I Don’t Have Fans, I Have a Listenership: The Complexities of an Artistic Demographic

Water color “Library Cat” by Craig Roffler. Click the image to read his blog.

I’ve never liked calling the people who love my music “fans.” That three-letter-word makes me think of those screaming hordes of ditsy girls who swooned over The Beatles. Fans buy stuff even if it’s crummy. Fans have crushes on celebrities they’ll probably never meet. Fans quote artists even if the quote is completely asinine. Fans get their butts autographed.

Niki Minaj has fans. Justin Beiber has fans. Even Grumpy Cat has fans. Fans are fanatics, and their fanaticism is often fleeting. My listeners are not fans. While very dedicated in a thoughtful and appreciative way, they hold me to a higher standard of artistic integrity, and I respect that.

When I was sixteen I used to dream about going on whirlwind tours performing in front of thousands of people at venues across the globe. Now that I’m “grown up,” I’d much rather sit at home with my cats, listening to Celtic music, and writing songs or reading a good book. I watch PBS Masterpiece shows, own a Kindle, occasionally scrapbook, and when my toddler wants a drink, she asks for, “Tea?”

My listeners are the same way. The majority of them blog regularly, love animals, sip wine, read books (if not write them), and know who I’m quoting when I say, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

Yes, my music does sound a bit like Tori Amos’, Vienna Teng’s, Loreena McKennitt’s, or Sarah McLachlan’s, but my listeners aren’t necessarily listeners of those artists too. In fact, they may listen to everything from Handel’s Messiah to Blind Guardian. Why? Because they’re not “fans” in the pop culture sense of the word. They are purveyors of interesting things. They are discerning art collectors of an assortment of items from printed literature to replica LOTR swords. They are self-educators hungry to experience and learn about new things. They want to know what beer from Holland tastes like, and how to eat with chopsticks. They like rainy days, rescuing stray cats, volunteering in artistic endeavors, and attending the Renaissance Fair and Comic Con in full costume.

They are often creators themselves.

And that, my friends, is what an artistic demographic looks like. It isn’t cookie-cutter. It isn’t an audience you can reach by promoting “radio-ready” songs on Clear Channel or plastering your logo on a cheap junior’s department clothing line. It’s something new. Something different. Something beautifully messy and complex … and I love it!

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