If you like the music, maybe you’d like to buy the … knife?


The relevance of the CD as a physical object connected to or expressive of music fandom is, obviously, on the wane.

But: Fans who no longer need to buy an object containing music (since music can be obtained in other ways) might still be willing, even anxious, to buy T-shirts, posters, and assorted object-packages that might or might not include a vinyl record, a book, garments, a compact disc (maybe even a blank one) and/or other collateral materials.

Earlier I noted Of Montreal’s effort to extend this notion to include such lifestyle products as a lamp.

More recently, special adviser to Murketing.com Cousin Lymon drew my attention to this: Khanate, in connection with its new release Clean Hands Go Foul, is selling things like CDs and DVDs and T-shirts and mugs. But also: knives. Here are some details on this $50 item:

8.75″ long hunting knife features a 4.5″ rubber grip handle and 4.25″ engraved stainless steel blade. Each knife comes with a ballistic nylon sheath and is boxed.

Are you Khanate fan? Then perhaps you buy an engraved hunting knife to prove it.

In The New York Times Magazine: Joan Winston

Her Star Trek conventions harnessed the power of media fandom long before the barons of content did.

The New York Times Magazine publishes its annual The Lives They Lived issue this weekend, and Consumed focuses on the Star Trek fan who helped organize the first Trek convention.

There’s another way of looking at such fans: as extremely active media consumers. And there’s another way of looking at the Trek convention culture Winston helped create: as like-minded individuals gathering to connect over a shared taste. In other words, Winston’s world was a template for what is now widely seen as the mainstream-media-consumer paradigm of the 21st century. Henry Jenkins, co-director of the M.I.T. Comparative Media Studies Program, has been studying and writing about media fans for more than 20 years and has summarized the Facebook/YouTube era as fandom without the stigma. “It takes all the things that fans have been doing throughout the 20th century and makes them public, mainstream, commercial,” he told me in an interview. “The mechanisms that fans were early pioneers of have become absolutely widespread in our society, whether we’re talking about early communities or social networks or participatory culture.”

Read the column in the December 28, 2008, issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

“Letters should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, Magazine, The New York Times, 620 Eighth Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. The e-mail address is magazine@nytimes.com. All letters should include the writer’s name, address and daytime telephone number. We are unable to acknowledge or return unpublished letters. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.”

Just looking

Flickr stars Red and Johnny — I noted them once here, and even attempted to get them to do a Q&A, though that didn’t work out* — have moved to a new level by way of a collaboration with Jim Hance.

The image above is a painting by Hance, based on one of R&J’s Flickr pix. $495 for the original; prints $40.

I gather there’s more to come.

Hance’s blog here.

[* “Didn’t work out” = They stopped answering my email!]

Collective action to “save” Starbucks?

Some say Americans won’t get together to support a cause, to fight for what matters to them. It isn’t so! People are banding together to make a difference — by trying to convince a multinational corporation not to close up shop in their city or town. They’re fighting to Save Our Starbucks.

In towns as small as Bloomfield, N.M., and metropolises as large as New York, customers and city officials are starting to write letters, place phone calls, circulate petitions and otherwise plead with the coffee company to change its mind.

Perhaps the Starbucks brand isn’t as troubled and reviled as some recent analyses would suggest? It’s hard to imagine a Save Our Walmart campaign. Then again, you never know.

Via Starbucks Gossip, which also points out this article, in which an analyst concludes that “about 54 percent of the locations [slated for closure] are within about two miles of another Starbucks.”

Assessing loyalty to an imaginary brand

I’ve linked to past entries in the Brand Autopsy series “Would you miss …?”

But this is the best one: Would you miss Dunder Mifflin? That’s the non-existent paper company in The Office.

Side note: Look at all this Dunder Mifflin merch!

Zune fandom: What’s it all about?

Here’s an odd rabbit hole I just fell into and climbed out of: Zune fandom.

An item on Listening Post about Gamestop deciding not to sell Zunes anymore jokily noted that this “could lead to a bunch of the Zune-logo-shaped neon signs that have shown up there becoming available on eBay, much to the delight of Zune freaks everywhere.”

Zune freaks? Are there Zune freaks? The post offered this link, showing a guy with a Zune logo tattoo (I wouldn’t have recognized the Zune logo on a bet prior to this), but the link underneath it went to a site called Zunescene that wouldn’t load.

Still, I Googled a bit and found ZuneLuv.com and ZuneMax.com and ZuneWorld.com and Zunely.com and I stopped.

