Fans, Copyright, and Marketing

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Title: Fans, Copyright, and Marketing
Creator: Hell's Half Acre
Date(s): December 19, 2011
Medium: online journal post
Fandom: Merlin, Sherlock, Supernatural, Community
External Links: Fans, Copyright, and Marketing
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Fans, Copyright, and Marketing is a 2011 essay by Hell's Half Acre.

Some Topics Discussed in the Essay and the Comments

  • fanworks inspiring interests in shows and books
  • fans purchasing for-profit canon sources because fannish influence, fanworks as social marketing


I was thinking about fanworks and advertising yesterday, because I started watching Merlin.

It wasn't because of anything contained within the first few episodes of Merlin - it was the reason I was watching it.

I was watching Merlin, because one of the tumblrs (or perhaps a couple) like to post entertaining Merlin gifs....and I kept seeing them, and kept seeing them...until finally I was like, "that show kind of looks entertaining - and I want to know why that dude, who was laughing in the last gif, is crying in this one...and damn it...I think I'm going to have to watch this show, I think."

And I'm not saying that Merlin is a great show - I'm finding it more entertaining than I found Hawaii 5-O, but that's me. What I'm saying is that the ONLY reason that I'm watching it is because some fan made some amusing gifs.

Now, it's true I didn't PURCHASE the show. I downloaded it, because I am broke...but, if I fell in love with the show enough, I WOULD buy it. Am I just saying that? No. I know I would buy it, because that's what happened with BBC's Sherlock.

I didn't even have a tumblr account at that point...I have ontd_spnparty to thank for sparking my curiosity in Sherlock. In several of their commenting parties (or perhaps it was a post during the Great TV Guide Voting of 2010) someone kept posting these ridiculously adorable fanarts of John and Sherlock. I didn't know it was Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch at that point. I just saw a drawing of a ridiculously cute John Watson and Sherlock Holmes and I thought "If that show is inspiring such adorable drawings, it must be worth checking out..."

So, I found a torrent and watched the show - illegally....and then I pretty much immediately purchased myself the DVD, because IT WAS AMAZING AND I NEEDED TO OWN IT.

There's a case right there where an adorable free fanart caused me to illegally download something, which then caused me to buy a DVD that I would not have otherwise purchased because I live in Canada and I don't have cable - without the fanwork, I would never have even known that the show existed, let alone wished to purchase it. The BBC made money, because someone A)made a fanwork, and B)allowed me to view the BBC content for free so that I could SEE what they were offering.

Actually, since 2005, I've discovered pretty much 90% of new music through fanvids. In 2005, I was big into anime, so I used to just go to youtube and type in "amv" and watch whatever looked interesting from my favourite animes and then clicking on the "related videos" and exploring music that way.

Basically, what I'm saying is that without fanworks, I probably wouldn't purchasing ANYTHING (except books, because I love bookstores). Since 2002, I've only watched or listened to things that have come recommended to me by friends and family...and fanworks are fundamentally in keeping with that tradition, because to put that much time and effort into something is to recommend it. It's saying "I liked this thing so much that it inspired me to create this artwork, to write this fanfic, to make this video, to capture this part of it in a gif."

Fanworks are social marketing at it's best, in my opinion....and I think the corporations behind these TV show, movies, and music, should welcome them instead of trying to stifle them through restrictive laws and copyright.



Dec. 20th, 2011 04:57 am (UTC) I completely agree!!

It's strange, I had very similar experiences. I was into anime and watching amvs and that's how I came to love and download (itunes) many songs-now it's the same with Supernatural fan videos.

