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Over the past decade, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have had a profound influence on the entertainment industry. Here’s a closer look at several key ways that social media has changed how we interact with top entertainers, how these entertainers get paid, and even how one becomes a famous celebrity in the first place.
Opening up access to celebrities
First and most importantly, fans around the world are now able to communicate with their favorite celebrities in near real-time. As soon as a top singer or actress posts a new photo on Instagram, for example, fans can immediately comment and reply on that photo. As soon as a top actor or entertainer tweets out a reaction to an event, hordes of loyal fans can reply or even DM the celebrity. At the very least, they can show their love and affection openly, often with the implied expectation that someone will be getting back to them directly. In short, social media has opened up access to celebrities.
“Being famous for being famous”
At the same time, social media has completely changed the dynamic of what it means to be “Internet famous.” It’s easy to point to a whole group of Internet influencers who are literally “famous for being famous.” Someone like a Kardashian is then able to parlay that influence and reach into brand partnerships, reality TV deals and lots of free swag. They can get paid thousands of dollars for simply talking about a new product or promoting a big event.
Moreover, “B-list actors” in Hollywood can compete with traditional “A-list actors,” thanks to their massive social media followings. Does anyone really think that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is one of the best actors in Hollywood? But that doesn’t matter to fans or to Hollywood studio executives, who want to produce films that make money. And one way to guarantee a huge box office is to fill their films with stars that can promote their new upcoming projects on social media.
Social media platforms and monetization
And, on a related note, social media is now viewed as a “platform” for making money, and not just as a communication medium. That’s a huge difference in how we think about monetization. You can literally become a YouTube millionaire by constantly pushing out short video clips that rack up hundreds of thousands of views at a time. In the pre-social media era, a top singer might release a single album per year and then tour the world to promote that new album. Now, they can use platforms like YouTube, Instagram or even Spotify to monetize all of their new creative content.
The democratization of celebrity
And, finally, social media has democratized the whole process of becoming a celebrity. You no longer need to have family connections to get a studio recording deal – just release your music on social media. In fact, the whole term “Hollywood elite” now has a faintly negative connotation – it conjures up a view of people so disconnected from reality that they no longer have a good idea of what average people want to consume for entertainment.
Just think, too, how the current COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we think about celebrities. “They are people just like you and me” is a common phrase heard today. They are going stir-crazy in their homes, and they look so average without teams of studio assistants to turn them into glamorous stars.
Maybe Andy Warhol was right. The social media era has made the “15 minutes of fame” a reality and transformed how we think about stars and entertainment in general. People don’t go to cinemas, they watch YouTube or Netflix. They don’t buy albums, they stream music for free. And they prefer to consume content in social media-friendly, bite-sized nuggets. A funny 2-minute video is better than a 2-hour film. And that has made all the difference in how we consume entertainment these days.