For me, and most of the people within my generation who are deeply connected to music, music has almost always been something that was connected to social media. The first album I ever remember buying was Beyoncé
in 2006 when I was 8 years old, and the only reason I was so invested in the album was because I experienced it visually. On its release date, Beyoncé took to 106 & Park
to promote her new project, and later all of the videos for the album were uploaded to Youtube so people were able to revisit the project without turning on their tv and waiting for it to come on. Over time, shows like BET's 106 & Park
and MTV's Total Request Live
died out, the latter of which is set to return soon, although no one is too sure of how successful the comeback will be. Platforms like Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram have now become the standard for the promotion of music, causing most artists to now rely on social media to get the word out about their work. It's interesting to think of how the dynamic of artist and fan relationships have changed because of that.
When the only way that fans were able to connect with their favorite artist was to buy a concert ticket to see them live, or to win meet and greet tickets from a radio station, things seemed much more simple. In this way, you really didn't know anything about an artist apart from what they told the world and what paparazzi may try to piece together from the low quality photographs they took when someone was leaving a club. Now, with artists having such a large online presence, fans believe that they have more access to these artists than ever before. You want to meet your favorite singer or rapper but you don't have hundreds of dollars for a meet and greet ticket? Beg them to follow you on Twitter so you can shoot them a long and emotional DM that they may or may not stumble across. Like and comment on all of their Instagram posts as if they'll see it in their jumble of notifications. This works for some people, and it's a great feeling–when Liam Payne tweeted me way back in 2012 I literally fell out of bed at 2 in the morning. That moment will forever be etched into my memory because it's an unexplainable feeling to finally get a chance to develop a true connection with someone who means so much to you.
The unfortunate part of this scenario is that when artists go out of their way to interact with their fans, people become to feel entitled to these actions. Fans tend to forget, or rather overlook, how mentally toxic social media can be for musicians. The way I believe they look at it is like this: I support this person, and I show my support to them by sending them screenshots of me listening to their music, and just showing love in general.
But, not everyone on the internet loves the same music and has the capacity to hold in the hatred they may have in them for an artist. So, yes some positive messages may be in the mix, but the negative ones are there as well. When you're working to build a career in music you don't take a class on how to handle receiving unwarranted hate from people you've never met.
In trying to cope with the hatred that is being directed towards them, artists often delete their social media profiles all together. R&B artist Kehlani
has done it multiple times, even once after a fall out related to her love life that ended with her in the hospital after trying to take her own life
. Normani Kordei of Fifth Harmony deleted her social media accounts at one point due to racially charged hate comments
being directed towards her, as did Ed Sheeran
, Demi Lovato
, and Justin Bieber
. Kanye West
is among the many who have left social media as well, but unlike the aforementioned artists, Kanye has yet to return to any platforms. So, if they are receiving enough negative feedback to make them not want to be connected online at all, why would they come back? The simple answer to that is that they feel guilted into it. Being away from social media means being away from their fans in a way, and that can lead to many of these artists feeling as though they're let their supporters down because of people who aren't showing them any support at all.
This guilt and personal responsibility stems greatly from the pressure fans put on their favorite artists to connect with them on a personal level. This concept has always led me to ask the question: Why is the music not enough of a personal connection for these people? I've considered that perhaps the fans don't feel as though the artist is being as genuine in their music as they would like, and as a result they are seeking the connection that should be coming from the music in the person directly. This theory makes sense to me because, looking at artists like Kendrick Lamar
, and even Beyoncé–they put their heart and soul into the music that they make that you can listen to once and know they meant every spoken word, and you never see anyone giving them strife for not interacting with their fans online. The big difference between artists like Kendrick and Beyoncé and artists like Demi and Bieber is that they were never largely active on social media to begin with. It isn't possible for them to feel a responsibility to produce content that they never have before.
Choosing to be active on social media and choosing to interact with your fans as a musician is just that–a choice. As fans of music, we do not have the right to insist that an artist post on Instagram at least twice a week and tweet at least once a day; because when they began releasing music and signing contracts, they never signed up to have to cater to anyone with anything more than their talent.
For someone to be in and out of the studio in between or during tours and promotions, working themselves into the ground so that they can put their best work out for their fans, it must feel like the biggest slap in the face to have that work put on the back burner because they didn't tweet someone back. A musician's fans are entitled to music, at the artist's own will, and nothing further than that. The thought process of, "I paid for a concert ticket, and I bought the album on iTunes, so why can't they DM me back? Why can't they follow me?" makes little to no sense. Where on your receipt or the iTunes preorder does it say that the purchase comes with an online interaction? It doesn't, and no one should expect it to.
All that being said, the lesson to take away from this is to listen to the music and mind your business. Show your support and don't look for anything but more, quality music in return, because that would suggest that your support is all but genuine. If you so strongly feel the need to root yourself in an artist's personal life, do so in a positive way. That may require you to support them stepping away from social media if it means that they receive a clear head as a result, and that benefits you in knowing that because of that newfound positivity they may be able to create music that reflects that mental change. It is so extremely important to remember that regardless of how much fame someone has, and how much money someone is making, the artists that you listen to are real people with real emotions and feelings, and they can't always handle the pressures that come with widespread success. They need mental breaks in the same way that the rest of us do, and committing to music does not translate to committing to a life of poor mental health and acceptance of hate. Put yourself in their shoes, and keep this all in mind when doing so.