Music: How A Family Can Be Formed By A Common Enjoyment

by Dale

Music. That one word can send chills up my body. A song has the power create emotions that someone has never felt before, and a band? They have the ability to create a family. Although it may not be biological, a music fandom can be just as influential as blood relatives. As Jonathan Marks said, “membership in these unbiological groupings may mean the difference between life and death, for they are the categories that allow us to be identified (and accepted or vilified) socially.” [1] Fans laugh, cry, scream, and sing together. They create memories; some, that the best day of their lives. After all that, who wouldn’t call this group of people a family?

Due to technology, the time and ways that artists are able to spend communicating with their fans has increased. From these new forms of interacting each fandom has created their own symbolic language. It’s given the fandoms an opportunity to communicate with each other by using a simple phrase. Using the One Direction fandom as an example, someone may say, “I feel like Liam in a room of spoons.” To an individual that isn’t apart of the fandom, a spoon is just cutlery that everyone uses, but to someone that was apart of the family they would know that the meaning of spoon in this sentence was more abstract than a simple form of cutlery. Whoever posted that was in a place of fear. The symbolic words and pictures in each fandom have the ability to define how someone is feeling in a certain situation, and as mentioned in lecture having abstract symbols helps to keep society, or even a family, in order.[2]

Since we’re considering a fandom a family, the social structure of them must be discussed. Structural-Functionalists would observe a fandom to see if there are “relations of association between individual organisms.”[3] If someone observed a fandom they would find that the band is at the highest point, then comes the oldest fans, the ones who have been around the longest. Lastly would be the babies of the family, those who have recently joined into the fandom. But the relations of people may change throughout the years.[4] The babies will eventually become the older group. Throughout the years, even with constant shifts of band members, songs, and memories the structure of a bands fandom remains similar throughout time.

With the new age of technology, musical artists are provided with a brand new opportunity. Being able to communicate with fans has created an epidemic of fandom families. An interest in music has given millions of people around the world a place to communicate and belong. Music can create family.

[1] Jonathan Marks, “Black White Other”, in Natural History, 1994, p. 11.

[2] Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Introduction To Cultural Anthropology, 31 August 2015.

[3] A. R Radcliffe-Brown, “On Social Structure”, in Structure and Function in Primitive Society, 1940, p. 122.

[4] A.R Radcliffe-Brown “On Social Structure”, in Structure and Function in Primitive Society, 1940, p. 124.

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30 Responses to Music: How A Family Can Be Formed By A Common Enjoyment

  1. Leo Borasio says:

    I found your post very interesting from a musician and performers standpoint, as well as a fellow fan of music. I completely agree that its virtually impossible to have a bad time at a concert, because often those around you share your beliefs and values, and are simply there to enjoy the art. As a musician I also find this interesting, because I think fans have an almost kinship like relationship with band members, and yet that relationship may not extend back towards the fans in the same way. While there is a relationship there, I think it would be interesting to look at the difference between being on stage and looking out, versus admiring those on the stage from afar. I think it would also be interesting to explore the familial aspect between the band members themselves, and how they’ve made their own family that they effectively see more than their real family while on tour. Very thought provoking essay Dale!

  2. Abhi Shrestha says:

    Dale! What an interesting way to look at how music connects fans around the world as blood connects biological family members together. Sometimes I feel as if musical families are stronger than biological family members. It’s like how friendship may start off weak but it has the potential to grow stronger than anything else. But in order for it to do so, friendship needs foundations. Music creates one of the strongest foundations for a powerful relationship.
    I really liked how you started your 3rd paragraph, “Since we’re considering a fandom a family, the social structure of them must be discussed”. It sounded as if the discussion of social structure has to be addressed at all costs. This is good because I knew exactly what you topic/theory you were going to talk about. The theory in the second paragraph was not as straight forward and I would have liked to seen that. All in, great essay!

