Leveraging Awesomeness: USC Annenberg Innovation Lab’s Music Fan Research Project

What a fantastic summer.

I have had the distinct honor of closing out the final days of my graduate program working on an incredibly exciting research project with USC Annenberg Innovation Lab: applying Erin Reilly’s Leveraging Engagement model, in partnership with Havas Sports & Entertainment, to study music fandom around the world.


Through the lens of Leveraging Engagement, we have studied how music fans interact and engage with their favorite artists, songs, and festivals throughout their daily lives. Our goal is to codify our findings into actionable insights for brands seeking to engage with audiences through music.


Working on a research team, led by Jake de Grazia and Brooklyne Gipson, our background research looked at other music fan studies and how other researchers have categorized and coded their results.


We interviewed Henry Jenkins to learn more about his take on the study of fandoms, and sought advice on how to apply it to our own studies.

Imbued with the knowledge of the fandom expert himself, we embarked on our music project, collecting our primary research – a mix of global survey data from Universal Music Group and qualitative data from festival-goers.

We worked with dScout to gather qualitative data remotely, from fans at the festivals themselves. We asked the festival-goers to identify and capture moments during the festivals that inspired them to become bigger or deeper music fans.

For me, this has been a passion project and eye-opening experience into the world of marketing research. Our results have been a pleasant mix of surprising, intriguing, and enlightening.  Sorry, no spoilers – (our findings have not been made public, yet).

Applying the Leveraging Engagement model to myself, I can boldly say that, as a music fan, I engage primarily through Mastery, Identification, Creation, and Play when it comes to music. I love to learn about artists and their craft. I consider music to be a formidable part of who I am. I play music, and I learn songs from other artists whom I admire.

I think the Leveraging Engagement framework is the most interesting concept of this project that I will carry with me into the working world. My passion is entertainment, and my skills are in social media. Understanding one’s audience is key to effective communication in PR, social media and marketing.


During my online interactions with fans, I often stop and think about how fans fit into the Leveraging Engagement categories. For example, on Vine (Twitter’s six-second looping video platform), teens engage heavily through a mix of Identification and Social Connection by re-vining, liking, or commenting on content that affirms his or her own identity. The content itself performs best with fans when it showcases relatable moments in a comedic way, thus fulfilling fans’ desire to also engage through Entertainment.


It’s connectable working moments like this that reaffirm my own understanding of this framework and its infinite applicability to any fandom in any industry.


I am so grateful to have been a part of this project and a team member of USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. My career journey continues, and I will never forget the incredible moments I’ve shared with colleagues or the amazing experience and skills I’ve learned during my time at AIL.


These are an amazingly smart, talented, and capable group of individuals, all of whom I will miss dearly.


… I won’t get too verbose or sentimental here. Suffice it to say, the best way to end any tale is with some relatable geeky or pop culture reference.


Thus, without further ado…


So long, and thanks for all the fish.



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