Friday, June 02, 2006

Clay Aiken Fans: A Group of People

Clay Aiken fans can be called many things and usually are. Crazy...not most of us. Enthusiastic...well, Mr. Aiken has called us that himself, so I guess it would be accurate for many. Descriptions of Clay Aiken fans have been, on a whole, less than flattering. We've been described as screaming-grannies, screaming-teens, rabid, right-wing, conservative, are painted of fans as mumu-wearing, mid-western, e-mail writing desperate housewives, or the young tween in the throes of her first puppy love. In truth, Clay Aiken fans cross all demographics, walks of life, religions, political affiliations, and gender...they are lawyers, teachers, accountants, computer analysts, small-business owners, actors, singers, writers, a rocket-scientist or two, mothers, wives, fathers, sons. What the fans do have in common is intelligence, good taste and admiration of Clay Aiken.

The moniker that seems to used the most for the fandom is ClayNation. An estimated 10,000-15,000 fans are part of the online community. That's not counting the international communities. The Korean fansite has over 9000 members basely mostly on a commercial that used Clay's song "Shine". When Clay is in an active cycle, the boards are like a speeding train with comment after comment posted in rapid-fire succession. Communities have been built...of friendship, caring, and good conversation. That bonding has allowed the communities to be sustained despite a rather lengthy inactive cycle. We have been waiting for CD news for over a year now. Non-the-less the message boards have barely slowed down.

Just an example, a recent discussion was RCA and their perceptions of Clay past and present. The past perceptions come from a Time magazine article written in October 2003 where an unnamed RCA executive was quoted as saying that "Idol as proof that "Americans have no taste" and described Aiken as "Barry Manilow, but with less talent." Hum...nice to have the record company in your corner. That was then, now Clay Aiken returned to the American Idol stage that created a buzz that still has not stopped.

Here are is sampling of the conversation from Clay Aiken's message boards. The names are withheld to protect the innocent. *g*

"If some execs at RCA "didn't get" Clay until Wednesday's AI, maybe it was because this is the first time in a long time that Clay performed in front of a crowd that was composed of Not.Just.Us? I know that people have mentioned RCA execs at concerts, but perhaps those execs assumed that the crowd response was biased (because we're fans and buy tickets, therefore are expected to respond enthusiastically)."

"I think it's important to remember that "RCA" is not one big blob of groupthink. It's a company, with real people. Lots of them. Those not directly involved hear gossip, they hear through the company grapevine. Heck, I know my company has one. RCA is predominantly a rock label, and the people who work there probably do so because of that. RCA didn't voluntarily take on the AI contracts 5 years ago - it was thrust on them by their European parent. It was also seen as a stopgap until they could find "real stars". I believe that mentality has changed, but still. With respect to Clay, not everyone who is at RCA has worked with him or knows him or has even met him. They are subject to the same gossip and stereotypes. As a whole, the AI thing probably *was* a huge wakeup call."

"The execs at RCA understand and believe Clay has TALENT. They may not have always gotten the MAGIC. It is highly male-dominated. I have met some of them in BMG. They understand money, and they know Clay can sell. But there have been some who didn't necessarily get that Clay has a charisma that is THAT powerful that 2 minutes made him THE talk of the whole show. They don't understand the "SONIC PHEROMONES".... that visceral reaction that changes our behavior involuntarily. Something like what happened the other night causes that cognitive dissonance, and it can turn on light-bulbs. So what happened the other night may have just brought the whole of RCA/RMG on board, when there were always some too-cool-for-school doubters (but they wouldn't necessarily be the people assigned to work directly on Clay's project - there are hundreds of employees covering their artist roster). What I interpret is this: THEY GET IT NOW. And maybe, they'll finally really do the things even bigger and better than the big and good we would have gotten."

"It took something totally unexpected to shatter any lingering perception or idea that people had regarding him being a "geek" or "nerdy" or "runner-up" or "loser" or "unsexy" or whatever. Once their mind was cleared and reeling from the disconnect of what they thought they knew, they could form a completely new opinion based on what they really were SEEING, not just what they had been fed by the media."

"It's not that I don't believe that Clay's performance on the AI5 finale was a tremendous success for him, because I do. And I think it was a meaningful success for him, as well -- it sent a clear message about his star power with a huge audience 3 years after his Idol season ended. I just don't see it as an "it.changed.EVERYTHING" moment for the people who've been working with Clay, though with the right follow-up, it might end up being precisely that for the masses and for the rest of the industry."

In depth music discussion has always been part of many of Clay's message boards. It's been an educational and enlightening experience. Not to say there aren't hair debates, skits, humor, personal stories, pictures--many, many pictures, and also interspersed with industry talk: liver, soffits, vacuum cleaners and dog food have also been discussed.

So don't believe everything you read in the media about the fans. The media likes to use stereotypes, but the reality is a diversity in a group of people with the common denominator of Mr. Aiken and a love of music.

Welcome to the Wild West of Clay Aiken fan message boards.

A great site to find anything you might want on Clay Aiken is at Finding Clay Aiken

A few recommended Blogs:

Clay Musings: How the Use of the Internet has Helped Clay Aiken's Career
Lyrichord's Music Musings: More Cute Clay Fan Interaction
The Big Dawg: The Buzz
The ClayBlog: Clay Aiken - My Thoughts on a Life Uncommon
Casper's Place: Clay fans aren't the only ones
Something That Really Happened: What It Means To Be A Fan

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At 2:32 PM, Blogger Idle-wandering said...

Great blog--I tried to write one about the fans last week, and ended trashing it. This is much, much better, so I'm glad I did!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Shadylil said...

How true, how true. We have certainly formed The Community of Clay, haven't we?

At 8:25 PM, Blogger christelklein said...

Wild West of Clay Aiken message boards indeed!! YUP ... that's true. There's no dearth of opinions in the ClayNation.

And i so agree ... that the boards, and meeting at concerts, and attending local club meetings has been a wonderful opportunity to develop friendships and community.



At 10:55 AM, Blogger celebhith said...

Excellent! I am proud, so very proud, to be a Clay fan and a member of the Clay Nation (I really resist being called a Claymate - heaven only knows why). But I do believe we are a special group of people who have "upped" the generosity in our hearts and souls because of the example Clay sets for us. Stories abound about the giving nature of his fans, the loving nature and the nurturing nature. Personally, I think we rock - and I think Clay thinks so too!


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