Why Don’t You Care About Me: The Vocal Minority, and Members vs. Non-Members

A couple weeks ago, the following message caught my eye on Twitter:

“LPUers r ‘First class fans’ cause they fuckin pay.the other fans r nothing to you,cause we dont pay,huh?PISSED OFF! @linkinpark @m_shinoda”

Quick recap: LPU is the Linkin Park fan organization. It costs $60 for a year-long membership. The details of what you get with membership are listed here. I assume the “first class fan” part was in reference to a comment the band made at some point. This person appears to be very (10 out of 10) upset.

It’s sometimes hard to read the nuances of intended emotion in a typed blog post, so I’ll be very clear that I’m not angry, nor do I feel defensive as I write this. I’m calmly sitting in a hotel room on tour, with a cup of coffee and a couple pieces of toast. And this tweet got me thinking about something that’s bigger than the “who is the best fan” question.

So, let’s answer the tweet!

Which fan is most important? Is it the one who buys the most stuff? The one who supports their “thing” the loudest? The one who cares more deeply than the rest? The one who has been loyal the longest? And specifically online, why in the world do people seem to fight over this subject so passionately?

A fan club can simultaneously be a very unifying and a distinctly divisive subject: while it offers an incredible community and amazing opportunities, it also separates people into “members” versus “non-members.” To start, a fan club is an option…unless you’re in the band (ha!).

For me, opting-in on a club means that I choose that club as important to me (at least, important enough to spend time and money on). Conversely, opting-out really means I have no right to demand the same benefits as members. The people who join are paying for products and service. Those things cost money to create, therefore the club has a cost.

(Speaking of cost, the “money” argument is always a favorite. Some will try to levy an argument that an organization like LPU gives preferential treatment to fans because the band “cares more about people who give them more money.” For us, this is a thin, baseless argument. We make no money from LPU. Every dollar of money spent on LPU goes directly back into the organization. Case closed.)

“First Class” implies that you give extra to get extra. We call LPU the “inner circle” because of it allows closer proximity to the band (our “Summit” conventions and video chats, for example). Can non-LPU members get those kinds of experiences? Yes: if Chester were to cross paths with a fan on the street, for example, he could sign an autograph and take a picture. But the LPU is an organization which helps to set those experiences up for you, so you’ll have a much higher (maybe from 10,000 to 1,000,000s+ times higher) percent chance of it happening.

“Whatever, I don’t have the money to be a member. This fan club sucks!”

In the world, sometimes we forget that there is a constant give-and-take between “what you give” in exchange for “what you get.” At a clothing store, you may give money to get something to wear. In the garden, you may give time and care to get food. In a relationship, you may give love and commitment to get a caring partner. If one side of any of these equations fails to provide their part, the whole thing falls apart (or, in one case, someone gets arrested for shoplifting).

And yet, some people want to get without having to give. Looking online, you would think it’s a large group. But it’s not. Not even close. For example: of the thirty-one million people who follow Linkin Park on Facebook, about three ten-thousandths of a percent (0.0003%) of those people belong to LPU. And only a fraction of that tiny number actually participate in this conversation.

But somehow, in comments and reviews online, that tiny group manages to make it look like a major debate. How does that work?

I was informed by management that our latest album “A Thousand Suns” was the #2 best selling rock album in the world last year (congrats to Mumford and Sons, who were #1!). But if you read the iTunes reviews of “A Thousand Suns,” you wouldn’t have guessed it: the album has a 3 out of 5 star rating, and lots of negative comments. Meanwhile, contented Linkin Park fans continue to buy the album. They cheer the band at our shows, “like” us on Facebook, and support us in a myriad other ways. But not in fan reviews. Why?

Studies such as this one, conducted by the Warsaw University of Technology, found that people are more inclined to comment online if they have negative feelings about something. Contented people will not comment, discontented people will complain. And the negative thread is likely to grow longer and more extreme if the subject: a.) is opinion-based, b.) is emotional content, and/or c.) has a large following or draw. (For us: check, check, check…) Plus, adding the separation by the computer screen, people feel emboldened to speak freely and sometimes in a more exaggerated fashion.

I’m not dismissing the vocal minority. Clearly, opinions can be useful and helpful: productive comments have helped us build a great www.linkinpark.com and the LP Underground itself. If we didn’t believe in the opinions of the few, we wouldn’t have posted this poll last week.

And at the same time, we remember that protesters make a lot more noise than anyone else. When we see negative comments and bad reviews, it’s easy to think that “lots of people” think the same way, because the complainers are sometimes the only ones talking.

In the piece here, Theodore Dalrymple writes: “The habit of not containing your rage is likely to lead you to easily provoked enragement. And, as almost everyone knows who has taken the trouble of self-examination, there is a great deal of pleasure to be had from rage, especially when it supposes itself to be in a righteous cause.” Hate begets hate. Being angry can feel good, especially when you think you’re right.

And as people write more negative comments, they actually feel more negative, more often. Scary.

I have used the term “super fan” here on my blog. When I do, I think try to make a point to include LPU members and those who have decided LPU is not for them–I’m referring to anyone who considers themselves a big fan of the band. I use this distinction to indicate that the people I’m talking to are the ones willing to put in extra work in some form or another.

And in the most general terms, when I talk about fans of Linkin Park, I mean to include anyone, whether you own everything our band has ever released + come to 100 concerts, or if you’ve never spent a dollar, and you just like one song. In other words, if you think you’re a fan, then you are a fan.

