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In the age of numbers is fandom the true measure of an artist’s success?


Bohemian Rhapsody
was a direct address to the fans of Queen which in February, bagged four Academy Awards. A Queen revival had most-assuredly taken place. That wasn’t the only joy, the fact that Rami Malek, the protagonist of the movie, taking home the Best Actor award, was another.

But why was a band of the ’70s being revived as a biopic in 2019? While the fans of the band were enthralled by the excitement to relive a clichéd “trip down memory lane,” the group of Millenials, who could not witness the era, Bohemian Rhapsody provided an exponential gateway than just experiencing Queen‘s music.

The film’s soundtrack was the biggest selling album in North America during the period. The Queen Greatest Hits 1 record was No 2. The band sold 731,000 albums – a figure higher than any other rock act – and had 1.3 million downloads.


What is Fandom?

The period of the ’70s was not the most accessible in consuming music. Getting a hold of CDs and cassettes were not just physical objects but prized possessions for the fans.

Today’s era has a throng of OTTs like Apple Music, Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn etc., which has simplified consumption but that does not qualify as fandom.  It is not about how many times an artist like Freddie Mercury is listened to but how does a fan relate with the artist. This relation builds a bridge between the artist and the consumer which surpasses generation, involuntarily increasing consumption.

In an exclusive conversation with Manoj Dawane, Founder and CEO, VTION Media Analytics, he breaks fandom down for us.y

“It’s only because of fandom that the liking for an artist’s music surpasses age. It has nothing to do with consumption. Fandom and consumption have a correlation but the number of streams does not define fandom at all.” 

Further down the conversation, he explains how understanding fandom is a three-dimensional process. It involves primarily fans or users, artist (s) and usage.
The interaction between a user and an artist is the plane where fandom exists which is irrespective of consumption. The plane involving artists and usage is where the focus needs to be because that is the monetisation plane. The plane for users and usage is dedicated to marketing and strategy which is achieved through schemes that OTTs adapt. While the plane involving users and the usage depicts consumption which is driven by the ones heading marketing.


Fandom is about attending a Billy Joel concert in Albert Hall, London, about listening to Lata Mangeshkar at Sur Ganga festival, about Woodstock, it’s listening to Rabindra Sangeet in Shantiniketan.

There could be a contradiction in saying that the songs of artists can be streamed now but that does not qualify as fandom, that’s merely consumption. And that makes a difference.

According to the Global Music Report, 2019, Japan contributed to 71% of revenue through physical sales.
A question of interest arises when a country like Japan with no limit in resources is indulging in physical consumption of music. But again, fandom brings us to understand that it is the main reason why a fan would want to possess physical items from their worshipped artists and vis-a-viz bands.
The need to possess these objects is because it enables a sense of ownership for the fan and strengthening the emotion the fan already shares for the artist. Along with a display of these items, can be an ice-breaker for awkward conversations and a boost to the pride to the collector.

Monetising Fandom

Fandom needs to be a direct interaction to pull the audience and create a connect. To which Dawane exemplifies, he tells us how the Chinese have mastered the art of monetising fandom.

He says,

“I have not seen a single show yet, where OTTs have announced a singer to go live on their platforms to sing to build that connection.”

That said, the advent of OTTs have eased music listening. However, an OTT in India indulging in an event with an adored artist would be increasing fandom too. Garnering audience for a live social media event of an artist of a high repertoire would be a cakewalk. Also, for the audience to be allowed access to such an event is only a way to enhance the relationship with them.

With the help of managers and feasible marketing strategies, the involvement of artists and audience would drive consumption. This can then be taken care of by music labels and digital signal processing. So much so that even a hoarding enables consumption because it drives the consumer.

Dawane lets us into understanding the number of streams on OTTs to understand monetisation and fandom.

He says, “If an artist’s song is consumed over and over again, it definitely means the artist is adored. Also the time a consumer is spending on listening to that song is being taken into account. Therefore, the number of streams is cognitively depicting fandom.”

To quantify fandom, there are parameters that need to be taken into account. A certain number is set as a qualifier for fandom. If the sum total of the calculation fails to meet the required number it shall not be counted as a fandom streak. 

Suppose, a song is 3 minutes long and the song has been streamed 100 times, that equals to 300 minutes of streaming. So the index of fandom would be 3.

Time (duration of music consumed) / no. of streams= index of fandom through streams

Similarly, a new song entering a market has various methods of reaching a consumer. Also, a number of audiences might listen to it just for the sake of it along with 50 thousand more people who will listen to the song for the same reason. So, the number of streams for that song will equal to 50 thousand +1, but that does not qualify to be fandom but does definitely increase the number of streams.

What qualifies fandom?

The fanbase of an artist is what defines fandom after the number of streams, coupled with the amount of time invested to stream the song. Taking the demographics of India, there are billions of people who are star-struck at the blow of a hat. That said, where are these fans located? These fans can be constant music listeners and those that follow their favourite artists on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

No. of streams/ fanbase (on social media) = index of fandom

Therefore, the ideal question to ask would be if there was a legitimate way to segregate the authentic from non-authentic followers. The same way is applicable to songs. Outsourced bots can generate as many numbers as wanted. How recently, the list of most fake followers on Instagram included names such as BTS with 47% of fake followers, along with Ariana Grande (46%), Taylor Swift (46%), Miley Cyrus (45%) and Katy Perry (44%).

Dawane to which suggested how segregating and estimating organic fans is carried out,

“There are certain samples we try from time to time. A contest with an incentive is one which garners data such as gender, age and other preferences. This helps us source and differentiate the actual numbers of fans from bots which is proportionate to population. Also, every time we try and execute such tests, we use tools which are generally our apps. It is a digitally acquired segment.”


Fandom, a better judge of success?

Fandom with the help of technology has allowed better access to fans and their information for data analysis and control however, advancement in technology does not necessitate fandom. So is fandom a better judge of success for artists? To which Dawane replied,

“Yes! I am also biased but the number of Indian expats count to around 2.2 cr. If I am in Chicago and want to listen to a Marathi song, the steaming/ digital advancement has enabled that, but it has boosted fandom too.”

When Bhupen Hazarika, passed away, a sudden increase in the number of streams of his songs was noticed. That could only be a result of fandom. Also, when there is economics concerning fandom, the measure of fandom could not possibly result in any loss. There will always be new music coming up with new artists and it would be a shame if they did not. However, only a fan has the capability to make music sustainable. That said, in the age of transient music, it is only those that stand out, stay throughout.


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Aakanksha Sharma

Author: Aakanksha Sharma

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