These are tough times for fans right now. Usually they squeeze in the front row at the concert or at the barriers on the red carpet. They camp in front of the hotel where their star is staying. The toughest of them even travel around the world after the star, on their own and at their own expense. That’s where the term comes from: fans are fanatics.
Times are just as tough for stars. You are not allowed to tour because of the corona virus, the concert halls are empty, film premieres are canceled. The stars sit at home like normal people. That messes up their economy, because there is no money coming in, or at least a lot less money than before. The special star-fan ratio is also messed up by Corona. It is usually based on the fact that the star appears physically now and then where the fan absolutely wants to go and that there are new products to buy from and with the star.
Paid subscriptions and exclusive videos
And the main reason would already be mentioned that in 2020, the year of the coronavirus, more and more stars registered on digital fan platforms and are now in direct contact with their fans, or rather: More and more stars are offering their fans paid subscriptions and exclusive videos.
This does not mean social platforms like Instagram. They are good for the reach and for advertising. But money doesn’t come in through these social media. It’s different with fan platforms like Cameo, Patreon or Onlyfans. There the fan only sees or hears the content of a star against payment. Patreon, for example, founded in 2013 by Californian jazz guitarist Jack Conte, is a platform on which stars – many of them are musicians – outline what they are up to next in advance. And the fans then help them realize the project with a monthly payment. Maybe they feel like little patrons? The American goth pop singer Zola Jesus, for example, promises her “Patrons” – that’s what Patreon fans call themselves – an exclusive new album and an exclusive live stream concert. Zola Jesus currently has 700 supporters on Patreon who pay between one and 25 dollars per month for the subscription. Depending on the membership model, Patreon deducts five to 12 percent of the revenue for the service.
Record productions can be secured in advance via Patreon
Patreon is a fan platform that is comparatively unhysterical. One actually seems to be interested in artistic production here, in creative processes. The Collapsing new buildings from Berlin are also represented. The band around Blixa Bargeld began long before the times of today’s platform capitalism to test new digital financing models for themselves. In order not to be so dependent on record companies and their advances, the band started the “Supporter’s Project” on their website in 2002. Fans could buy a new album that hadn’t even been recorded. Patreon now offers a sophisticated digital infrastructure for such financing and advance payment models that artists can easily hook into. The Einstürzende Neubauten, who were unable to go on tour in 2020 with their current album “Alles in Allem” due to the pandemic, currently have 650 patrons on Patreon.
At the other end of the fan spectrum, the Onlyfans platform attracts with voyeurism. The promise here is: Fans get exclusive insights into the most private private lives of their stars. The dividing line to pornography can hardly be drawn, which is not surprising when you know that the inventor of Onlyfans already ran the erotic website Glamgirls before he started Onlyfans in 2016. His name is Tim Stokely, he’s British, he calls himself a “tech entrepreneur” and earns 20 percent of the income.
Nudity and masturbation is not a requirement on Onlyfans, but it is the rule. It was the cam girls, the gay strip boys, the porn stars who made the platform big. For sex workers, Onlyfans is an opportunity to run their business independently and in a relatively safe framework: via webcam, without direct contact with customers, without pimps.
For a while now, Onlyfans has been actively seeking content suppliers from other sectors, from fitness, nutrition, especially pop. The most prominent newcomer in August 2020 was the New York rapper Cardi B. In a video message, she made it clear right from the start: “You don’t have to hope that I will undress here.”
So what do you see on Cardi B’s Onlyfans channel? The most interesting video there is a ten-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that was uploaded at the beginning of September. It shows the shooting of the “WAP” music video that Cardi B released in August with rapper Megan Thee Stallion. With their very sex-positive “WAP” song, the two rappers were number one in the US charts for weeks. All these luxurious big cat rooms, swimming pools, gilded castle corridors and brightly striped machine cellars that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion walk through in the “WAP” video were actually thought to be digital renderings. In the documentary on Onlyfans you can now see that the rooms exist – an orgy of setting the scene. Is this insight worth $ 4.99 a month for enough fans?
On the other hand, business is running on Cameo: on the platform, which was founded in Chicago in 2017, fans can tell their stars what they want to hear from them. And then the stars say it for money. A video greeting? Ordered and delivered. A few days ago this led to a funny little scandal when the sweet American soul star Smokey Robinson mispronounced the word Hanukkah in a personalized video message that someone had ordered from him to celebrate the Jewish Hanukkah festival: “You want that I wish you a happy Tschanuuukah, “says Robinson in the video that the addressee promptly posted online. “I have no idea what Tschanuuukah is, but I still wish you a happy Tschanuuukah because you told me so!” Says Smokey Robinson. By “they” we mean the clients who paid $ 307.50 for this video.
You can find it sad or tragic. Now the stars who were used to much higher salaries in their lives and who have to try out new earning opportunities for themselves in the Corona crisis are also reaping malice. On the other hand: these are actually not new services at all. For example, it has long been a must for pop stars on tour to stop by a local radio station in every city before their concert in order to enter into dialogue with the fans via the phone.
Personal meetings like this are usually booked under promotion, unless some oil prince from the Gulf region pays millions of dollars for them, which means: There is no money. Now, thanks to Cameo, such personalized star attentions have been digitized and at least bring a little bit of profit (the platform retains 25 percent of the income).
The influx of Cameo has grown strongly due to the corona virus, the platform already reported a 400 percent increase in sales in spring 2020 compared to the months before the pandemic. Over 30,000 stars from pop, film, entertainment and sport are now available here. Among them, in addition to US rapper Lil ‘Kim and Canadian folk singer Rufus Wainwright, has also been Alice Cooper since July.
In March Cooper was supposed to go on a big “Rock meets Classic” tour through Germany, it was postponed because of the virus. So you pay 276 euros by credit card – the cuddliest shock rocker in the world then appears on the screen with smeared kohl and sings a personalized birthday song. Cooper says he even composed it especially for the recipient: “This is your birthday song, it isn’t very long.” But if stars can rely on one thing, even in the Corona crisis, then it seems to be this: their biggest fans are often satisfied with very little.