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To Thine Audience Be True

On August 12, Texas singer-songwriter Michelle Mayfield wrote a now-famous open letter to her fans:

    A Letter to My Fans; Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002

    Dear Fans and Friends,

    First of all, I want to thank all of you for your continued support of me and my music. I have enjoyed the past year and am very excited about what is in my
    future. However, there is a situation that has been brought to my attention that needs to be addressed.

    At the present time, within my fanbase there is a significant group of people who have alternate sexual preferences. Please know that I appreciate my fanbase no matter who or what they are – I, in no way, shape, or form am complaining. However, as an artist, I am continually wanting to expand that fanbase – to mothers and fathers, to college students, to teenagers, etc. I honestly believe my music has the appeal to be able to do that. It is not only important to me personally, but it is imperative for my future ~ record executives are looking for artists with an established and significant following – they don’t do very many “developmental” deals these days.

    However, I have had several complaints from bar owners, friends, fans, and potential fans regarding the outwardly show of affection that has taken place at my shows. This type of behavior, right or wrong, reflects on me as the artist who has brought you to that club. Let me give you some examples:
    1) I have several friends who will not ask their families, friends, or coworkers to shows because of this behavior and the potential negative reflection that may be projected upon them as fans of mine.

    2) A gentleman from a show at “The Six of Clubs” made a comment in the men’s bathroom, “What’s going on here tonight? I thought this was a straight bar.”

    As an artist, I want to be known for my MUSIC. It is VERY IMPORTANT to me to NOT be stereotyped, pidgeonholed, or categorized in a way that will alienate anyone from listening or coming to see my shows. I do not want to become a Melissa Etheridge or a Patrice Pike (although I love them both and respect them very much as artists) – most people don’t think about their music first…..they think of their sexual orientation – whether right or wrong, that’s the way it is. Whether I am straight or gay, it is no one’s business in the first place and I, personally, am not open to making that anyone’s business. It should be about the music…period.

    I cannot control the behavior of anyone, however, I am respectfully asking all of you as fans and friends to please be respectful of what I am trying to accomplish as an artist. Please be respectful of the places where I am performing by being aware of the actions that can possibly turn potential fans away from my music or from my future shows. I want EVERYONE to feel comfortable coming to my shows – and from what I’ve been told, people are not comfortable because of this behavior. If this means you cannot continue to support me or come to my future show! s, then I will understand and respect that decision. I appreciate your support up until this time.

    I sincerely hope you will understand the purpose of this letter and will respect my request.

    Thanks for your continued support ~
    Michelle

To which a fan responded:

    An Open Letter to Michelle Mayfield 8.13.2002

    Hi, Michelle: I got a copy of your note written to your friends and fans asking that your gay and lesbian fans, the “significant group of people who have alternate sexual preferences,” do their best to hide their sexual orientation when they come to hear you perform.

    You say that you are worried for your heterosexual fans who might be subject to “the potential negative reflection that may be projected upon them as fans of mine” if people realize you’ve got a lot of queer fans.

    Gosh, I’m sure it must be hard on you to have to deal with “the outwardly show of affection that has taken place” at your shows and all those badly behaved lesbians and gay men. All those dykes humping each other’s legs to the rhythm of your music and whatnot; it must be terrible. So, just to show you how concerned I am about this awful situation, me and my friends doing everything we can to make sure that all the queer-acting folks stay away from your shows in order to make sure that your squeamish heterosexual fans feel okay about being there. In fact, I’ll even work on convincing the queer-acting people who do go to your shows to make sure that everyone in the venue knows they are *not* a fan of yours. That should make you really happy.

    How are we going to do this? First, we’ll send out the e-mail to everyone we know, so they get the idea. Then we’ll also send it to e-mail groups, like Austingrrls, SublimeAustin, AustinFeminists and the NOW lists and other gay and lesbian lists around the state. I’ll even make sure to send it to Aggie Pride, the gay and lesbian list for former A&M students, since, like you, I’m a graduate of Texas A&M (Class of ’91. Whoop!) and Aggies like to help each other out, right? And I’ll make sure to put a link to it on my website.

    But we might miss a few people if we just rely on the internet, so we’ll send your letter out to publications that gay and lesbian people read, like the Texas Triangle, the Houston Voice, The Austin Chronicle, The Dallas Voice, Ambush, and whatever else we can track down. We’ll also make sure to contact radio stations that gay people listen to, like KGSR and KLBJ and Mix 94.7, and get them to make sure they play your music less during the dayparts in which they have gay and lesbian listeners, thus making it less likely that queers will come to your shows. I’m not sure how effective this will be in keeping all those queer-acting people out of your shows, but I think it should work pretty well, since most of these people, like me, think it is “VERY IMPORTANT … to NOT be stereotyped, pidgeonholed, or categorized” as someone who should be forced to hide who they are so as not to project “negative” associations on the people they are standing next to at a club. In fact, most of the people who see this will never come to your shows or buy your albums or say anything nice about you to
    anyone again once they see the bigoted and insulting e-mail you sent out to your “fans and friends.”

    And, you’re right, it would suck for you to have the success of Melissa Etheridge. What the hell were we thinking?

    Another ironic tidbit of information that you might be interested to know is that if you go to Ms. Mayfield’s website and view her available CDs, you’ll see that she has a live CD on which she covers various artists. Strangely enough, #8 is Melissa Etheridge’s “Like The Way I Do.”

Sounds like an effective strategy to me. Michelle has, um, backtracked a bit with this message on her site:

    I want everyone to know and believe that I never meant to hurt, offend, discriminate against, disrespect, or alienate anyone – no matter their sexual preference, race, color, or gender. If I have offended anyone in any way, I am truly sorry and I hope you will accept this apology.

    I love you all ~

    Thank you for listening.

    Sincerely,
    Michelle

You may go back to being all queer and all if you still come to my shows.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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