I didn’t spend enough time at any particular site to gauge the fandom (or suss out to what extent the point seemed to be to aggregate ads). But I guess a million Zunes have been sold, so obviously there is such a thing as Zune fandom, but it suddenly made me curious about the nature of it. Is there a kind of contrarian cachet to Zune ownership? Is there a kind of anti-snob appeal in rejecting Apple, which I guess is basically the conformist choice of portable music devices, given its market share? Do Zune fans get excited when they spot each other on the subway or in a cafe?

Is there … a cult of Zune?

Ron Paul Tide remix T-shirt

Or at least that’s what I assume is going on here. From an NYT story over the weekend about Ron Paul fans.

Crowd questions crowd’s wisdom

Speaking of Starbucks, the company just unveiled a new site to harness the suggestions of its customers and all of that. (If you’d like to make a suggestion, you have register for a “Starbucks.com account.”) It’s not interesting. But what it is interesting are the responses to the stunt on StarbucksGossip.com. For instance, it’s pointed out that:

For a site the “just launched” at the start of the shareholders meeting, it sure is full and has a lot of “votes”. Seems they backfilled it with a lot of comments that have been gathering dust.

And that:

There are already 1,300 pages of comments! And because they’re displayed in order of most votes to fewest votes, people are overwhelmingly likely to vote for those that already have a jillion votes, and therefore show up on the first page; any good ideas that lag a few pages back will get lost in the shuffle.

Indeed, as New York Magazine’s site points out, most of the top-vote-getting ideas are changes that are already underway.

Previously on Murketing.com: Q&A with Starbucksgossip.com proprietor Jim Romenesko.

[Update(s): Romenesko comments to Seattle Times: “My site will continue to thrive because it’s an authentic reflection of how customers and employees feel about the company. MyStarbucksIdea.com, on the other hand, is clearly a corporate propaganda site.” Oof! Meanwhile, a more upbeat assessment here.]

It’s not Ira Glass the person. It’s Ira Glass the brand.

As an aside in a piece about using Facebook etc. as a reporting tool, Ellyn Angelotti writes:

About a month ago, I Facebook-befriended one of my storytelling idols, Ira Glass, the host of This American Life. With my request I wrote a long message sharing how much I appreciate his work and the opportunity to network with him.

I was glowing when he accepted my friendship. It granted me access to his personal page. Then my bubble burst when I saw this:

“I’m not really Ira Glass. I’m the web manager for This American Life. We’ve put this together so that fans on Facebook would have a place to give us feedback. And because we’ve got tons of video stuff to share with you from the This American Life TV show, which debuted on Showtime on March 22, 2007.”

Angelotti adds: “At least they are honest about it.”

And I guess if you can’t really be friends with Ira Glass, maybe it’s nice to hear from his web manager all about his exciting TV show which debuted on Showtime on March 22, 2007. That’s sort of like friendship. Kind of. In a way.

Nike to “homage” brand Mike: Cease and desist

A while back (January 29, 2006) I did a column on a small New York-based brand called Mike, created by Scott Nelson. As I noted at the time, much about Mike’s design referenced Nike. I wrote:

Nelson is not trying to pass off his clothing as Nike goods, in the manner of a Canal Street counterfeiter. Nor is he engaging in some kind of subversive satire, like AdBusters magazine’s famous twisting of Joe Camel into a dying and bedridden Joe Chemo. “I’m strictly paying homage,” he says, adding that he doesn’t expect any trouble. He did talk to a lawyer first and says he believes he has tweaked everything enough to be on the right side of the law, but that’s not the real reason he’s confident. “If anything,” he says, “I’m helping their brands.”

My interest in Mike — or rather Mike 23 Inc. — was precisely this unusual thing – it was a kind of tribute brand, and I’d not seen anything quite like that before.

And for about two years following that column, it seemed that Nelson was correct in not worrying about trouble from Nike, because none was forthcoming.

Recently, however, Nelson got in touch to tell me that this has changed. Nike has sent him a cease and desist. Read more

Fan power

Just reading this AP story about Jill Sobule’s effort to get her fans to bankroll her next recording session, I was a little surprised about this detail: If you donate $10, you get a free download of the resulting record, and for $500 or more, “Sobule will mention your name in a song, maybe even rhyme with it.”

I know the official response to this sort of thing is supposed to be that it’s great that an artist can avoid the crass music business, and fans are so empowered, etc. But there’s something a little creepy about this $500-and-I’ll-mention-your-name thing. I guess it’s sort of funny. But really, is this what being an artist is about now?

Anyway, according to her site as I type, she’s raised more than $65,000.

Weird fandom follow-up … if you must

So I mentioned the other day the weird “fandom” for Erin Esurance, the animated heroine of the insurance company’s commercials. I noted that some manifestations of this fandom include “mature” renderings of said heroine, but that I didn’t have it in me to actually check those out.

