The Kaizervirus

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

One thing about hardcore fans – and god love ’em, they’re great! – they just have a real tendency to wanna complain and bitch about everything.

Chris Jericho

OK, to make this clear right away: This is not a rant against hardcore fans. In that case, it would be a rant against myself, I guess. It’s also no degradation of “non hardcore” fans. But I think that a lot of the discussions around the Kaizervirus are rooted in the fact that there are different kinds of fans, and keeping that in mind makes it much clearer why some people love it and others hate it.

First: the Kaizervirus? Kaizers Orchestra just released the first single of their new album, and instead of just releasing it, they started a huge viral marketing campaign. On the day the single was expected, nothing happened. A bit later, a video appeared, hinting at a “Kaizervirus” – followed by a cryptic website and hints by Kaizers on Facebook and Twitter. Next, the lyrics were leaked in the source code of the website, and the cover of the single was spread in little pieces all over the net and mailed out to a few fans, turning it into a puzzle. At the same time, Kaizers were looking for a fan to be the first to get to listen to the new songs and “spread the virus”. Nobody really knew what this was about, but of course, people were excited and sending in applications. Plus, of course, speculating a lot about what all this was about.

Already at this time, the campaign was received very differently. Some fans, including me, were really excited and thought it was great fun, while others were annoyed that the single was delayed and they had to wait to hear it. I can understand that – I used to be the same. But by now, I’m much more relaxed about finally getting to hear new songs, because I know that the waiting part is the best. After that, you know the song, and no matter how much you love it – the excitement is gone because you KNOW how it sounds. Nothing to be eager about anymore. And if in addition, the waiting part is combined with an online treasure hunt… YAY! Amazing, I really loved it. But yes, of course I understand those fans that were eager to finally hear the song but had to wait.

Then the winner, thus the person who was selected to hear the songs first, was announced – and yes, I admit, this felt a bit dull. Not that I had expected to win; it wouldn’t have made sense, plus, it would have been weird, ’cause I’m doing the fansite already. But: I’ve worked my ass off for the last (almost) ten years to get a base for the fansite, I’ve been the first to spread news on Twitter for a couple of years now and worked hard to get up to the >1000 followers I have there – and then Kaizers pick one random fan, point out his Twitter handle and tell people to follow him… grr. Feels wrong in a way, but of course that’s how the game is played, and – reacting by brain instead of guts – it’s totally alright. It doesn’t change anything for me. And it’s a great thing for the winner. =:-)

At that time, nobody had a clue how the virus would be spread. There had been speculation among the fans, and one theory (actually the theory of the winner *g*) was via a mobile app. Sounded logical, but: naah, they can’t do that. They can’t expect all fans to have the chance to get such an app. Skambankt had tried that, with an iPhone app (ONLY for iPhone), and while it was a nice idea, it excluded a lot of fans and they stopped using it pretty fast. I gotta admit that I was really offended by that Skambankt app – because I boycott Apple products, and that meant that I had no way to access that exclusive content. You can emulate Android apps (at least in theory… *sigh*), but not Apple apps. But okay, I’m digressing… =;-) Just to explain why I did not expect mobiles to be involved in spreading the virus.

I knew that it would be hard for me to catch the virus – because Kaizers had announced that the virus would be spread from person to person. And if you live in the wrong country, the next Kaizer fan might live a couple of hours away… =;-) So I knew I wouldn’t get to hear the song right away, and that was okay. As mentioned above – I’ve gotten a lot more relaxed about that. Waiting is the best part, I won’t die of not being among the first to hear a new song, and of course it would turn up on YouTube sooner or later. And since they had already published the lyrics, I didn’t have the feeling “But I need the song or at least the lyrics and translation for my fansite, I can’t let everyone wait for that!!!”.

The day came, and they announced… a mobile app. WTF?! But not only for Apple this time, but also for Android. And your phone must be physically close to catch the virus. OK, so no virus for me, but at least an app! Or… WHAT? “This app is incompatible with your E-Plus Samsung GT-I5510.” And again I was left out… However, it didn’t feel as bad as when Skambankt launched their app, because a) I knew before that I would have to wait for the song. b) I knew I would eventually get to hear it. c) There are Android emulators. OK, turned out that c) didn’t help… by now I spent three days trying to get the app onto my emulator, and I’m failing because Google Play won’t let me download the app because my phone is not compatible. *grr* But well… eventually…