  3. Taylor McGrath says:

    This essay made me thing about something I had never thought about before! I liked your take on this Family essay because it is so different than any of the others. Your music fandom as a family is such a creative and interesting idea. I liked the use of the symbolic theory in paragraph two, but I wonder if you could have also included examples to portray the interpretive theory as well? Maybe you could have explained how your specific music fandom is interpreted and understood by others and whether or not you agree with these interpretations. I also like how you mentioned that technology has enhanced the bonds of these fandoms because technology is so important in today’s society. This makes me wonder if music fandoms in the future will have greater bond due to the growth and development of technology. Overall, great essay and topic. I liked the originality and different perspective that you have.

  4. Laura Hiserodt says:

    I really like the idea of a fandom as a family- it abstract the original and general idea of family and creates an entirely new genre of “family”. I agree with you that the bonds between fans can be comparable to that of the traditional family, but only in the sense of emotional enjoyment. A very large, popular fandom which we witness a lot on this campus, let alone around the country is the EDM fandom which pulls together people from all over to enjoy the excitement of raves and loud repetitive music. While no blood is shared between these people, they all are connected by their love of flashing lights and loud music, creating a bond that one may not ever even hope to share with a mother or father. Your interpretation of the fandom family is very unique and interesting, and the overall syntax of your essay was strong.

  5. Jack says:

    What a great way to connect music to family. It is so true on how music brings people together. Every culture has rhythms and beats that mean so much more than what it sounds like. Culture evolves around community. Community is brought closer together through music and mutual interest. What are other ways cultures have a deep connection other than music?

  6. Allie Wolff says:

    Your comparison between family and music is really creative and a great way to think about how families can be formed outside of biological families. I agree that music commonly connects people to one another in a really strong way. Certain songs and lyrics can have specific meanings, and many different people can relate to the music they hear. In this way, music allows people who may be dealing with the same situations or feelings to relate and join together for support as a family. I also liked how you thought of the organization of the fans, because there is definitely an order in which fans may support and listen to musicians.

  7. Alexis Bush says:

    I really liked your take on the family essay. I think music does create family. It is a chosen family that has our shared values, interests, and beliefs. I agree with and really liked the quote that you threw in there from Jonathan Marks. Created families, like ones created by music, make us feel important and give us a sense of identity. I feel at home and like I am a part of something when I listen to certain music that I really identify with. Now I would ask, what voids do un biological relationships fill that biological relationships don’t fill? Also I would ask,do you think un biological families can ever fill the void of biological families?

  8. Anna Bockhaus says:

    I really enjoyed your essay! I thought the way you interpreted a fandom as a type of family was great. It was something I had never thought about before, but the way you laid it all out, it made complete sense. I wonder, though, how the dynamics of a fandom family are different from an average blood family. Fandom family members are connected by their interest in a certain band, where as traditional families are connected by blood and relatedness. Can the connection between fandom family members ever reach the level of connectedness of blood-related family members?

  9. Ben Medalie says:

    Music is perhaps the most universally appreciated form of artwork and expression that has ever existed to this date. Dale, I was intrigued, yet not surprised by the instant relatable emotions I felt while reading your essay. Often times, I too feel a sense of community and love floating through the atmosphere surrounding music, especially when attending the concerts of some of my favorite artists. I like how you related fandoms to biological families and how you intertwined the process of actually growing up in this world with naming the consecutive steps of loyalty to supporting your favorite band or artist. Yet, do you think technology is the sole creator of these contagious fandoms? Even before social media and access to new and advanced communication technology, fandoms have seemed to thrive. For example, at the height of The Beatles’ empire, millions of people all around the world connected at an extremely high, loving level through the power of their music. Defining when this “new age of technology” started and through which technologies increased these worldwide fandoms would help the reader better understand the meaning of your essay. Overall, your essay was well-crafted and relatable.