Delicious Ghost, however, came upon the post and apparently could not resist doing the necessary …  research. So if you want to see the NSFW images of the cartoon ad figure’s, uh, figure — here.

Annals of weird fandom: Erin Esurance? Really?

Through a series of clicks that started I’m not sure where, I ended up encountering this post, and this one, about what Esurance (which is an online insurance outfit of some kind) should do about the fans of its ad icon, a cartoon hottie named Erin.

The questions are the usual stuff about how Esurance should leverage the fandom. (“Find someone who can assume the persona of Erin Esurance and engage your clients with experiential marketing.”) But really, isn’t the more interesting question: What are these people thinking?

Are they really, truly fans of Erin Esurance? If so, what is the nature of that fandom, precisely? Is it just kind of kitschy? Or is this page of fan art from DeviantArt — I don’t have it in me to go through the process of seeing the blocked “mature” examples — an indicator? I’m not criticizing anybody here: If you want to draw pictures of an animated advertising mascot in her underwear, you know, that’s really your business.

But I admit I’m more curious about what motivates these fans than I am about what, if anything, Esurance ought to do about it.


Nice story in the WSJ yesterday by Christopher Rhoads on the subject of Hydrox fans coping with the loss of this cookie that was crushed by its similar rival, the mighty Oreo. Apparently Kellogg pulled the plug in 2003:

While aware that Hydrox cookies were becoming harder to find, many of their fans are learning only now they are gone.

“This is a dark time in cookie history,” wrote Gary Nadeau of O’Fallon, Mo., last year on a Web site devoted to Hydrox. “And for those of you who say, ‘Get over it, it’s only a cookie,’ you have not lived until you have tasted a Hydrox.”

Still reeling from their loss, Mr. Nadeau and other “Hydrox people” have yet to accept their fate. Some have started an online petition demanding that Kellogg bring the cookie back. They have collected 866 signatures.

The full story is here. The only thing missing is any comment from Paul Lukas, who once proposed Oreo People vs. Hydrox people as possibly the definitive human dichotomy. (He also wrote a nice Hydrox piece for Fortune back in 1999, right here. These days of course he’s focused on other things.)

Also, the story does not give a URL or link for the mentioned “Web site devoted to Hydrox” where Nadeau made the “dark time in cookie history” comment, or for the petition. I found the petition, and I found this Hydrox site, but I can’t find Nadeau’s comment. If you have the link please pass it along.

Never mind that last request, the mystery has been solved for me in the comment below (thanks adam!): Nadeau’s quote is from the guestbook of that same Hydrox fan site, right here.

Human rights icons in the form of LEGO minifigs

Martin Luther King, Jr., originally uploaded by Dunechaser.

As the title makes clear, that’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Or rather, it is a Lego “minifig” representation of Martin Luther King Jr.

I encountered this on Flickr yesterday, and I was surprised, and interested. Particularly because Flickr photographer Dunechaser’s photostream, and related blog The Brothers Brick, contain images of other minifig representations of human-rights icons: Steve Biko, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Gandhi. Go ahead and click, it’s worth it.

Please put aside the issue of whether or not the above image actually resembles Martin Luther King, Jr. I knew that Lego made lots of minifigures — but were these manufactured and sold as MLK (and Ghandi, etc.)? I asked Dunechaser, whose real name is Andrew Becraft.

“The short answer is no,” he replied. “That said, aside from the occasional accessory created by a third-party vendor, I only use official parts manufactured by LEGO. It’s all about putting together the little plastic bricks in an interesting way — sort of like working in a medium with a limited palette, which is more challenging. Nearly all the LEGO creations you see on Flickr are original designs as well.”

So these are customized creations, as it were. Relevant Flickr pools include The Minifig Stars Pool, and the LEGO Pool.

Mr. Becraft adds: “There are certainly very rare LEGO minifigs, and since I’ve been collecting for more than 30 years, I have LEGO elements that are no longer available. LEGO occasionally produces very small runs of elements to test designs or new colors, and these can show up on the secondary market (eBay and a site called BrickLink). Naturally, elements that were never released in LEGO sets are very, very rare”

He also tells me he’s part of LEGO Ambassadors, which is described on the Lego.com site as “a community based program made up of adult LEGO hobbyists who share their product and building expertise with the world-wide LEGO community (kids and adults actively participating in a LEGO community) and the public (kids, parents, grandparents).” Details on that here. The upshot is that it’s a sort of brand-evangelism/co-promotion/people’s-marketing situation. So I suppose on some level, by posting this entry, I’m playing into the hands of LEGO’s murketing! Ah, well.

Okay, if you didn’t click above, you simply must see Gandhi. Here he is:

Mohandas K. Gandhi, originally uploaded by Dunechaser.