If you’ve read this post and thought, “I don’t want to feel more negative, more often,” I commend and admire you.

To the rest: your debate can continue below.

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Comment by MatthewL on June 28, 2011 at 8:11pm

MIke:

Not sitting here with a cup o joe or toast but read your comment with extreme interest. I myself have been a lifelong fan(since the start of the band as we know it) , likely one of your older fans - 47 years old and a member of LPU. I do not believe that I really ever wrote anything on the blog until due to Chester illness, the Cincinnati show was cancelled. I must admit, I believe, in retrospect, and after reading your comment, that in that instant, er moment, the person you are speaking about was me. I was pissed as I have not seen you live since Projekt Rev and noticed that you would not be returning to the US, or the midwest for some time. Combined with the fact that I was scheduled for my first meet and greet at that show and yes, I was pissed. That in turn caused me to write more comments in the blog, maybe not as vitriolic as the person you were speaking about, but nonetheless with some anger.  You and the research you recounted indicate that in fact, it is those of us who are upset, for whatever reason, that tend to dominate the blogs, etc. It appears to be a fact of life.

By doing the things you have done with and for your fans, LPU members or not, you have developed a bond with your hardcore fans. A bond strong enough to indicate a personal sense of belonging. Call it a rock and roll family of sorts. As we all know, our families, in the stongest sense can be our biggest supporters and biggest critics as well as, on occasion, very dysfunctional . There is no doubt in my mind, that if the person who wrote this went to a concert and slapped your hand during a song, all would be forgiven.

I personally believe that the main issue was never one of money - Hell it's 60 bucks a year or 5 bucks a month, but nothing more than a frustrated, hardcore fan who loves your music, believes they are part of the family, which they are, no matter if they are an LPU member or not , frustrated at not having more access.

 

And therein lies the rub for Linkin Park, the band. There are only so many Mike Shinoda's to go around, so many Chester's, Brad's, etc. I find it interesting in that it appears to me the more open and outgoing Linkin Park is, the more crap you take. Could you call it the price of fame or damned if you do and damned if you don't. Although I can sense your frustration, you must accept the fact that you will never make all of your fans happy, all the time. Still, for the true fan, this won't prevent us from attending a show, buying your next album, following you on lp.com, or coming to understand that being upset because someone was ill was at its core plainly selfish on my part.  At the end of the day, I choose to be positive going forward. Thanks for sharing!          

 

 

Comment by Hashad khodabacchus on June 28, 2011 at 7:34pm
linkin park is my life
Comment by Shinoda Dork on June 28, 2011 at 7:15pm
since i told u part of what i had in mind to say to u and twitter only had so many characters. what i'm trying to say is negativity isnt gonna go away sadly it don't bother me much. but if they are not fans then they r not. :3  i still have no idea why people fight over who is the biggest fan
Comment by Hashad khodabacchus on June 28, 2011 at 7:12pm
hi mike l appreciate ur debate and you have take a long time to write this and l have to said many guys came here for enjoy
Comment by Ndidi Okeke on June 28, 2011 at 6:58pm

Hi, Mike. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this, and I understand where you are coming from. To the angry person that inspired you to write this post: I think you're being a bit extreme here, and from all I know about Linkin Park, they would never discriminate between a fan who pays and one who doesn't. LPU is just as Mike said: it's really just a bunch of extra benefits (which apparently cost money) for ppl who want to pay for extra benefits. I can understand how someone could feel the way that person did: seeing "LPU only" stamped over something that interests you would make anyone feel excluded in some way, and that especially hurts when its something that you really care about. But like Mike said, there's no basis to demand rights to something you haven't paid for and because those things cost is really the only reason why non-member's are excluded.

 

I would however like to say something else aside from what Mike has posted here. To ANYONE out there on the opposite end of the spectrum (LPU members who see themselves as higher caliber LP fans), that's not right either. I truly don't believe being an LPU member makes you anymore of a fan than a non-member. Afterall, you're just paying for extra merch and yeah maybe a conference (summit) and some other special discounted whatevers, but it doesn't change how you feel about the band. I can sit right here in my bedroom, never having been to a Linkin Park concert due to circumstances I need not go into, not an LPU member, and still say that I truly love Linkin Park with all my heart and no membership status or number of LP albums I own changes or devalues that.

 

That's why questions like the one on the poll recently sent out asking why you're not an LPU member with choices like "I'm not a big enough fan of the band that it makes sense to join" are silly and unnecessary. As Mike said (well, close to it), your a fan by measure of how much you love the band and that's something no one can label or take away from you.

Comment by Lula Bonavita on June 28, 2011 at 6:52pm

I comment here below, just to thank you because reading this made me the happiest person ever. I'm having lot of problems over here, and you and your music are what makes me keep going on everyday. And you know? I don't have the money requested to be a real member of the LPU, or to buy a lot of merchandasing of you, but you have not idea of how much do I admire your music and everything you do. The last months, after joining to your website, I started thinking that maybe you didn't consider us, the fans who are not part of the LPU (the same as the guy of the tweet). But now, reading this post I felt completely happy and part of this, as a huge fans group (I do not like all that "fans club" thing. For me it's everything a GROUP. Because a GROUP works all togheter to get something :)) of a really fantastic rock band.

So thank you for everything, and keep going in the way you are :)

 

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