In this age of social technology, schmoozing and networking in many industries, especially arts and music, has changed face drastically.
Through various projects I have navigated in the last decade, and then some, most rely on support of friends, family and fans. This has not changed. Arts need support. Artists need support. In an industry where only the very top percentage of creators ever see ridiculous amounts of money (and even that is questionable these days), most artists and musicians you know are silently struggling to pay rent, and maintain their supplies or inventory. It costs money to create, and it costs money to make creation available, and it costs even more money to advertise and make a web presence.
Why is it important to support? Well, the obvious answer is the same as it always has been: not supporting artists equals no art being created.
That favorite album you love to listen to, that earworm that has been nagging at you all week, those took time and money and infinite support to create. That YouTube content creator that you watch in your downtime, their time and that equipment is money. That DJ that you have missed during Covid, guess what? They need to pay rent too.
Support of arts is vital to the existence of arts. Full stop.
Okay, so how do we support them? This is the growing and persistent question we see has the industry changes with technology. In a world where “Social Media Managers” and internet virility have become a massive thing, it has become ever increasingly difficult for an artist with no money to make any sort of headway.
But… are “Social Media Managers” even helping? Is it worth dropping money (if you even have it to drop) on someone claiming they can work miracles for you?
Highly unlikely, as social media platforms grow to unmanageable volumes and the entire World suffers from over saturation and ad fatigue, social media reliance to “make it” as an artist cannot and will not sustain; especially when it is not the artist themselves engaging with their audience.
While I think Covid has certainly accelerated this, I firmly feel that this was already on course to happen. I don’t know a single person how has not shown frustration over the Kardashians of the World being shoved down our throats unwillingly. Influencers are no longer natural leaders with charisma; they are those with enough money to buy their way into the position with absolutely nothing of value to offer.
And more and more, it is harder for real artists to compete against these machines; and they are machines, there are not the droids you’ve been looking for but they are the ones you are being force fed.
And I mean that literally, all those millions of followers those people have, a chunk of those followers are literally bots; this is not conspiracy theory, I work in an industry where I spend an insane amount of time dealing with mail/fake/spam account registration bots. Troll farms are real, and the wealthy use them to fluff their “numbers” on social media.
So, how do we stop it? First and foremost, we take control over your own media. Ditch the system. Pull the plug. Stop streaming music from Spotify and Apple, go to BandCamp and buy the album or single from the artist. Buy merch from the artist, most have a website with a shop. All you need to do is drop the name in a search bar.
Want wicked art? Cool clothes? Interesting home décor? Go to Etsy. Leave Amazon for life essentials.
Want interesting video content? Check out Twitch and YouTube. Your views, your subs, can make a real difference to a content creator. And it is unique straight from the artist content. And you control how much you spend.
Okay, great but all of that costs money still and I am broke as fuck right now, what can I do? You can share their content, you can follow their accounts even if you cannot afford to sub, and then sub when you can. Your presence matters as much as your dollar does.
And let me tell you, those secret little pocket communities are filled with amazing people. Real people not trying to just sell you stuff. Within the first week of my exploring the Twitch community I was gifted subs to 3 different channels, from members of those communities, and one from a content creator themselves. These people understand what it means to support art. And what it means to also support fans.
The thing that separates IG and Snapchat and influencers who drop money on “Social Media Managers” is interaction. I’ve spent far too much time over Covid absolutely studying YouTube, trying to figure out why and how the big YouTubers are making so much money. And it comes down to the interaction, or at least the illusion of it, this has fueled their careers. People are starved for community more than ever. In a fast paced World where we all suffer mistrust and more than our share of ‘salt’, community is notably missing in most of our lives.
In the last couple of months I’ve had more conversations with friends about the absolute nostalgia we feel about the good ole MySpace days, (and wait, I know it sounds like I rambling but this ties back into arts, I promise), then I ever recall having about any other era in my long years on this planet.
Seeing what was happening on YouTube tied into reflecting on what it was we all miss about pre-FaceBook World, it became clear: community and the spirit of mutual support. YouTubers literally talk to you, through a camera, and even though they are also talking to millions of others, they are talking to you, not at you. The big ones respond to comments, they engage on social media, they even do conventions and hold meet and greets or panels. They treat you like you matter. They look you in the eye (sorta) and thank you for supporting them. And the ones who don’t, don’t make it. Creators are rewarded for both their content and their interpersonal skills.
MySpace was loved because even celebs had pocket communities on there; they engaged their audience. And artists were networking and lifting each other up. The entire platform and vibe was about mutual support. And a ton of artists thrived on this medium and synergy. This has become an outdated method in the world of Social Media, and it is devastating to the arts and to the arts community. With more and more artists leaving their fan base at the hands of managers who care more about volume than content or interaction, that base is feeling unseen, unheard, and unsupported themselves. And those artists are paying money to advertise to an audience that isn’t even interested in what they are selling, while they’re real audience is quickly losing interest and moving on to other creators.
I have recently, and increasingly, found myself leaving Groups and unfollowing artists and celebs (hell, even friends) that don’t show any appreciation to their fan base for supporting them. I have unfollowed celebs I previously adored because I noticed how they only comment and engage other celebs, while I damned near idolize those that have interacted (I am sill fangirling over that time Ice Tea shared my Tweet). Sure, the elite stars have always been unattainable to a degree, but I recall the long standing jokes of Ringo Starr still responding to fan mail to this day. Engagement, and I know I keep using that word, matters.
Support creators, stop supporting machines. And creators, support your audience. We can change this scene, all it takes is a little effort and a small dose of self-discipline.
To those of you who took the time to read this, thank you. I appreciate you.