I also decided to give Sherlock a chance because of what other online fans had been saying. A few of my favorite writers had been writing Sherlock fanfics and I didn't read them because I hadn't watched the show. (Except for your Dementors verse and I appreciate that Sherlock and Watson you wrote even more.) But then I saw Sherlock on Netflicks and decided to give it a chance and I LOVED it. I ordered the DVDs less than a week later.
[liliaeth]: hell, in my case, I don't think I would have been looking to buy the Hunger Gamesbooks, if I hadn't been able to download a version that someone made available online. But because I did download them, I asked my brother for (one of) them for christmas. (he got me all three).
[Hell's Half Acre, original poster]: I had a similar experience with the His Dark Materials trilogy. I kept seeing crossovers or "fusions" - and I wanted to be able to understand them. (In that case though, my brother happened to find the series too and bought me the books before I could even ask for them. :P)

This is why it irks me when youtube gets after people for copyright infringement when people make music vids. If the music artists would just realize that such fan works were free advertising the world would be a much better place. Like you, I've discovered some great songs just from various fan-made music vids. In some cases I liked the songs enough to purchase them. And even if I hadn't I often spread the word about things I find that I like, so I got other people interested....more chances for people to purchase the music.

If artists would just get their heads out of the sand over copyright issues, maybe they'd see they're missing out on a great opportunity to get more fans.
[Hell's Half Acre]: The thing that irks me is that it's not really even artists that have their heads in the sand (unless you are talking about Metallica), it's their labels. For the most part, I think artists LIKE having their work out there as long as they are given credit - but the record labels don't. So, in a lot of cases (certainly not all, but a lot) the artists ends up getting the short end of the stick just as much as the fans.
[galwithglasses]: Most of the new music I have I've purchased because it was in a good vid or because I had a chance to hear it or another of the artist's songs as part of a soundtrack for a big bang fic. Because of hanging around on LJ, I've purchased movies and multiple seasons worth of a couple TV shows I never would have tried if I hadn't seen vids, art or fic here. If it wasn't for that, I would never have run into SPN. Goodness knows I've dropped plenty of cash there to buy the episodes during the season and the season DVD (for the gag reel, of course). Maybe in my case the only ones losing out are the advertisers that buy time during the show. I can't say I feel too bad about that. :-)
[msninacat]: I think if someone wrote up a study using cases like yours about just how much money they are actually making due to fanworks then they'd have to seriously stop and look at it. I'm in the same boat as you for the most part. I work seriously odd hours and if it weren't for friends and online fan stuff, I wouldn't see half the stuff I get into. Hell, online squee about SPN caused me to buy the first two seasons sight unseen because I got a good deal and knew all that flailing meant it couldn't suck that badly if at all. ;D

A new friend had a link to a vid version of the paintball war on Community, which was freaking brilliant. So I watched all the little pieces that were on youtube and it looked fun. I think there were a couple of episodes on NBC streaming as well. So at Best Buy, where the first two seasons were on sale, I bought both and last night I was laughing so hard I really couldn't breathe. I never would have watched the show with the recc from the fanvid -- and I watched the paintball vid like four times it was so awesome. The other day I noticed Community on the cover of TV Guide -- I didn't pick it up though. I'm much more likely to be swayed by the opinion of a friend.

I'm in the process of a revolution in my music consumption..... and it's totally because of fanmixes. I'm extraordinarily susceptible to falling in love with a song because of an association with my otp of the day, so a fanmix is an awesome thing for me. I've bought several CDs after being converted to an artist through a mix.

I totally jumped into Who fandom this past summer because of the fandom and the quality of the fic, not the show as such..... and now I'm afraid to even calculate how much I've spent on merch since then (she said, eyeing her sonic screwdriver....)

So I totally agree with you!

So last night, I ran across a Holmes/Watson fic by a favorite writer of mine, and it reminded me that a good friend of mine had said, "Hey, you should watch Sherlock. It's really pretty good." And today, what with Christmas break and all, I found myself with some time on my hands. So I downloaded it. And I was about 3/4 of the way through A Study in Pink, when I hopped on Amazon and bought the DVDs, because I was already in love, and it was worth my desperately hoarded pennies. Never would've happened if not for the fans.

So basically, I agree with everything you've said. :D