So yes, of course I was annoyed – people got to hear the song and I had to wait, and I was excluded from the app. However, I didn’t really mind that much, because… see above. The only part that really annoyed me was that in all interviews and such, Janove pointed out that the reason for this whole campaign was to let “the most dedicated” fans hear the single first. Yes, I know what he wanted to say with that, and it’s a great idea. However, if you’re sitting far away and know you can’t catch the virus any time soon, and even if you could, you couldn’t because your phone is not compatible, and he’s talking about the most dedicated fans who get to hear the song for the umtieth time and you know that you won’t be one of the people who get to hear it (at least via the app *uhem*) – you can’t help but take it the wrong way, namely that obviously you’re not a dedicated fan… Well, thank you. *grr* A simple “well, we know that it won’t work for every of our fans, but we tried to do as good as possible” would have been enough for me already. Because they did! This approach was the best they could take.

Some other fans were REALLY upset about the whole campaign, however. Which I can understand, but believe me… it’s so much easier to be relaxed about such things. =;-) There were long discussions about if that was really for the fans or just for promotion. I mean, of course it was for promotion! But was it good or bad for the fans? Of course it was great for the fans who got to hear the song during the first day. But how about those that were excluded because of the wrong phone or because they live far out or even abroad? (By the way: I found it really interesting to see how – suddenly! – fans from abroad were brought into the discussion by Norwegian fans. “Hey, they don’t have a chance, this is not fair, and I live far off as well!” Duh. Apart from the fact that this is not the same – the virus might take longer to reach tiny places in Norway, but at least there are lots of people with the app in Norway, while in Germany… zilch -: We fans from abroad are used to waiting. We can never buy the singles right away, and the albums are usually released long after they are released in Norway. None of the Norwegian fans ever cared. Which is fine, but now, when “abroad” and “in some small village in the middle of nowhere in Norway” doesn’t make a difference, the fans abroad must suddenly be taken into account? Funny… *g*)

However, it was visible that Kaizers had actually thought about that. They did obviously realize how it must feel for a fan to sit at home while others get to hear the single… because they did the best thing they could: played an acoustic version of the song on the radio. Where everybody could listen to it, also online, and check out the song. Which made it MUCH easier to wait for the single. Ingenious! Of course I still wanted to hear the “real” single afterwards, but there was no hurry. Because I could already check out the song.

But still: is it really a special present to the fans to give the single to some of them, while others are totally excluded? Instead of just releasing it to everyone at the same time? Of course you can argue about that. And while I loved the whole campaign and think that the viral marketing thing totally made up for the frustration that we fans who were excluded had, I didn’t really want to take a side in this discussion. Because I could understand the frustration. And if you frustrate a part of your hardcore fans, is the campaign a success?

And here we have the answer and go full circle to the quote in the beginning. The “hardcore fans”. All I was writing was about the hardcore fans. Those fans that know everything, want to hear and see everything right away, cannot wait a day for a translation, travel around the world for concerts. Yes, for us, the campaign was maybe more “so so”, because too many were left out.

But, and this is true for every band, and we all need to get that into our heads and remind us over and over again: We are not the fanbase. We are the hardcore fans, right. We’re always there. But we are a minority. The fans that bring in the money are the huge crowd of fans that like a band, but maybe don’t hear about a new single until it is being played on the radio. This is nothing bad, and – very important – we are not better than them. A band couldn’t survive on only hardcore fans.

A couple of days after the app was launched, Twitter exploded (even more). It became as unreadable as when the Kaizer Chiefs (a South African soccer team) gain a high win, the Kaizers (some kind of sports team in the Philippines, I still haven’t figured out what sport) compete in the annual high school tournament, or Kaizer (the dog of some Bollywood star) gets a new hair cut. (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about now… try to regularly scan Twitter for “Kaizers”. *lol*)

Anyway. The reason for the huge amount of Kaizers tweets: By then, the news had reached the “non hardcore” fans. And for them, it doesn’t matter if they get the song after a day or after a week. But they get a free song by a band they like, and they get it in a cool way, namely through being infected with the Kaizervirus. And if the app doesn’t work for someone… well, just listen to the song on someone else’s phone, no problem. Think of a band you like, but where you’re not following every single step they take – wouldn’t such a campaign be incredibly cool?

So the answer is: Oh yes, the Kaizervirus is for the fans. Maybe not for the hardcore fans, but for the full fanbase. And as such, it was a total success.

Even though we hardcore fans might complain and bitch about it. Which we have every right to do – as long as we don’t think that the band must do exactly what we want. Because the band must do what they think is best for the fans. ALL fans.