What it Takes to Be a Fan


It may surprise you that someone who has spent the majority of his life in a place called “Music City” would not be a music fan, but I’ve come to the realization that I’m not.

I like music. I listen to music. And on a few rare days or nights each year, I actually attend a live musical performance. (And if you live in a place called Music City, it’s amazing the choices you have to attend live performances all the time.)

But I’m not a music fan.

I’ve decided I’m not a music fan because I know what it’s like to be a fan of other things. I know what it’s like to have the interest or passion or curiosity or fascination or even that pretentious french phrase people always throw into a list like this, je ne sais quoi, it takes to be a fan of something.

Using the filter I apply for things of which I’m actually a fan, I’ve decided a person can like music and listen to music without being a fan.

And that’s where I am.

It’s sort of like how some people can enjoy eating food without being a foodie, or a chef, or even a cook. Or enjoy a novel without being an author or even an english major. Or, in technology, one can be a “user” of something without being a developer or engineer or work at the Apple Store genius bar.

We don’t all have to be fans of the things we enjoy doing or seeing or experiencing.

It’s okay just be users.

Like I said, I know what it’s like to be a fan of something, but I just don’t have what it takes to be a fan of everything.

Let’s go back to the music example.

Anyone can like or enjoy music, but a music fan cares enough to go beyond listening to music. They care enough to seek a deeper understanding of why they like one song over another, one genre but not another, one artist but not another.

Anyone can like or enjoy music, but a music fan cares enough to learn the back stories of artists and song-writers and composers and producers and influences that go into the music they love.

Let me be clear about something, however: I’m not saying one needs to be a musician to be a music fan. In the way a football fan is NOT required to have ever suited up in pads and played tackle football (or ever attended college to be a fan of a university football team), a music fan doesn’t necessarily need to have played a musical instrument or have been a performer to be a fan.

But if someone has not spent years engaged in that which they want to be fan, they must care enough to go through whatever learning curve is necessary to understand the complexity of skills and context and rules and challenges and dedication and talent that go into creating and performing something at the level it takes to be great at something in that field.

A fan must understand and embrace their passion at such a deep level, they find it strange when someone asks them if they are attending a football game in sub-zero temperature or Bonnaroo in, well, any weather. “Why wouldn’t I?” they respond.

If you are NOT interested in something enough to put forth that type of effort, like I am NOT when it comes to music (or food or a long list of other things), then you’re a listener or user or casual observer or consumer.

And that’s okay.

If you’re looking for the point of this post, here it is:

If it takes all of that just to be a music fan, imagine what it takes to actually be a musician.

And then, imagine what it takes to be a musician who has attracted any number of fans.

(Remaining mystery for another day: The amazing things it must take to attract both fans, and anti-fans.)