Bluesfest Crushes: an exploration of fandom at a regional blues festival
Rall, DN & St Clair, J 2013, 'Bluesfest Crushes: an exploration of fandom at a regional blues festival', Proceedings of the PopCAANZ 4th Annual International Conference, Brisbane, 24-26 June, PopCAANZ 4th Annual International Conference, pp. 259-273. ISBN: 9780646915616
Each Easter, outside the iconic beachside town of Byron Bay, thousands of music fans converge for Bluesfest – a five-day blues and roots festival where international musicians from rock, blues and roots traditions perform alongside rising local talent, as well as some of the more eclectic musicians from Australia and the rest of the world. Crucially, as part of the live music experience, the music festival enables ticketholders to engage in activities vital to being a fan. While fandom is an elusive concept, it may be partially measured through several indicators: buying artist merchandise, queuing for CD signing and/or photos, and attending musicians’ Q&A sessions. Through such activities, festival participants signal their legitimacy as fans and, often via social media, their membership of a larger cohort of fans. This research utilises university media students to query festival participants about their engagement in these participatory activities and their perspective on ‘being a fan’. What type of engagement and memorabilia is most valued by fans, and how is it acquired? What roles do social media play in the fan relationship? Our analysis identifies specific groups of fans, by their demographics, their newcomer/repeat visitor status, and their reports on how and why they chose to engage in fan-related activities while at Bluesfest. A further concern of the data analysis was to explore the possibility of an underlying ‘economy’ of fan relationships in the digital age.