We are making trouble about this.” Their insight may save new jacks some heartache-which is one of the most positive outgrowths of fans gathering online. In the best of cases, there’s a true mutual exchange that takes place between artists and their audiences.

A screenshot of the article, "21st Century Fan."
CMJ New Music Monthly, August 2000

For musicians, these online stops can be an effective means of finding out what their fans really want. For example, visitors to Oakland hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics’ site ( were recently given the opportunity to vote on which song should be the next single to be released from Del The Funky Homosapien’s Both Sides Of The Brain.

Of course, not all online clubs and communities are organized or productive—some are just plain silly—but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun to check out. The Simply Sisqo site ( simplysisqo/) has an area where fans can write and post their own serialized fiction themed around the flamboyant entertainer. In “Is This For Real?” a writer named Mystery Gyrl describes romanticized encounters with the singer and her thong that are… well, dial them up yourself, towel off and continue reading (see “Pup Fiction,” p. 46).

The Internet has irrevocably blurred the distinction between the fan club—previously an “obsessives only” deal—and the larger fan community. Join a mailing list devoted to a particular band and in many cases a whole new network of parties, events, conferences, sound recordings (legal and otherwise) opens up. Nonetheless, if you’re not truly enthralled by the choice of five different No Doubt channels on the popular IRC (Internet Relay Chat), or the possibility of talking to Fred Durst’s mom (, chat rooms and message boards dedicated to bands may not be your idea of a good time. Then again, you might just meet the girl or boy of your dreams in one of these cozy rooms, bonding over Blondie.

Elaborately maintained Web portals—helpful filters that provide some quality control in your search for the right place to hang out and talk about your favorite group—provide fans with a window to a world of discussions about musicians. Hop on the Tupac Jumpstation ( html), run by a woman in Australia known as Mrs. Makaveli, for quick access to nearly 200 sites about the late rapper. Some might head to the official site ( to check out the latest in sanctioned merchandise, while those looking for solace might scoot over to any number of sites that insist that Pac’s alive, well and chillin’ in Cuba right now.

A screenshot of the article, "21st Century Fan."
CMJ New Music Monthly, August 2000

“One of the downfalls, however, is the validity of information,” warns’s Whitney. “Years ago, you could trust anything that came from an authority. Now there are 5000 Web sites devoted to Tori Amos, making it hard for most Web serfs to distinguish what is current, accurate or official.” But a little research into the origins and creators of a site can help guide your judgment on the truthfulness of the information. The Rockinfreakapotami, otherwise known as the Red Hot Chili Peppers Fan Club (, always knows it’s getting the premium news and as much direct access to the band as possible, since the organization is run with love by Blackie Dammett, Anthony Kiedis’s father.

“The most rewarding thing is the feeling that I’m doing something that matters to people,” says Whitney, echoing thousands of Webmasters all over the globe. “We’re a link between the fans and the bands. We’re not a record label site which will only showcase the newest album and ignore a history with other labels and releases. I have met nearly all of my idols and have become somewhat of a friend to many. It’s more rewarding than my times working for labels when I was just a number, a cog in the huge industry machine.”

Reproduced on for educational purposes.