  10. Casey Wilson says:

    First, you stated that fandom is like a family because it means the “difference between life and death”, according to Marks. You did a great job connecting these together, however you didn’t mention how it relates to death. I enjoy that you stated “fans laugh, cry, scream, and sing together”, yet this doesn’t have anything to do with the fans dying. It could be helpful to mention both sides of the argument in order to enhance your argument. Not as important, but this sentence could be switched around a little to flow better: “They create memories; some, that the best day of their lives”. Lastly, I like how you also brought in technology in the end. Even though that wasn’t our topic, it’s a very important tool that’s still developing in our country, so I was wondering how you think the structures of fandom families will change as we progress technology further and further.

  11. I haven’t thought about music creating a family in specifically this way before, at least not in any sort of depth. I think it would be interesting to look at music within the confines of a family that already exists and how music affects the bonds that are created between the structuralist ideas of child/parent or brother/sister. For example, in my family, I related with my mother in different ways through different types of music from my father, but I shared musical tendencies with both at the same time, even if they were somewhat conflicting (i.e., Metallica with Mom and Tim McGraw with Dad).

  12. Claudius Saalfeld says:

    As a fellow music lover, I must say that I really like how you combined the topics of family and music, not necessarily because they are both separate topics for prompts for this class, but because it is a completely different way of viewing the crowds at a festival. It is less a mob of people than a group of people who are there to enjoy the show, the atmosphere and the company of like-minded people. However, I must say that I somewhat disagree with your statement about technology helping artists expand their families. Sure, when you are able to spread your song via the Internet it will reach many, many more people much quicker than if you were to sell it in a CD store. Reaching a larger number of people with your music does not necessarily mean that all these people are part of your musical “family”. To me, it is more about the depth and quality of the relationship that the artists share with fans, rather than the number of plays your song has.

  13. sophiesquire says:

    Interesting take on the family essay! I thought this was a very abstract topic as, when thinking about family, music doesn’t normally come to mind. Not only was this essay very original, but also very well written and thought provoking. I thought it was really interesting how you compared a fandom to a biological family and how a fandom has the potential to have an even closer bond than a biological family may have. Overall your essay made me think about how different fandoms consist of very didfferent types of people and personalities and how this can bring similar people together. Thanks for the great read!

  14. Jason Dietrich says:

    This is a great example of how family is so much more than just blood or legal relations! This essay described exactly how I feel it is to be a member of any loyal fandom. Whether it’s a music group, a sports team, an author, or any other entity with a dedicated following, being a part of fanbase really is like being part of a family. I would argue that many people would feel more at home at a concert surrounded by fellow fans than they would at a crowded Thanksgiving dinner table!

  15. Going off what Jason said, I think that this post brings to light a really interesting point about the importance of family that isn’t just your blood or legal relations. It’s amazing how close you can feel to a culture of people with a shared love of something. I liked how you tied in both theories and would also like to suggest that functionalism could be used well in this example. The idea that culture acts as an organism and is supported by different components of society to create a well balanced system, ties in well with fandom. This culture really does feel like a well structured system, with each role being understood by each participant. It’s amazing how much goes into fandom culture, and how naive someone feels stepping into it in; the same way you might feel walking into a culture of climbing, or sports, or arts.

  16. Dylan Shannon says:

    I like the approach to the essay prompt. As a guitarist, I understand what you mean about the power music has to bring people together. People who have never met before can bond over a common interest through the internet or social media, causing an epidemic of fandom families. In my experience, a concert has a definite sense of community amongst the crowd. In addition, when playing with a band, their is a shared experience and communication by playing their instruments synchronized with one another. It was interesting how you touched on technologies role in the increase of these contra-families. I have thought about music in a similar light before, but this paper provided a fresh insight into the fandom culture that was very revealing about musics effect on our social relationships.

