Although passionate hoards of young fans have been a feature of the music industry dating back to Beatle mania, they are often spoken of with a degree of disregard. As the importance of streaming and social media presence grow, however, the power of these fans will only grow.
Guest post by Emily Blake of Pandoras' Next Big Sound
For decades, teenage girls who like music have been associated with images of Beatle mania, bum-rushing *NSYNC fans and crying Beliebers. The word “hysteria” has often been thrown around to sum up — and, arguably, disregard — the passion of young female fans.
But whether it’s taken seriously or not, the power of these fans is formidable — even more so now, as social and streaming data start to play a larger role in A&R and streaming stands on top as the go-to way to consume music. Remember the time Harry Styles fans across the world attempted to “hack” the Billboard charts via VPNs to try to get “Sign of the Times” higher on the Hot 100? Or the time that all 16 tracks off Ed Sheeran’s ÷ landed in the top 20 of UK’s Top Singles Chart, prompting the Official Charts Company to change its rules?
It’s into that space that rising boy band Why Don’t We enter the ring. As the members of One Direction embark on their very different solo careers, the LA-based pop quintet — composed of Daniel Seavey, Jack Avery, Corbyn Besson, Jonah Marais and Zach Herron — are emerging as one of the top contenders to take their place. While Why Don’t We have a markedly different musical style from 1D — their music often veers more toward dance pop, and occasionally incorporates elements of R&B — they have a few key things in common.
Looking at theirs social and streaming data, like 1D, young women represent the largest portion of Why Don’t We’s fanbase. Eighty-four percent of Why Don’t We’s fans on Pandora are female. Additionally, 54% of Why Don’t We fans on Pandora are between the ages of 13 and 24, and nearly half (46%) are 13–17.
Also like 1D, Why Don’t We’s fanbase is highly engaged, which makes sense when you consider that teenage girls are some of the most engaged listeners on Pandora. Overall, teenagers Thumb a song more than twice as often as the overall Pandora audience, and teen girls tend to Thumb 9% more than boys. Looking more specifically at Why Don’t We’s fans, and it’s even more dramatic: Over the past 30 days, teens have thumbed “Why Don’t We” songs at four times the rate that overall Pandora listeners thumb the songs they listen to.
This passionate engagement is evident on social media, too. Over the past 30 days, Why Don’t We have seen an average of 5,050 mentions per day. That’s pennies for Bieber, but it’s a lot more than we’d expect from an artist with Why Don’t We’s 172,000 followers — 174 times more than what we’d expect, to be exact.
It’s clear that Why Don’t We don’t take any of this for granted, either. When I spoke to the group by phone last week, rarely a minute went by when someone didn’t profusely thank the fans. “To see what our fans have done for us is such a blessing,” Daniel Seavey, 18, said of their recent success, which includes a #1 spot on Pandora’s Trendsetters Chart after a rapid rise in artist station adds on the platform, a record deal with Atlanti, and the kickoff to their 19-city Something Different Tour to promote their EP of the same name. “We’re working hard for them, but they’re working just as hard for us,” Jonah Marais, 19, added.
And that fanbase has grown exponentially since the release of Something Different in April. Over the past three months, Why Don’t We have seeded over 90,000 artist stations on Pandora, added over 1 million Instagram followers and found 130,000 new Twitter followers.
Speaking to the perception of bands with primarily younger, female fans, Seavey seemed to echo what Harry Styles told Rolling Stone recently when the former One Direction member said his fans “don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.” Similarly, Seavey said he’s grateful for the the fact that Why Don’t We fans aren’t the types to jump ship when you “sell out.”
“We have some of the most selfless, loving fans,” he said. “It’s not the case that they see us start to catch ground and start moving they get mad. It’s not like that with our fans. They’re so excited for us that when they see us growing they only get more excited.”
“A supporter is a supporter,” Marais added. “No matter who it is — if it’s an 8-year-old girl or a 40-year-old guy.”
But it isn’t a one-sided relationship: Marais said that one of their biggest priorities as a band is direct engagement with fans, “returning the love.” It comes pretty natural to them considering social media is exactly what got them here. Each of the five members were promoting music and covers on social media before they came together in September of last year. (Seavey got his start competing on American Idol in 2015.)
“The fans that we had before we were a band were passionate about who we were,” Seavey said. “When we came together, it was all these diehard fans coming together and meeting each other. One thing that we always want to hold on to is how much we appreciate our fans and making sure we take those seconds to message a fan and checking our notifications.”
He added that what’s even more inspiring than interacting directly with their fans is to see fans interacting directly with one another.
“It’s crazy to see too at that age I feel it’s especially hard to really speak up about anything. There’s so much bullying going on, there’s so much bullying, so much insecurity,” he said. “And so when I see a girl putting her whole life into supporting this group it’s just I think it’s even more crazy and more of a blessing because it seems harder to do so at that age.”