We all know how fans can be a pain in the ass to a celebrity. The celeb walks out of a hotel lobby only to be mobbed by freaks with the same old questions and autograph requests, time after time. And we’ve seen the footage of celebrities snubbing these fans – brushing by them, avoiding them, cursing at them, using bodyguards as a buffer, and so on. Many times we can understand and empathize with these different defense mechanisms. It must get tiring to deal with it time after time while simply trying to live your life. However, one celebrity musician seems to have found a way to handle his fans better than most – Bruce Springsteen. And he seems to have created a specific way of doing it, which involves an approach of professionalism not unlike the protocol of customer service. After all, he is known as the working man’s musician, and he knows how important this image is to his fans. The working man doesn’t snub anyone. And because of this unique dynamic between Springsteen and his fans, the Boss has had to find a way to negotiate this potentially precarious issue of fandom. Watch this video:
Notice how he is warm and welcoming, yet it almost feels rehearsed? Notice how he only lingers for a few minutes, yet everyone seems happy when he leaves? This is due to the specifics of how he handles the situation. This dynamic is played out on countless videos of him interacting with fans. Frankly, it puts many other celebs to shame.
Okay, let’s first consider his responses to the mundane questions of one male fan:
How are you, Bruce? “I’m good.” (Said in the same way he’d talk to a friend or family member – muted, slightly tired-sounding)
How was the show last night? “Really great.” (Stock answer, yet it works.)
Are you going to stay in Gothenburg all day? “Yep, we’re just taking it easy.” (Uses the “we’re” to refer to his group or family like a gang hanging out – once again, it accentuates the casual.)
How were the fans yesterday? “The best!”
This whole interaction takes less than 30 seconds. As he banters with the male fan, he signs a bunch of autographs and poses for a few photos. Then he turns and approaches the fans to his left. He shakes hands with one young man, then kisses a girl and refers to something she has written on her hand. He poses for more photos, tells someone “you’re fabulous,” shouts, “thank you,” and waves good bye as he enters his vehicle. But as he climbs in he realizes he has not acknowledged all the other fans on the opposite side of the van. So he stands up, waves (to specific people as well as the crowd in general), give a few bows, and closes the door before driving away.
The length of this video is a mere 1:26. In that speck of time he manages to satiate the desires of at least a hundred fans, and if they didn’t get to touch him at least they got a wave. He knew that he couldn’t interact with all of the fans waiting, yet he knows how to make each of them feel special. His “stock” answers to the questions are nevertheless upbeat and positive, and his slow, easy manner is a comfort to the fans who are nervous around him. He doesn’t rush, yet this fan greeting takes under two minutes. Many other celebrities spend much longer telling off people or throwing a fit, yet Bruce knows how to make these little interactions time well-spent. Just as an employer trains an employee to deal with customers, Bruce has trained himself to deal with his fans very methodically yet satisfactorily.
Consider this next fan interaction:
Bruce enters the venue, is met by a hoard of waiting fans, and in less than twenty seconds provides a memorable moment for them all. His comments to his fans as he makes his way down the line shaking hands:
“Hello…you’re fabulous, you’re lovely , you’re gorgeous, you’re wonderful…hello, darlin’….”
And he’s out of there. Unless I’m missing something, he has just thrilled a bunch of fans by being upbeat, funny, complimentary, and approachable. And it’s taken less than 25 seconds of his life. Of course he’s just throwing out those compliments in a fun way, but it doesn’t matter. He’s in effect turned the whole fan experience on its head by greeting them in this manner.
There isn’t much else to be said here, but I will end with a clip of Peter Cetera greeting a fan. It should sum up a lot of things from a career perspective between these two musicians: