What They Lack In Talent, They Make Up With Social Media Followers

For a long time when people offered advice to those hoping to be actors, they would say something along the lines of, “No matter how talented and good looking you are, there are 10 others just as talented and good looking.” The unspoken subtext was that there were a bunch of others who were even more talented and better looking so the ten of you and tens of others were out of work.

Perhaps we need to add “….and have as many, if not more followers on social media,” to the list of qualifications.   Arts Professional UK relates a number of anecdotes from actors who were disheartened to be asked about their social media handles and follower numbers after they auditioned.

“But the girl that went in after me had 20,000 more followers on Twitter and she got the role. I mean, you can actually just do your homework privately, can’t you? Look it up for yourself, but don’t ask me that after I’ve just given you my best bit of acting,” she added

[…]

Actor Joseph Batchelor said he had recently attended a casting for a fast-food restaurant commercial and added: “Even though the role was just as a walk-on supporting artist, I was still asked for my social media handles, which I thought was ridiculous.”

Similarly, Bethany Fenton said she had auditioned for a non-speaking featured role in a furniture advert, and had been asked for her Instagram handle and number of followers.

“It should be about talent, but I suppose followers are often a sign of social currency and popularity, which businesses like Netflix or furniture companies want,” she said.

I am not going to speculate about whether this sort of thing happens in the U.S. I have been in the room when the decision to feature someone in a theater performance came down to social media following.

I do wonder how prevalent it is across the country and disciplines. I know orchestra auditions are blind and assume information on social media following wouldn’t be available to a committee. But what about chamber ensembles or other musical genres. Does social media following give an edge to less talented people in other auditions? Do dancers get a leg up, pun intended? Do visual artists get chosen for gallery shows because there is a likely to be better attendance at the opening due to a good social media following?

I suspect this is the case to a greater or lesser degree in many cases. Which means social media presence likely has an impact on whether one gets representation. An agent or gallery owner only gets paid if a person is hired or their work sells. If social media numbers translates into greater professional exposure, that may impact whether one gets representation or cultivating a following may be a condition of representation.

Granted, for a lot of people growing a social media following is probably going to be the least difficult and intimidating aspect of managing one’s career. But perceiving yourself to be in an arms race with other artists may lead people to some ill-advised decisions which will grow their following, but diminish their personal brand.

Anyone seeing this creep into calculations?

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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