Supernatural has long been known for its intricate classic rock soundtrack. It is less well known that music enabled the development of a system of Supernatural fan conventions that ultimately became a model for other television shows, particularly on the CW network. Supernatural’s relationship with conventions goes back to the very beginning and developed quickly. The first episode of Supernatural premiered at San Diego Comic-Con in 2005, Jared Padalecki (“Sam Winchester”) appeared at a multi-fandom convention run by Creation Entertainment the following March, and by 2007 Creation was developing a Supernatural-specific convention series. There are now around a dozen Creation-run Supernatural conventions every year.
Music entered the conventions by way of Jensen Ackles (“Dean Winchester”). In 2007, Ackles brought his friend, singer-songwriter Jason Manns, to a British convention where both sang live. Today, Manns is a regular guest at Creation’s conventions. Supernatural conventions further feature their own house band, Louden Swain, which is fronted by Rob Benedict (“God”). Louden Swain’s Saturday night concerts, a highlight of the convention, double as an opportunity to hear assorted Supernatural actors cover songs. Attendees join in through a Friday night karaoke party emceed by even more Supernatural actors.
Supernatural conventions support a cottage industry of actors, musicians, merchandisers, and organizers. Conventions occur frequently and feature many performers, thus providing a vital, even primary, form of employment for performers. Conventions also provide a way to develop tertiary income streams, such as by singing on a CD produced by Jason Manns.
Albums like Begin by Briana Buckmaster (“Donna Hanscum”) may not top Billboard’s Top 100 chart, but the Supernatural music and convention media systems represent a new, reliable income stream for working actors in an entertainment industry under increasing economic pressure. In return, the conventions revitalized Supernatural’s originary creative impulses as music developed through the convention system percolated back into later seasons’ soundtracks. Ultimately, the show’s many years of success enabled a series of small-scale industrial innovations that nurtured artistic development, pleased fans, and provided performers with an unusual degree of security.