Rethinking Fan “Investment”: Legion M and the Future of Fanancing

Curator's Note

The startup Legion M was founded in 2016 as “the world’s first fan-owned media company” by Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison. In addition to partnering with an array of established fan-centric production companies and digital geek culture brands, Legion M has crowdfunded over $2 million from 7000 fan investors via WeFunder. With a relatively steep $100 minimum investment and the explicit promise to “open the gates of Hollywood” and give fans input into content creation, Legion M represents a decisive break from prior fan funding or “fanancing” efforts, like the crowdfunded Veronica Mars film (Scott, 2015). Because the JOBS Act of 2012 and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s adoption of Title IV in 2015 has opened the door for Legion M and other “fananced” media initiatives, we are now confronted with happens when fan "investment" is rendered literal.

While Legion M fans/funders might have a vested interest, both affectively and economically, in the company’s productions, what Legion M is ultimately selling is the promise of access to and a tangible sense of ownership over the creative process of mainstream media prodiction. What they deliver is a pedagogical vision of corporatized fan culture, in which the perks of professionalization (e.g. access to “pitch elevator” contents, Hollywood premiere and parties, and celebrities) are valued above creative autonomy or fan community.

This is clearly messaged in both their correspondence with fan investors, as well as their public web presence and promotional videos such as this one, which promises fan investors a “seat at the table” and discursively touts the collective power of fans, while offering no meaningful opportunity to have a “voice in the process.” Legion M may very well be “of the fans,” and “for the fans,” but it is pointedly not “by the fans.”

Works Cited:

Scott, Suzanne. “The moral economy of crowdfunding and the transformative capacity of fan-ancing.” New Media & Society 17.2 (2015): 167–182.

 

Comments

Argyrios Emmanouloudis's picture

This is a very interesting

This is a very interesting case presented here. The duality of fan/funder is a characteristic of the contemporary media landscape, and certainly not to be neglected. However, by reading about how initiatives like Legion M work, I surely have a few concerns about issues regarding decision-making and hierarchy in such communities. I also wonder if there are other cases of fan-ancing in which fans have a bigger say in the creative process. In any case, thank you for bringing this example up; it is quite useful for my research as well.

Suzanne Scott's picture

You’re absolutely right, all

You’re absolutely right, all fans are defacto “funders” of media content, so it’s the promise to not only direct fund (and thus potentially profit from) projects, but the tacit promise of having some tangible input into the creative process that makes initiatives like Legion M interesting to me. Currently, they seem to be both actively selling this, and stalling on delivering it in a meaningful way. So, you will see in many Q&As funders asking about when they might be able to submit scripts or actively shape content and the answer is typically “soon/we will let you know.” Alternately, they have run numerous “pitch elevator” contests, but I haven’t seen any actively commitment to produce this content. For my paper at SCMS in March I will be digging into the ways in which both the forward facing elements of Legion M (e.g. website, promo videos, events) and the personal messaging to fanancers shapes these expectations.

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