While no one doubts that environment and education can be directly responsible for producing a Hanson or Jason Mraz fan, many scientists are researching several other factors relating to fandom, including heredity, income status and diet, in an effort to better understand the fan / artist relationship as it applies to the average concert goer.
“Why do some people like The Commodores, while others prefer Black Sabbath and Jordan Knight? That’s the question we’re trying to answer,” says Dr. Franklin Stein, author of last year’s pop psychology bestseller, Sting Fans Are From Venus. David Bowie Fans Are From Mars. “Could there be something in the drinking water that determines that a child grows up to be a William Hung fan? Is there a relationship between overeaters and those who insist upon sitting in the front row for Gallagher? And what about that Kid Rock / trailer park ratio? Those are the questions science is trying to answer.”
To be sure, not everyone is interested in understanding why people gravitate towards specific acts, such as Sarah McLachlan or Gloria Estefan. For over ten years the Human Fan Genome Project has studied, not what makes a fan, but rather, how to make a fan.
“Through extensive experimentation on laboratory mice we’ve discovered that a simple tweaking of the genes belonging to a Fishbone or Evanescence fan can completely alter that person’s perception of music,” says project director Dr. Rudy Wells. Simply put, we can take a Cannibal Corpse fan and turn him or her into a Hilary Duff follower. We can make the fan faster, stronger, more obsessive. We have the technology.”
However, not everyone supports tinkering with fandom on the genetic level. While some critics claim that such a practice could very well lead to a world filled with Bloodhound Gang fans, others are questioning whether science has the right to determine fandom at birth, and point to the failure of the Vanilla Ice fertility clinics of the 1980s as well as the quick demise of the “Weird Al” Yankovic Sperm Bank chain during the late 1990s as examples of what happens when one “plays god” with audiences. However, when asked about these failures, Dr. Wells is nothing if optimistic.
“Just think of the positives,” exclaims Dr. Wells. Not only will we be able to produce more Pat Benatar or Phish fans, but we’ll also be able to create additional fans of a particular era of an artist’s career. For example, we could create more fans of Van Halen’s David Lee Roth days, or increase the number of fans for the band’s Sammy Hagar years. Or, dare I say, combine the two fan bases into one superbase. The possibilities are endless!”
While no one is questioning that combining the fan-base of the two most popular lead singers of one of the greatest rock bands of all time would definitely end the confusion and bloodshed that has plagued the Van Halen fan base since 1985, one can’t help but ask about the group’s third lead singer, and whether science has the right to artificially produce fans of the Van Halen III era.
“Oh, that would be the answer to philosophers’ prayers,” answers Dr. Well. “For they would finally obtain the answer that they’ve been seeking since the days of Plato and Socrates.”
The answer? The answer to… What?
“The answer to philosophy’s ultimate question, of course,” responds Dr. Wells. “Just what is the sound of one fan clapping?”