  17. Colin Mulligan says:

    This was a very interesting take on the idea of family. I agree that music has a unique ability to unite humans and create personal groups of individuals with shared values and interests via fandom. This idea made me think of the “Pretty Lights Family.” This group is comprised of avid fans of the Pretty Lights music, and all members communicate through a selection of online forums. I have a couple friends that are part of the “family,” and they have developed truly personal relationships with other members through their shared love of this music.

  18. Natalie Bowes says:

    I thought your connection between fandom and family was very creative and insightful. Having gone to many concerts I know that being in a crowd with thousands of other people who are feeling the same emotions you are is so unspeakably powerful. I really enjoyed how you related the functional-structuralist perspective to the concept of fandom as a family. By introducing this perspective you exemplified different elements of structure within the fandom through the categorization of oldest fans to youngest fans that I would have otherwise not considered. Overall, your essay helped identify a feeling i’ve felt many times at concerts that I’ve never been able to name, the community around you really is like a family linked by shared emotions and unforgettable experiences!

  19. Beautiful! This really illustrates the ties of a community that can be so diverse who may only share one thing in common: resonance of a shared musical interest. With social media and a wide array of technological resources I feel that it can be difficult for people to define themselves, because there is so much information at our finger tips and the ability to travel great distances. We might not belong fully to just one community because of this. Instead perhaps pockets of us exist all over the world and among different people. These different families we choose to identify with may help us to understand and connect with parts of ourselves by finding a bond(s) to a specific multitude of expression or culture, that cannot be solely satisfied by our household environment or geographical region’s cultural norms/expressive resources.

  20. Alex Burden says:

    Excellent essay and analysis! I think this is a great example of how the concept of a ‘family’ can be extended to include a vast group of people with a different uniting element than one might first think of when the word ‘family’ is brought up. I thought your symbolic/interpretive analysis was spot-on but I was chiefly interested in your structural-functionalist analysis of fandoms, which was something I’d never even thought of before. It’s fascinating to think of a band and its associated culture, usually something seen as very freeform or even anarchistic, having a definite structure and striking a balance between a hierarchy (definite groupings of fans, roles in a fandom) and dynamism (rotating band members, new songs/styles, changing roles in the fandom, etc.). Everyone in a band ‘family’ seems to have an idea of what their role is, which even if it changes over time, is certainly part of a larger structure which defines the group and their relations. Looking at it from that point of view certainly makes me think of bands as much more of a living, breathing, organized system rather than just a passing common interest or taste.
    On a side note, I’d also like to approach the topic from a functionalist point of view; what needs does the family that comes from a band satisfy? Besides a universal desire for entertainment, I wonder if band fandoms satisfy a need for unity over something one is passionate about, particularly in a culture where traditional regional/ritual/religious ties aren’t necessarily as strong as elsewhere in the world. I wonder if in places where more traditional forms of unity (like kinship systems, religious/moral codes like those of the Bedouin, etc.) are stronger if bands would hold their same popularity and keep the same structure.

  21. Marin Anderson says:

    It’s really interesting how you can find a family outside of blood relation, especially through music. My little sister loves One Direction and seeing her interact with people inside the fandom is extraordinary. Sometimes I feel she’s closer with them than me! One Direction’s fandom reminds me a lot of the Beatles fandom back in the 60s, showing that fandom families have been around for decades and always will be.
    Good job using structural-functionalists as one of your theories, it’s a hard one!

  22. Canyon Cain says:

    I really like how you took the idea of a family and put it into something like a band or the fandom of a band. It really shows how people can feel the connection of being family without actually having blood relation. I really agree with this because many people have instances where they realize that they feel close enough to someone to consider them family. Although I’m not in a band nor have I ever been in one, I can easily see how this kind of connection would be created. I also see how easily the fandom can connect through similar music just like how most of your very close friends will like the same kinds of music as you. Good job.

