A Swiftie On Superfandom

The music industry is obsessed with "superfans" but what does that really mean? Meet music blogger Karly from LA...

A Swiftie On Superfandom

The music industry is obsessed with talking about Superfans at the moment. However, we - the fanzing writing, music-obsessed superfan - have existed in every era, genre and scene. As part of a series of pieces about superfans, Los Angeles-based music blogger Karly Ramnani shares what it’s like to be part of one of the biggest fandoms the world has ever known…

Everyone’s talking about their “butterfly effect” stories on TikTok, which identify common threads that connect two seemingly unrelated events in one’s life. Many of mine involve habits or characteristics I’ve developed after joining fandoms. 

Ten years ago, if my teacher hadn’t played the song 'I Knew You Were Trouble' in dance class, I wouldn’t be spending May 2024 in Paris and Stockholm, and June 2024 in Liverpool. I’d also have a healthier sleep schedule, as I wouldn’t be tuning into grainy livestreams at ungodly hours and concerning friends & family with my melodrama over Taylor Swift’s acoustic set. 

Then, if Taylor didn’t enlist Gracie Abrams as support on the Eras Tour, I wouldn’t have perfected the art of cake decorating. That’s because our fandom likes to mark significant moments for Gracie - including music releases, awards show appearances, anniversaries of her various milestones, and so much more - with baked creations. 

If I hadn’t heard 'Black Magic' on the radio in 2015, I’d actually be having a productive day every May 14th since 2022. 

If I hadn’t discovered the Broadway musical adaptation of Mean Girls in 2019, I’d be able to communicate that my tummy hurts without quoting some unhinged song lyrics. 

In the next few years, I’m sure I’ll be able to trace another seemingly unrelated event back to Paramore’s opening stint on the Eras Tour

Plus, without these serendipitous moments that led me to discover my favourite artists, I wouldn’t have moved to Los Angeles to study music at my dream school. Playlists & Polaroids, the music blog that is now my pride and joy, wouldn’t exist since it was born out of my passion for fandom culture. I’d probably be studying for a biology test or submitting grad school applications right now instead of writing this, which doesn’t sound nearly as fulfilling. 

My experience as a superfan has equipped me with some pretty awesome qualities.  Here are a few of them…

Symptoms of Superfans 

Due to years of practice, I can successfully navigate a ticket presale. Thanks to this invaluable skill, I had the time of my life at thirteen shows of the Eras Tour in six different cities. 

I regularly land in the top 2% of Taylor Swift’s Spotify listeners, a statistic I’m never shy to boast on my Instagram story. 

I have notifications on for several update and merchandise accounts - so no matter what I’m doing, I run to my favourite artists’ official web stores whenever limited edition items drop. I’ve interrupted a few zoom sessions with my therapist to secure signed CDs. He gets it, and he doesn’t mind… but my credit card bill is another story.

These habits bring in significant revenue for the artists I look up to, but I don’t believe that they lie at the core of what comprises a superfan. Even when we can’t go above and beyond in these ways, us superfans maintain two defining characteristics: we centre our identities around our favourite artists, and we talk about them a lot. Everywhere. All the time.

Arguably, our impact as superfans can be even greater than that of the artists’ marketing teams. We post about how we personally connect to our favorite songs, and persuade friends to listen too. We form communities online, and amplify the artists we love in such spaces. 

The Day Ones

Our collective feat of surviving Ticketmaster wars isn’t the only badge of honor we wear. If we can, we love to flex our status as early adopters of the artists we listen to. Despite our jokes about “gatekeeping,” we diligently spread the word about them. 

Before Gracie Abrams reached her current level of fame, her day one listeners proudly referred to her as their “little secret.” Back in 2020 - when fans uploaded footage from Gracie’s bedroom shows to TikTok, or posted her music to their Instagram stories with the caption “soooo underrated” - they encouraged others to check out her music. I’d even consider some bigger artists, such as Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, as fans who wish to be part of the movement. By picking Gracie to open for their tours, they essentially did the same thing we do on a much larger scale. 

