Defining the fan (Quarantine Edition)

Comparing superfans former fans and regular fans experiences during the quarantine

The sounds are a nonstop entourage of delight. And it starts with the never-ending cheering, chanting and applause from thousands of bodies packed together throughout the seats lining the arena. Lights are flashing in a spectrum of white and colorful fluorescent light and the music fills the very air, vibrating with a deep bass and the captivating voices of the artists performing live. Now take all of that excitement, all of that glamour and noise and let it fade away. That silence is no stranger for fans of the music industry as the vibrant concerts and once-in-a-lifetime tours of their favorite music artists were canceled due to the ongoing pandemic even into the new year. 

A big concern for devoted fans and regular fans alike is finding new ways to stay engaged with their favorite music artists from home and how they can continue to support them with the COVID restrictions. Freshman Varsha Bharadwaj, a long time superfan of pop singer Taylor Swift, is no exception. She’s been with Swift for a long time, going on 10 years, and she doesn’t plan to stop loving her favorite artist because of the pandemic.

My favorite artist is Taylor Swift. … I’ve loved her music since I was like, four. And she’s such a generous person. And it’s not only her music, like her personality. She’s just so open. And she holds like meet-and-greets for free and things. And yeah, she’s just an amazing person, and her music just adds to that.”

Bharadwaj considers herself to be a superfan, and her impressive collection of merch, from t-shirts to key chains and albums, is proof of that loyalty. Using social media has also been a useful outlet for her to continue to share the love of other like minded fans online.

I was like, four. And my dad was just scrolling through YouTube. And he saw the ‘You Belong With Me’ music video and played it for me. And I just got hooked. And I just loved her ever since. I think of myself as super devoted. I’ve memorized the lyrics to every single one of her songs. I have a fan account, actually, that I run and just to support her. And I usually buy her music and all her CDs and stuff and her merch, too.”

But for former BTS-obsessed sophomore Xenia Jenssen, the quarantine was a way for her to cut ties with previous artists she liked and is currently finding new artists rather than staying a conservative fan like she used to be.

I used to be a super fan of BTS that was I had a huge obsession over them. And I’m kind of embarrassed about it. And right now, my favorite artist is Keshi, because his music, it’s relaxing. And it’s fun to listen to. And it’s not too overwhelming. I actually started liking him not too long ago it was maybe around one month ago, one or two months ago, so it wasn’t too long ago.”

Jenssen explains how without the quarantine and with her obsession, she dealt with an unhealthy environment that put her down while she was still in school and expressing her interest in groups like BTS and K-pop. With schools closed down, she became less interested in the group along with the genre itself.

So firstly, my room was also covered full and BTS stuff. So if I would say, at least more than $2,000 just counting everything. It was a lot. And it was crazy. Maybe even more than that. So  I kind of lost interest in them, but then it wasn’t just BTS, it was K-pop in general. Because K-pop sometimes it’s a little bit toxic in that environment, because of all the body stuff going on, and just how you have to look like and all that. So K-pop is something I’m mostly completely done with except BTS.”

Bharadwaj also relates as she found herself falling out of love with some of the artists she previously liked, a main one being former One Direction member Harry Styles.

I feel like there’s a lot of hype about him now. And I liked him like in 2019 because he came out with “Fine Line” and everything and I was so into that, but then I feel like he just lost his touch with music over COVID-19. I just haven’t been listening to him as much.”

However, one fan, freshman Aashi Venkat, discovered a deeper connection with One Direction that led to new social connections because of the quarantine. She discovered more about them through their new online content they’ve been putting up and found herself becoming a big fan of the group. For Venkat, her newfound passion is a positive thing that allows her to enjoy her free time watching her favorite artists online.

I was always kind of a fan. But then during the quarantine especially, a bunch of my friends just would recommend their albums to me. SoI just listened to their album and started watching the interviews because I was bored. The pandemic is what really got me interested in them. Before, I wasn’t really a huge fan, like I liked their music, but I feel like the pandemic, it got me interested in them. And then it also led to me being able to make friends online due to that sort of mutual interest. Whereas without the pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have done that.”

