Unlike others, I do not think that fandoms truly started with the rise of the Internet. Long before the Internet, people got together and shared their love and passion. Whereas it is now more international, connecting people from different continents, it was, perhaps, more binding back in the day. There would always be those people in your town who loved the same band as you. You could meet up, listen to their songs and listen to them again. Read the lyrics, memorise them, discuss them, feel them. Comraderie could be found in sharing a love for something. It served as a tool of defining yourself. Where you a Rolling Stones fan or a Beatles fan? And it was not as divisive as it might sound because even though the "others" might not love what you loved, at least they knew what it was like to love. In other fans you recognised the same kind of feeling and that was something to rejoice in. Fandoms are crucial to the artists themselves. They are the loyal bunch, who will stay with a band or a novel or a film over the years. They will go to every gig, they will read the book to their kids or watch the film continuously. Without this backbone, many artists would have failed. Not only are they a source of income, they are an inspiration.
Look at the Star Wars fans, a fandom created long before the Internet became accessable to the masses. All it took was one film to come out and it changed the way the movie industry works and the way fans operate. The Star Wars fandom is one that, on the first glance, isn't very exuberant or flashy. It is a strong under current in the fans' lives and forms a real community. Sure, we have the occassional spats when the "original" fans decide to hate on Jar Jar again. But we are the fandom that builds its own costumes, creates our own 501st Legions and unites over discussion of good, evil and the grey middle section. 1977 sparked societies, merchandise and true involvement with the Star Wars Universe itself. Books, comics, music, art, sports, all of these have been ways in which people have expressed their love and understanding of Star Wars. And they have influenced the way Star Wars exists. The books are canon, their characters and storylines feature in the existing and future Saga. If a certain character is picked up by the fans, the big shots at Lucas Films, and now Disney, are bound to notice. And this is where a new evolution has taken place. Fans realise their power, now that they have become international. Surely they were aware of each other before, but now people can reach out to each other across borders and organise events or action unlike any before. An ongoing example is the demand to continue the Clone Wars series, after Disney pulled the plug. Fans from across the world are sending in their padawan braids in protest. If it will work, who knows. But the fans are making themselves known.