Much of who I am and what I’m doing today I owe to Avril Lavigne. I don’t care for her new music and I haven’t considered myself her fan for years but loving her music over 10 years ago introduced me to her guitarist Evan Taubenfeld’s music and being a member of his fan community the Black List Club got me started in music community management. Needless to say it has been interesting to follow the media attention Avril’s recent meet and greet photos have gotten.
Does it suck to be an Avril fan?
The news stories may provide a fair amount of entertainment and a fair warning about what to expect, but that’s not the whole story. Noisey’s staff introduced the photos in a blog post headlined ‘It sucks to be an Avril Lavigne fan‘, yet the post didn’t ACTUALLY give a fan point of view.
I wanted to know how actual Avril fans reacted, before coming to any conclusions of what to think about the photos. And interestingly, I found quite a few comments saying that the photos weren’t actually as awkward as they expected and that they were “not as bad” as some photos from Asian meet and greets.
By the time I’m writing this the 6 pages long discussion thread had analysis about the situation, personal experiences, examples of others treating fans worse than Avril and some disappointed comments. But no big feelings to any direction, even though it could have been expected.
On Twitter on the other hand I found Augusto’s tweet, almost panicking that his fan picture had brought Avril so much criticism:
— Augusto (@AugustVaz) May 4, 2014
With a quick search I also found two other fans from similar photo shoots, although much closer to Avril (still not exactly relaxed photos). Their comments are excited rather than disappointed:
— Andressa Corradi (@dessacorradi) May 5, 2014
— Leonardo Vieira (@leoLavigneano) May 6, 2014
Meet and Greets are emotionally (and socially) challenging
I don’t know what’s the deal with the no touching rule. There could be a lot of reasons for it. But the bottom line is that getting VIP Meet&Greets right is not as simple as it might seem.
Meeting your favorite singer – one you’ve been dreaming of meeting for years – can be a huge deal. And something so intense can easily get awkward. Dreaming of something doesn’t always prepare you to the actual moment and throw in foreign languages and natural shyness.
From the artist’s point of view the situation isn’t necessarily any easier. Being a super star and singing to large audiences is very different from a small meet and greet. And being used to having fans in the audience does not necessarily mean you are used to meeting them one-on-one. You never know who might be coming to the event or how they will react. Some are more natural in that kind of situations, for others it takes a lot of effort and may still feel awkward.
Generally 2 x Awkward only makes not awkward if you can laugh at yourself and so find a connection in the awkwardness. But meeting your fans just as well as meeting your idol can be quite a big deal and it’s not easy to let go.
What can we learn from Avril?
The clichéd saying goes “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. But in all honesty, this certainly does not feel to be helping Avril’s image. Even if at least some of her fans can understand the situation, it does not look good. Especially the “this is what they got for $400″ point of view really puts Avril Lavigne meet and greet tickets to bad light. Not giving customers an experience worth their money is bad business!
Avril Lavigne’s own twitter account had a couple of sets of meet and greet photos, including some of the ridiculed pictures. It seems the idea behind posting the photos were to connect with fans and showcase the special moments. At least that’s what my idea would have been had I been planning Avril’s twitter content.
Were the audience just super fans, it probably would have worked. But official account social media audience needs to be seen as wider than just the core fans. Photos make great memes and this happens.
If there was a good reason for the distance (I count Avril not being comfortable with fans touching her as a good reason), then the event should have been planned to have a meaning and look good some other way.
My recommendation for the meet and greet would have been to add an acoustic guitar to the meeting and have Avril sing a couple of songs to break the ice. Had the photos still created the stories, the criticism could have been challenged by photos of an intimate acoustic show.
A small “I do love them” – comment on twitter does not quite have the same effect to balance 10 really awkward photos. On the other hand, getting really defensive would not look very good at this point either. So her subtle ‘let the fans be heard that they still love her’ method of retweeting positive tweets is probably one of the best ways to deal at this point.
What do you think about Avril Meet & Greet criticism and how Avril and her people have handled the situation? What would you do now if you were in her (or her publicist’s) shoes?
The picture of Avril used in this post is a press photo with permissions for editorial use given by Epic Publicity.
NOTE: The Avril Lavigne quote at the top of the post is from a very old ELLEgirl interview, quoted on MTV.com. How much Avril actually lives by that rule anymore is debatable, but I still found it fitting for the discussion on the Meet & Greet photos.