It has probably happened to all of us at some point… You’re wearing a band t-shirt, and someone tells you they like it. You say thank you, but then unexpectedly, you’re no longer receiving a compliment, but rather a test on whether or not you’re a 'real' fan. Do you know every album they’ve ever released? Do you know all the original members? Have you even heard the extra song that was only included on one exclusive special holiday release version of the album? Suddenly, your pleasant exchange with a stranger feels more like an attack. But here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with being a new or casual fan.
So about that person who insisted on interrogating you on your credibility as a fan? Fun fact: they were new to the fandom at first too. That’s how liking something happens. You hear it. You think maybe you like it. And then you slowly start getting into it. It’s pretty ridiculous for someone to expect you to learn a band’s entire discography within the first 24 hours of learning about them. Just the other day I asked someone if he was a Ramones fan, and his response was: “casually, but I don’t know them well enough to call myself a fan.” That response should not feel necessary! He should feel comfortable just saying “yes, I enjoy some of their music.” There is not a requirement on a certain amount of knowledge you have to have about a band to call yourself a fan. If you dig the music, you’re a fan. If you don’t, you’re not. Simple as that.
Becoming a new fan of something or getting into new things is how we grow as people. If every time we tried something new, someone was there to beat us down for not being an expert, none of us would ever flourish into the best versions of ourselves. Did Ina Garten wake up one day as a master chef? No. Did Vincent Van Gogh wake up one day a master painter? No. So don’t let someone with a weird superiority complex about music knowledge tell you how you’re allowed to be a fan. Enjoy that band’s biggest single. Buy a poster because you think the lead singer is cute. Wear a band shirt because the design looks cool. Go to a show because you like a couple of their radio hits. Live your life and do what you want. Liking a band casually is not hurting anyone.
And just in case you are here to argue any and every point I’ve made, because you do think there is a set list of requirements to call yourself a fan, please just think about this: are you actually gaining anything from quizzing someone on something so trivial? Instead of deciding that people aren’t worthy of calling themselves fans, why not help them learn more if you feel so strongly about a band? Share your favorite album or songs! Tell them why you think the band is so great! Use your enthusiasm to help your favorite band reach a new audience, not to scare away someone who could end up being just as big of a fan as you.
In conclusion: Listen to whatever you like. Be a fan of whatever you like. Let people enjoy things.
Photos by author Garnette Ransone