Bharadwaj had plans to continue supporting Swift by going to concerts when the quarantine disrupted her schedule. But she found new ways to get around challenges like social distancing to keep herself safe while still staying active as a fan.

I was going to go [see her] 2020 Summer [concert], but then COVID-19. Like I said before, she usually releases her albums at Target or some other store and we go there and we buy them obviously, but with COVID-19, we wear masks and obviously also necessary protection. And just like streaming her music on platforms such as Spotify or Apple Music, it benefits her and it also we also get to enjoy her music.”

For Jenssen, the quarantine has been a way to tone down her obsessive fan behavior and create healthier habits by reaching out to different artists. But she also shares the downside she’s felt with the quarantine in place as well.

I was supposed to go to the BTS 2020 tour. We got really good tickets. We got really good seats. Me and my friends were really excited to go and then it got canceled. Actually, the concert was four days before my birthday, so it was an awesome birthday gift, but then it got canceled because of the virus.”

Venkat believes that there is more than one way to satisfy her new obsession with One Direction even without stocking up on merchandise she finds overpriced. Venkat took a different approach to appreciate One Direction through material things.

I don’t necessarily have merch, but I do have things. So when my friends know I like them, they make things for me. They send me drawings of the band, which is something that I really like. And I do have those drawings. And I made them my profile photos on my home screen on my phone.”

Venkat still missed out on many opportunities to go to her first One Direction concert. In fact, this would have been the first pop concert she would have attended. But this won’t be the case anytime soon as COVID restrictions continue to keep music artists confined on social media.

“Yeah, I think the pandemic definitely did interfere with it. I know that if it hadn’t interfered with it, I probably would have bought tickets for their 2021 concerts. But now they’re probably just going to cancel them. So I can’t really go.”

Freshman Lindsey Tang considered herself to be a normal fan of music in general until the quarantine had her searching for more music during the confined weeks at home in which she discovered a new appreciation and passion for some music artists, namely One Direction.

So basically, I was running out of music to listen to, but then my family members and my siblings, and my friends, even online friends, were obsessing over One Direction and the individual members. So I decided to just try them out. And I’ve really started to get really obsessed too. I’m always binging One Direction videos, I’m always listening to them on Spotify, like 24/7. And I really want to go on their tour like some time, if COVID gets better and stuff, and I want to go to their concerts. I’ve actually never been to any concert, like any pop concerts in my life.”

Becoming a new fan during the quarantine has posed some unfortunate challenges like having tours canceled. But Tang decided to find different ways to stay content and actively support artists like One Direction.

I discovered them like this year. … Like after I got [my Spotify Wrap] I was like, ‘I don’t like this anymore.’ And I want new music. I was always listening to their music and always waiting at the premiere for music videos to drop, and also looking forward to buying merch. I was actually looking at merch today and I want to save up for it. [I like] clothing and maybe some CDs and standard vinyl.”

Venkat also stays hopeful for the future and considers her options in supporting One Direction when the music artists are able to become more active again.

So I feel like later on when I start earning my own money, I feel like I’d probably get something from Etsy. And like … when the whole coronavirus sort of ends and the quarantine’s over. I would want to ideally go to a concert or to be able to support them in-person, n real life.”

Although Bharadwaj has missed out on many events featuring Swift, she is still expecting great things from the artist for this new year. But one thing that she looks forward to the most are:

Definitely concerts. I want to see her perform live once and yeah, just her releasing more music because she’s actually rerecording all her old albums. And I’m super excited for that too.”

And for Jenssen as well, she’s branched out to new artists and now is anticipating seeing the artists that give her the most emotional support during the stressful quarantine perform live again soon.

There’s this one artist that’s called K.Flay, and once quarantine is over I really hope she’s going to have one of her tours again. And I would love to go to one of her concerts because she’s the one artist that helps me support with everything because I know I’m going through a little bit of struggling and her songs just helped me to stay up and not give up. So I really hope to see her concerts in the future.”