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How Not To Treat Your Fans


In the past year or so there seems to have been a bit of an epidemic regarding a whole variety of big name bands splitting up. All Saints, Five, and most recently Steps all had the speculation, will they or won't they, are they together or aren't they, culminating in the inevitable press announcement that the group was no more.

Granted, it took All Saints nearly a year to admit that they were going to split, denying vehemently that relations were bad among the members despite the fact that little of their last album was recorded as a group but separately then pieced together. Similarly with Five - rather than admit the truth that band relations were shaky, they used a cardboard cut-out of Sean in the video for their penultimate single, "Let's Dance", and pleaded absence due to illness. And what about the much-maligned but highly successful Steps, although it did become cool in a student cult sort of way to say you had their albums - the rumours had been plaguing them for some time, with talk of cash disputes among the male and female members as the main reason for group strife.

But when all is said and done, these bands at least had the guts to come forward and admit that it was all over. Yes, there will be many fans who will take this news worse than others, but surely in the long run it is fairer to your fans to admit the truth, rather than string them along in the hope that one day soon, the band will be together recording more tracks. So what bands are doing that, you might ask? Well, the ultimate example has to be Boyzone. The guys have now been "pursuing their individual careers" for 2 years and magazines and newspapers are constantly quoting one member or the other slagging off the other members. Doesn't really make for a promising reunion, does it? Take a glance at the official website (www.boyzone.co.uk) and you will see that it too remains ambiguous about the band's future, hardly able to tell us more than a few lines about what the band members are up to at present. Even fan club members received no official news; instead, the newsletters just seemed to stop coming. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the people who supported the band over the years and brought them to where they are today deserve a little bit more respect than this.

The future of the Spice Girls remains dubious too, but still the official line is similar to that of Boyzone. Their official website (www.c3.vmg.co.uk/spicegirls) doesn't even mention forthcoming plans as a band, but instead give you the separate sites for each band member, implying that for the foreseeable future, the emphasis is very much on "Solo Spice". www.c3.vmg.co.uk/spicegirls/nowspice, which also claims to be part of the "official site" can offer no up to date information since the release of "Holler" in 2000. For both groups this lack of communication is little short of a slap in the face to all their fans.

Therefore despite the melodrama when a band releases the final "farewell" song, at least in these cases there is an element of closure for the fans - this is particularly important among their younger, more impressionable audience. Although Take That were subjected to much criticism when they announced their split and a generation of teenage girls worldwide became hysterical, at least they gave their fans the freedom to let go and move on to other groups. Why lie about it? Perhaps some artists think that if they admit the group that made them is no more, their newfound solo "careers" will be over too. But if pop groups today have any respect whatsoever for their fans - the people who have made them the millionaires that members of the above named groups undoubtedly are, and if they are secure in these seemingly much longed-for solo pursuits, then they should simply be honest and admit to the world whether a future exists for the band or not.

By: Bev Woolfson on Tue, Jun 11th 2002

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