FANMADE's Claudia Villarreal on One Direction, Boys World, and the Community of the Superfan
Claudia Villarreal, co-founder and chief creative officer of FANMADE, launched her career by cultivating a community of like-minded fans around the world through online and in-person activations via a One Direction fan account with 200,000 followers at its prime.
Claudia has 10 years of experience working across music touring, fan engagement and artist management. Her most notable work includes being a superfan coordinator for the Billboard Music Awards and the American Music Awards with Dick Clark Productions, and working as a VIP tour host with VIP Nation and CID Entertainment, where she eventually went on tour as a VIP representative. After touring, she dove into artist management, where she worked as the community and engagement manager at KYN Entertainment to grow an audience from scratch for up-and-coming girl group Boys World.
We caught up with Claudia for our Liner Notes series to learn more about her musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work she's proud of and admired.
Claudia, tell us...
Your earliest musical memory.
I grew up in Orlando, Florida, going to Disney World all the time. I'm pretty sure "Under The Sea" from The Little Mermaid was the first song I ever knew.
Your first concert.
Hilary Duff!!! I was 12 and I saw her in Vegas with my family. Her music video "Fly" was the first time I realized people could work for her. I'd never seen the behind-the-scenes of an artist's life until that video.
Your favorite bands/musicians.
I wouldn't be anywhere without One Direction. They're my happy place and the reason I work in music today as a superfan.
My second favorite band is BROCKHAMPTON. Their music gets my hype and it kept me company during quarantine. I'm inspired by all of the members as a collective. To come together for the sake of making music, executing music videos and making three albums—in-house—in one year. Those guys are unreal.
Lastly, Tame Impala. Kevin Parker is extraordinary.
How you get your music these days.
TikTok videos where people recommend artists/songs/playlists. Not so much from trending sounds.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
Nothing beats a stadium show. The energy is unlike any other. I love feeling everyone's excitement and energy fill the room and the screams are unreal. It's when shows are the loudest so it's impossible not to feel the music rush through you. You can't even hear yourself sing. And at the stadium shows the production is otherworldly. I'd pick a stadium show over an intimate concert any day.
Your favorite music video.
"Montero." Lil Nas X was the last time I remember having to watch a music video 100 times over to see every little detail. It was a work of art.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
I consume most of my music content on YouTube. I love watching reaction videos to people listening to songs or albums for the first time and getting excited with them when the "wow" parts happen. I recently have been watching people reacting to Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Lil Nas X, etc.
A recent project you're proud of.
I worked with a girl group called Boys World. I was hired to build out their fanbase from the ground up—with no music. By the time they dropped their first single I had grown them to more than 1 million TikTok followers and they had over 100 fan pages. I was really proud watching their community build and helping the group learn to cater to their audience.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
Lately I can't seem to look away from Taylor Swift and how she's catered her re-recordings for herself and her fans and the rest of the world only just seems to be coming around to collectively listen to her music. Watching her leave easter eggs for her fans—yet everyone watching also feels involved—is exciting and really powerful. She's someone I'd like to talk about the psychology of fandom with for a long time.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
If you wouldn't use it in real life, don't work with them. Your audience will see right through it. Partner with what you love.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Bring people all around the world into the same room and sing along to the same songs, yet hold a different meaning to each individual in the room.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
Music found me. I have no idea what I would be doing otherwise. Probably trying to get into music.
Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.