DS: The good, the bad, and the canceled? Exploring the dynamics and complexities of (digital) fandom in the music industry

Simone Driessen
Simone Driessen

In her 1992 book 'The Adoring Audience,' Lisa Lewis remarked, "We all know who the fans are." However, in the contemporary digital landscape, the identity and dynamics of fans, especially female music enthusiasts, have evolved significantly. This presentation delves into the intricate world of modern fandom, challenging the conventional belief that it is a phase reserved ‘for the youth’. Many individuals continue their fandom into adulthood, which leads to encountering both novel opportunities and complexities. This particularly becomes visible through fans’ participation in online communities, which have become integral to the fan experience of today’s world. Participating in these virtual spaces helps to sustain fandom but also offers a platform for fans to openly express their passion. Moreover, those very invested in their online fandom, also praise it as a space for being able to learn new skills, languages, and to establish (adult) friendships.

However, the flip side of digital fandom emerges in its potential for toxicity, mirroring developments in broader online spaces. Beyond celebrating the positive aspects, this presentation addresses the 'ugly' side of participatory cultures, exploring the sense-making processes fans undergo when their favorite idols face cancellation. This discussion extends to the aftermath, wherein fans must reevaluate their loyalty — continue supporting the idol despite controversy or sever ties? I will look at specific cases in the music industry to shed light on this ‘darker’ side of fandom and the different forms of play and participation that happen in such scenarios.


Simone Driessen works as an assistant professor in Media & Popular Culture at Erasmus University Rotterdam. In addition to exploring why people continue their fandom over time (she obtained her PhD studying lifelong music fandom), she is also interested in examining why fans discontinue it, for example following the cancelation of their favorite idol. Simone currently researches this phenomenon in the Dutch music industry.

All members of the department and research staff from across the faculty are invited to attend. Please navigate the calendar on the Department and Sociology's website to find upcoming Department Seminars.