Long gone are the days of Stanley Mitchell, a fictional obsessed fan created by Eminem for his melodramatic rap song “Stan.” Although Eminem presented the word ‘stan’ to the world through the song’s music video, Nas activated its usage on “Ether” by taking aim at JAY-Z as he rapped, “You a fan, a phony, a fake, a pussy, a stan." Almost 19 years later, the term has taken over the internet and has been given official recognition by the Oxford English Dictionary as a word and not just a colloquial term. Thanks to the availability of several social media outlets and updates on the internet over the years, the fan-artist relationship has drastically evolved from what it used to be in the early days - namely, Stan Twitter is now the name of the game.
Stan Your Ground
Twitter is a space where fans can easily interact with their favorite idols and actually receive responses from them. This is likely why pop culture enthusiasts have so firmly pitched their tent there. They operate like executive journalists, A&R’s, historians, critics, publicists, marketing executives, and creatives while fiercely showing love to personalities who have provided them with quality entertainment. Support from online fans has become a crucial component of many musicians’ careers. The inclination of such users to express themselves passionately, fearlessly, and shamelessly has given emerging talents the key to their big break, helped accentuate the performance of major singers on certain records, and given the public image of music stars a glow up. They might have weird usernames, highly specific account themes, and even obsessive tweets, but when they roll out in support of an artist, the internet shakes. Streaming records have been broken and charts have been topped just by the sheer force of fan power linked to the influence of Stan Twitter, perhaps the dominant of online groups. In 2018, artists like Ariana Grande, Lizzo, Doja Cat, Aminé, Rico Nasty, and Gunna were subjects to the intense love showed by music lovers on Twitter through memes, shared videos, striking captions, and self-created content.
The rise of Doja Cat is perhaps one of the most interesting tales of a fan account transforming the career of an artist. The rapper released the music video for “Mooo!” on August 10, but it wasn’t until a member of Stan Twitter found and shared it with the world the next day that it became a sensation. Prior to that, there was no discernible press surrounding the release or any visible marketing strategy. But all of a sudden, the viral tweet opened doors to interviews, several features, thousands of new fans, co-signs from top artists, and most importantly, her streams skyrocketed.
Another great case study is the return of the lost rapper Tyga to the music scene. No blog would have been able to convince every rap enthusiast that “Taste” would be a summer anthem, especially because of the long list of dead songs that came with the Californian rapper's sixth studio album Kyoto, which he released months before the breakthrough single. It took the copywriting skill of a hip-hop fan to convince several people that indeed, Tyga had risen from the dead. In no time, it became a platinum single that topped the charts and took over airwaves.
COLORS Berlin is a digital show that presents the beauty in simplicity through music. For featured artists, the platform has allowed the world see them in their rawest form. Their ability to effortlessly deliver in a pared-down setting is one of the primary reasons internet users are so compelled to share clips from the show. For example, a recent performance of “Top Off” allowed people to hear a less auto-tuned version of Gunna as he immersed himself into his music. A Twitter user voiced the opinion of many in a viral tweet about his flow and that served as a great image boost for the YSL rapper.
Last year, while Travis Scott was likely cooking up marketing strategies of his own, an account popular for posting humorous video edits dropped a clip of “Sicko Mode” mixed into SpongeBob Squarepants' performance of “Sweet Victory” and it was a hit on the internet. What started as a viral Twitter video spread throughout other social media platforms—even Facebook. The video gave him a cushion of support that had a long-lasting effect—even till 2019 when he performed the song at the Super Bowl, paying homage to the clip.
So far in 2019, artists like J. Cole, Iyla Blue, Lana Del Rey, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion have been subjects of praise and promotion by some of these fan accounts. J. Cole’s “Middle Child” has received its own treatment of the SpongeBob “Sweet Victory” meme, and Los Angeles based singer Iyla Blue has her streams blossoming like a flower all thanks to a post by a pop culture fan. Users of fan accounts are online heroes who – with their all-seeing eyes – are always quick to spot potential stars and exceptional performances.
However, what an average Twitter user sees in a viral tweet involving an artist is different from what managers, marketers, and publicists see. A popular tweet promoting a major or emerging artist’s performance is just a viral tweet to the naked eye, but somewhere in the world, someone is monitoring the effect in real-time. When it has nothing to do with revenue or a marketing opportunity, receiving praise from an online community can act as a good image polisher either digitally or in real life. There’s always a juicy reward when the stans promote. Earlier this year, Eric Skelton, music editor at Complex wrote an article on the impact of cartoon memes in breaking rap artists and spiking their streams. In this piece, Todd Moscowitz, founder of Alamo records gave a testimony on how memes created by fan accounts have helped artists signed to the label. He said, “We've seen immediate growth on streaming services for at least a couple of weeks with artists like Trevor Daniel getting a boost from cartoon memes.”
Cartoon memes are only a fraction of what is produced by the dynamic members of Stan Twitter. However, no publicity is as sweet as a tweet from a fan account. They have the secret (yet not so secret) copywriting format that can often make this kind of content blow up. In a world where the music industry is rapidly changing and artists can often make it without the support of a team or extensive marketing strategy, to have Stan Twitter in your corner can be as sweet as signing a major label record deal.