Music fandom and modernizing youth Emergence of popular music fan culture in Finland from the 1950s to early 1970s

(In Finnish: Musiikkifanius ja modernisoituva nuoruus. Populaarimusiikin ihailijakulttuurin rakentuminen Suomessa 1950-luvulta 1970-luvun alkuun)

Janne Poikolainen


The study introduces a historical perspective to the discussion on fandom by examining the emergence of popular music fan culture in Finland from the 1950s to early 1970s. The analysis focuses on the ways the forms, settings and meanings of music fandom, as well as the images attributed to fans, developed in the interaction between the music industry, publicity and audience. As primary sources, the study uses written reminiscences on popular music and fandom, and music magazines from the research period. The research material also includes e.g. fan letters and statistics.

The historical context of the analysis is comprised of the substantial changes in youth brought about by the post-war social change. In the study, these changes are referred to as the modernization of youth. The study examines the kinds of technological, social and cultural changes linked to the change in youth that facilitated the emergence of the fan culture. Secondly, the study identifies the kinds of socio-cultural needs, created by modernization, to which music fandom as a phenomenon responded.

In terms of content, the analysis focuses on three dimensions of fan culture. The first dimension comprises the musical and material settings of fandom, such as recordings, concerts and music magazines. The second consists of media discourses concerning the fan phenomenon. Here the study also questions and disassembles the gendered stereotypes constructed within the discourses. The third dimension comprises the socio-cultural meanings of fandom, particularly in respect of identity work taking place in the forms of identification and social distinction. Scrutiny of these dimensions also highlights the links between the fan phenomenon and the constituent phenomena of modernizing youth: for example, the mediatization, Anglo-Americanization and sexualization of youth culture, as well as the weakening of the traditional identity models.

The study shows that the emergence of fan culture was a process where the media contents and ideas concerning fandom interacted in multi-dimensional ways between the various actors. The music industry, media publicity and fan audience formed the macro-level of this interactive network. The contents of fandom formed within this framework assumed their practical meaning in the daily lives of young people. These everyday meanings of fandom were concretized in the form of various consumption and production practices, through which the macro-level interrelationships were again redefined.