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Published: 2012/01/29
by Grace Beehler

Learning from the HeadCount Fan DNA Project

Think you know the music community? Here are some facts that might – or might not – surprise you about the music scene, courtesy of HeadCount’s Fan DNA Project.

Jambands such as The Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9 attract the most Libertarians in their fan bases
, while indie bands like The National and The Decemberists had the highest number of Democrats (these fans are also the most politically tuned it). Maroon 5, O.A.R. and John Mayer fans are most likely to be Republican.

71% of people polled say that the overall state of America is “messed up and we better do something about it.” Moreover, 57% of all polled say they are usually inspired to take action when a musician speaks about a social issue from stage.

And, the Venn diagrams reveal that Phish might be the most all-consuming band out there. Surprised?

You’ve probably seen HeadCount volunteers wandering through crowds at concerts and festivals, asking you if you’re registered to vote. But if you stopped and talked with any of the volunteers this past year, chances are you’ve also taken the Fan DNA poll. HeadCount raked in over 10,000 responses at live shows and an additional 1,000 online.

The poll asks fifteen questions, such as who are three of your favorite bands, what are some things that you do at concerts (‘learn about a political issue’ or ‘drink too much’), what you’d like to see from President Obama and whom you think is America’s worst villain (Wall Street and Corporate America took the cake on this one). The goal? “It’s all about trying to understand our own community,” HeadCount founder Andy Bernstein says. “We want to see our community influence the world around it. That’s our goal here. The first step is knowing who we are and understanding each other.”

“One thing that I think really stood out is that when you talk to someone at a concert, chances are their values are pretty similar, regardless of political party,” Bernstein says. But when political issues – not values – are inserted into the dialogue, the responses suddenly polarized, even though the values were similar.

“It was very interesting to compare jambands, electronic music and indie rock,” Bernstein says. “We found that jamband kids were much more likely to be Libertarians and also more likely to just not have any political affiliation. We found that kids at electronic shows were more likely to say the world isn’t so bad! The majority was still saying that it is screwed up – but less so.

“And the younger people were, the less likely they were to say the country is really screwed up. It points to the fact that there is a political awakening that happens over time,” Bernstein continues. “The older person who is still going to concerts is more likely to be the stereotype older liberal, whereas younger people are much less likely to be aligned or to follow in someone else’s political course.”

The results show that the 18-24 year old age group is more likely to be Libertarian than Republican – which isn’t too surprising for people who have been following the Republican primaries recently – with most 18-24 year olds identifying as Democrat, ‘None of These’ or Independent. “It points to the fact that there is a pretty strong vibe in our music scene,” Bernstein explains. “The music community is strongly independent, in a ‘leave me alone, let me live my life’ sense. We’re seeing that play out.”

Furthermore, the Fan DNA Poll is not representative of the population as a whole – it is a representation of the music community. There are significantly less Republicans than Democrats or even Independents. But that imbalance isn’t a concern for HeadCount: “We don’t think about a person’s political persuasions when we go out to shows. We’re excited to get out in front of people. We’re not trying to balance something, because that’s having an agenda.” So, the results should be viewed through the lens of the music community.

“If the music community feels differently than the rest of the population, we want to serve the music community,” Bernstein says. “We want the music community’s voice to get out there. One of the reasons we did all this was to discover what they’re thinking. We want to know what they care about – what’s the vibe?”

But the results weren’t only political. They also served to help HeadCount find fanbases that were exceptionally politically active, like Andrew Bird’s fanbase. The poll also shows some interesting, trippy comparisons between bands in the Venn diagrams. The first question on the poll asks for at least three favorite bands, and the Venn diagrams illustrate the overlap between different fan bases. For example, fans of Bassnectar and fans of Maroon5 might not have any overlap – meaning that someone who likes Maroon5 probably won’t like Bassnectar – whereas almost all of Bassnectar fans are also Disco Biscuit fans. Phish seems to be one of the most popular bands: the majority of moe., String Cheese Incident, Drive By Truckers, Bela Fleck, The Roots, Keller Williams and North Mississippi Allstars fans are Phish fans.

“One of thing we hear a lot is, ‘I registered with you guys.’” Bernstein says. “HeadCount is a place where really ambitious, really smart, really interesting people in the music scene get their start in terms of giving something back, rather than just buying tickets. I’m so proud of that. We want everyone who can benefit from that to see that HeadCount is an avenue to be a better citizen in the music scene.”

And with 2012 being a huge election year, HeadCount will be going full force registering new voters and getting their voices heard. “We all know the system is broken and the system need more people in it, and less money in it,” Bernstein says. “It should be citizens – not dollars – that drive decisions. So voting is part of that – that’s the citizen’s piece – but the other part is getting all the money out and developing a system worth participating in. I think you’ll see a lot of talk and action from HeadCount on that this year, because that is clearly the next step.”

Comments

There are 2 comments associated with this post

J. Smith January 30, 2012, 13:19:54

Interesting. HeadCount does awesome work! I wonder, however, how the choice of recreational drugs (or lack of them) at the various types of shows played into opinions given at the time, and how the overall age of who goes to what type of show skews the data for that band/type of music. Something tells me a Decemberist fan is going to be older, more educated (due to age) and seen more politics in action (likely to be more jaded). And, of course the kids at an electronic show were more likely to be positive about the state of the world…they’re too young to know any time that was different, and are probably on something that generates feelings of universal love. People would be hard pressed to think the world had issues when blissed out and euphoric as opposed to drunk and stoned. I wonder if the political/optimism opinions voiced would be different if expressed in a sober situation outside of the live music environment, but with same subjects. I’d also be curious of all the 18-24 year old people who identified themselves as one belonging to one party or another have actually ever voted along those lines (and if not, does it matter?).

Gale February 14, 2012, 04:12:18

“if you folks get a cnhace, i think you should check out this article. there some interesting developments in here….“It’s a link to a story about Bush’s poll numbers.My question is, “so what?“No matter whether his polls are in the basement or through the roof, Bush is out in two years, so who cares?

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