GQ writer Jonathan Heaf has referred to excited fangirls at a One Direction concert as “banshees.” This is just one example of the negative connotations attached to fangirls. As a long-time fangirl, I take issue with this portrayal. I see fangirls as people who enjoy an artist’s work so much that they are willing to dedicate hours of their time to learn about and support a musician or band.
Even artists acknowledge that their fans are important. Harry Styles said, “How can you say young girls don’t get it? They are our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going.” Slowly, the big music companies are also realizing that fan engagement is the key to success for an artist or band and that fangirls have useful personal knowledge about how to best engage fans. This is because fangirls learn creative, technical and leadership skills while supporting artists that are actually transferable to the professional world.
I’ve been a fangirl since I was in the fourth grade and it has genuinely been a great experience. When I was younger, I made fan pages on social media where I created video and picture edits of Justin Bieber and One Direction in hopes of them seeing it. There’s nothing more beautiful than finding an artist or band that makes you happy and using it as an outlet to work on creative projects.
Fangirls aren’t wasting their time. Some fangirls will teach themselves skills, such as video editing, marketing, photoshop and event planning. These skills are transferable to professional spaces, but are often overlooked because of their origins in fan-based projects. Everything I know about video editing I learned from making friends online and talking to them about different softwares they use in fan edits: Video Star and Adobe After Effects. Learning how to use these softwares has helped me complete video projects for dance classes that I professionally edited.
As a fangirl, the happiest I’ve been was when I started supporting the K-pop group BTS. Through “ARMY“— the BTS fanbase — I’ve met friends, learned how to promote BTS online by creating tweets during new releases and developed other marketing skills. There are also BTS fan pages on Twitter that gather the whole fandom together to donate funds to help other fans who can’t afford to buy a newly released single. By doing this, they help BTS get a No. 1 on the charts. I aspire to work in the music industry, so developing these kinds of marketing skills is especially useful.
Fangirls also plan events for other fans in their cities to come together and meet. Specifically, the BTS ARMY organizes events for other fans in their cities to come together at cafes and plan birthday celebrations for the BTS members. They create cup sleeves with beautiful designs and print out photo cards with a specific member’s face which they hand out at the events. I’ve been going to cupsleeve events for the past two years every time it is a BTS member’s birthday. They are always well decorated, organized and friendly. This attention to detail shows how competent these fangirls are when it comes to professional event planning.
On concert days, ARMY members make BTS bracelets and print out photo cards to give to other fans waiting in line for the show. Some fans do this professionally as a business, while others do it for free as a way to build community in the fandom. These are some ways that fangirls develop impressive creative and technical skills to engage with the artists and other fans.
Fangirls’ skills are not limited to music-specific events, however. When BTS donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement, the BTS fandom and One in an Army organized a #MatchAMillion campaign where fans raised an additional $1 million in 25 hours. Again, these actions show skills in mass organizing that fans develop as a result of their passions.
Jaime Bilotti, founder and CEO of Fan To Band, is living proof that being a fangirl is more than just a hobby — it can turn into a full-time career. However, in a recent interview, she said that in meetings people won’t refer to themselves as fans because they are worried they would be looked down upon by music industry executives.
This shows that even though fangirls are learning tangible professional skills and have had successful careers, the music industry doesn’t take them seriously. Media depictions of fangirls like Heaf’s certainly don’t lend themselves to an image of fangirls as professionals.
Fangirls must be recognized as essential to an artist’s success and an integral part of the music industry as a whole. Without fans, even today’s most popular artists wouldn’t have any acclaim. Instead of perpetuating myths of the stereotypical crazed fangirl, we should acknowledge the professional skills they acquire through their love of these artists. Next time you see someone post a fancam, remember the hours of work and technical expertise that went into creating it.