  23. Brian Streeter says:

    I really liked how your took the concept of family and approached it from an out-of-the-box way. Comparing the ideas of biological families to that of fan groups using structural functionalism was an interesting way apply the theory. It showed how some anthropological theories can be applied to our own culture in a relative and meaningful way. I think that the way it is applied here could also be used to describe many more groups of people, from people of a nation all the way down to members of a friend group. It is not impractical to understand these broader groups in this way, although it makes descriptions from the roles within the group much more vague.

  24. Preston says:

    This essay beautifully describes what being a family is outside the biological sense. I think this a very important concept for people to understand, and one that many don’t fully understand or simply don’t think about that much. You did it with my favorite thing in the world, music. It made sense to me to use something powerful like music to compare to something equally as powerful, family bond. However, this essay lacked a bit of sense in clarity. I guess you could have gone more in depth about the theories you discussed.

  25. Bianca Prioletti says:

    Hey, great paper. I wanted to relate it to Taylor’s post, “The relationship between people and smartphones: A Culture of Disconnection and Distraction.” Every live music show I’ve gone to in the past couple of years brings tons of people who need to document it. Concert-goers take photos and videos, for their own personal libraries, or for Facebook or Snapchat. This certainly contributes to uniting the “fandom/families” and I bet their connection and community would be different if they didn’t network and share via social media and technology. I find that people tend to obsess over documenting moments with their smartphones when seeing live music, looking through their screens to experience the moment rather than completely immersing themselves and communicating with others, in person, by word of mouth, without the cellular device. I wonder what role cell phones play at concerts to distract and divide people, unite them, or both.

  26. Johncarlos Roos says:

    This essay completely changed the word of “family” from what I use to think. Never would I have thought that a family could be created through music. But once this idea was said I completely understood what Dale was trying portray because I have also felt that chilling sensation of being connected to the crowd while I was at the Made in America music festival and it was honestly life changing. Overall I thought this was a very cool and interesting perspective of the Family in the anthropological viewpoint.

  27. Marissa Marino says:

    Very excellent approach to this topic of family. I like how you explain that music remains a constant throughout peoples lives even if societal changes occur with time and time again. There are so many different types of communities that are able to take on the definition of family, there’s a limitless amount to which one could define what family means. Veering off a bit, this essay makes me correlate with the non-human essay regarding smart phones.
    You briefly mention about how new technology has allowed us to connect on a more personal level with each other. Something that I’ve noticed since I’ve been attending concerts over the years is the increase of experiencing music festivals and bands through a smartphone screen by recording the entire show or taking endless snapchats of the show. Do you think this makes us cherish the concert experience more by being able to link others, or does it diminish the intersection between family and music?

  28. Alex Havlick says:

    I really like this essay because right of the bat it challenges the notion of biological relation being essential to a family structure and presupposes that something as simply as shared interests are enough to create a family (the one direction example made me laugh). its also interesting to think of how technology, especially social media, might make it easier for people with such shared interests to find and communicate with each other. in response to marissa’s comment, i feel that people taking endless videos, pictures, and snaps at concerts dimities the experience of the person recording it. i feel that people who take a bunch of snaps at concerts are more trying to create an identity for themselves among there peers as liking a certain artists rather than enjoying the experience.

  29. Kevin Kuptz says:

    I liked the way you applied the idea of the family to something less often considered to be familial, such as musical interest. It is a very interesting concept and definitely a true one. When you consider artists such as the Grateful Dead who have such a strong following even today, and you listen to interviews by people who spent a whole decade just following the band around, the atmosphere that the Dead created for Deadheads was nothing short of familial. Family is a loose term, and it can be defined as wherever you find the most comfort and support.

  30. I found this blog very interesting and had never thought of fandom of certain music or group to be a family. This was a very unique take on what a family is and is very true that it can bring many people together of similar ideals, backgrounds, and beliefs. Many musicians have millions of fans and a large following that continues to accumulate. These fans are from all over the world, more in some places than others, and are brought together by this similar interest. I found this very interesting and find this to be a very neat concept.

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