In 2019, my involvement in musical theatre exposed me to Renee Rapp, about two years before her debut album Snow Angel thrust her into mainstream popularity. Back then, I vividly remember stating that she’s my favourite actress during an icebreaker activity in choir class. None of my classmates had heard of her, let alone that a musical version of Mean Girls existed. Now, almost everyone knows the 'Poison Poison' outro and saw the 2024 Mean Girls remake. I’m still not used to her fandom being as big as it is, to be completely honest. I do miss the intimacy that she used to be able to maintain with us and the camaraderie that the fandom once had. That said, I’m endlessly proud of Renee. Nothing compares to watching her accomplish her dreams in real time. 

She’s added unmatched chaos to my life, sometimes even burned a hole in my wallet, but my Renee memories will forever have a special place in my heart. From lining up at 7am outside various venues during the Snow Hard Feelings tour, to receiving an invite to her performance at Sweetgreen, to chugging water at the barricade for her Coachella set - I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. 

I’ve experienced the growth of artists as both a fan and a music writer. On Playlists & Polaroids, I interview and report on smaller artists to help them build their platforms, thereby communicating what I believe the future of the music industry will look like. If it helps even one reader find someone new to become a superfan of, I know I’ve done my job well. 

More Than Just Trend Followers

While one can assume superfan status at any point during an artist’s career, their intentions must be genuine. If you don’t still plan on supporting someone once their mainstream popularity fades, you’re not a superfan. If your posts about music are solely motivated by social media clout, or notices from the artists, that doesn’t authentically spread the word about them. 

I became a Gracie Abrams superfan when I checked out her discography ahead of my Eras Tour show in 2023. Although I can’t claim the OG status, I was instantly drawn to her comforting, vulnerable artistry. I connected to the way she captures love, anxiety, and heartbreak. The lyrics of “I should hate you” seemed to come straight from my diary. Hearing 'Camden' live at her Good Riddance tour, just days before my birthday, helped me process a lot of emotions about growing up. I don’t know how I lived without her for 19 years, but I’m glad I have her now. 

Taylor Swift is a crucial component of my lifestyle in both the highs and lows. For starters, I’ve met more friends through the Swiftie side of Tumblr and Twitter than school. I bring song lyrics and inside jokes into every conversation - to reference 'Illicit Affairs', she taught me a secret language I can’t speak with anyone else (though I’ve tried to). It’s impossible to explain the rush of adrenaline upon hearing the song “Applause” by Lady Gaga to a non-Swiftie; you have to experience it yourself at the Eras Tour to truly understand it. The same goes for seeing her majestic run across the stage during 'August', especially after queuing all day to get a front row spot.

Most importantly, Taylor’s music has served as my guiding light through some of the hardest years of my life, as well as the soundtrack of some of my happiest memories. I’ll never forget crying to her performance of 'Clean' while standing outside Metlife Stadium on May 28, 2023, after getting scammed for Eras tickets that day. Almost a year later, I saw Taylor when she came to Stockholm and got the same surprise song, this time hearing it live from inside the venue. Both her and I have been processing heartbreaks in the last year, making that moment extra surreal and healing. Taylor showed me how to keep going even when life felt difficult. 

While I discover new names every day, the artists I write about on Playlists & Polaroids reflect my personal taste. Running the blog has introduced me to several artists I now consider myself a superfan of (Caroline Romano, Leah Marie Mason, and Natalie Jane, just to name a few). I hope I can introduce its readers not just to new artists, but the beautiful chaos and excitement that stems from belonging to a fandom. 

Fandom culture ignited my passion for social media management and journalism, inspiring me to pursue a career path in the music industry. In the chorus of 'Right Now', Gracie Abrams perfectly encapsulates my relationship with music and concerts:

“I'm so high, but can't look down / Left my past life on the ground / Think I'm more alive, somehow / I feel like myself right now.”

The artists I listen to lie at the very core of who I am. Joining fan communities has provided me with a safe space, an escape from reality, a source of joy, and a purpose in life. 

Karly is the Founder of Playlists & Polaroids. Follow her adventures on Instagram here.