Stan Culture: The Unseen Driving Force Behind the Success of Pop Artists
When looking at the history of the music industry a consistent driving force behind its success has been fan culture. Underneath the umbrella of fan culture, we have stan culture. Stan culture is where the extremely dedicated fans, much like the ones that stayed up all night re-streaming BTS’s new song to help them break their records live. When looking at what artist is topping the charts, it is not a coincidence that they are the ones who have a large stan community. This just goes to show that stans like these are the reason why artists are still successful.
To understand the way they act we need to break down the history of the word stan. Stan is a term that was brought to popularity by Eminem in his early 2000 song Stan. The term is made up of the words stalker and fan, and usually in reference to teenage girls. Though the term stalker is a bit harsh and has a negative connotation to it, these girls like to say that they are dedicated. As much slack as they receive, they blindly and wholeheartedly back their artist.
Just last month, the Kpop group BTS broke YouTubes one day record for the highest streamed video debuting their song Dynamite, which reached over 86.8 million views. In an article written by reporter Cartie Porterfield in Forbes Magazine tracking the success of the song, she found that the video had only one-upped another Kpop group, Blackpink’s “How You Like That”. The song premiered on YouTube only a month before and came right behind BTS with 86.3 Million views. Kpop groups are notorious for having some of the most dedicated fanbases. Being able to break records like these would be almost impossible without having fans anticipating your releases. If you, like BTS or Blackpink have been one of the few lucky ones to have a successful career in music, you can thank your fans for it.
As Douglas Greenwood states in his NME article “in almost all of those cases, the success of a pop artist can be traced back to something far simpler and purer: the teenage girls that rally behind them from the beginning, transforming them into megastars. No amount of money can buy that kind of triumph.”These are the fans that are fiercely loyal and act as unpaid interns for their artists, expecting nothing in return and purely thriving off being involved in their community.
It is common in the music industry to not take artists whos fanbase is largley made up of teenage girls seriously. Though in reality it should be the opposite, artists should strive to have this exact audience, and the industry should embrace them. They jump at the chance to spend hundreds of dollars on merch and concert tickets and will spend hours and even days camping out for their events. They are keeping the industry going by constantly engaging with content that is being released.
As Brodie Lancaster from Pitchfork says in his piece Pop Music, Teenage Girls and the Legitimacy of Fandom “Pop music is fundamentally about the fans”. At the end of the day, everything that artists do is for the fans, which is why these stans take it upon themselves to help their artists reach new highs. The content that these artists release is what keeps these stans going, and the industry alive. It’s simply what their life revolves around. We need to start asking why do we automatically think negatively of these girls and the artists associated with them? Does it stem from a sexist belief or just plain disregard for anything teenage girls show an interest in?
As much as people love to discredit anything that these girls rally behind, where would the music industry be without them?