Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Evolution of the Relationship Between Artist and Audience

The relationship between the artist and the audience has evolved dramatically, specifically in the last decade, due to social media and other technological advances.  Not only is the threshold to an artist's personal life more readily available to their following than ever, but the audience's reaction to their work is extremely accessible.

The later is a great tool for an artist who's performances are not on stage to be able to hear where in their work elicits "ooh"s and "ah"s.  Live tweeting is a huge part of this.  Fans of a television show will post their reactions on Twitter while the show's being aired, discussing their favorite and least favorite parts with other "tweeters".  The live tweeting culture has transformed the entertainment world from an isolated chasm that is a lonely T.V screen, to a shared experience.  "Now, thanks to "second screens" and the social media they convey, the TV audience can talk among themselves. As they engage in the new pastime of virtual co-viewing, they can express their likes and dislikes in a massive, global back-and-forth." (Shazier Moore from Standard Examiner).  Not only does this allow for a brand new form of expression and social connection, but it helps the writers shape the show in analogue with its fans.  "But the Twitter feeds aren't just to promote new shows, new episodes and teasers -- [Paul] Lee..." (ABC Entertainment President) "...went on to say what the networks get back from it: 'We literally get feedback before, during and after launch. It is a critical tool for us to understand how our audience is responding to our shows.'"

On the other hand, this excessive sharing leaves the internet littered with spoilers -- which, of course, makes many people who have yet to tune in, angry and feeling robbed of the surprises that are the saturation of entertainment.  Daniel Carson from Pajiba says: "Live-tweeting a show, or offering instant plot feedback as if everyone in the world watched with you, is representative of the "First!" culture that's sprung up online in the past decade-plus, and it's pointless. If you really want to talk spoilers online, get a blog and direct people there via Twitter."  He also talks about how live tweeting ruins the viewers experience of actually sitting down and watching the show; when their eyes are glued to their phone coming up with witty hashtags, they're no longer invested in the show itself.  And of course, this lack of focus ends up ruining the experience for other viewers around the world.

Along with the conversation among viewers being opened up, artists and celebrities are now able (and encouraged) to interact with their fan base.  "There's been a noticeable push to get stars interacting with their fans on Twitter, and Twitter even has celebrity outreach teams and "help" pages to get those TV stars and personalities started and in on the conversation in a smart way." (Maggie Furlong from HuffPost TV).  This isn't just happening on Twitter either, and this isn't just a T.V thing.  Instagram and Facebook are also huge social media sites where celebrities post updates on their whereabouts, upcoming album releases, tour dates -- and most importantly, "selfies." See Miley Cyrus' Instagram.  The "selfie" has become a huge mean of making the interaction of celebrity and average human intimate, letting fans in on their personal lives, and showing the world they are just like us: self centered and bored.  
The "selfie", like Twitter and other forms of media synergy between Artist and Audience, is a great way for celebrities to relate to their fans.  See James Franco's NY Times article: The Meaning of the Selfie.  

Not only have our computers changed our own experience of the entertainment world (ie. live tweeting), they have created a whole other branch of entertainment in and of itself.  There is a whole segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live called "Mean Tweets", where a celebrity reads aloud mean tweets written about them and occasionally mutters a witty response -- sometimes the tweets are even sung.  There was one episode on Jimmy Kimmel where the band "The Decemberists" sung various Youtube comments, and The Tonight Show has a segment called Hashtags where Jimmy Fallon picks a hashtag like #AwkwardBreakup and people tweet responses with that hashtag, and he reads them out loud on the show.  None of this would be possible without our expanding technology and online culture.  

Personally, I don't think we have to decide whether the brand new -- and ever growing -- technology based relationship between the artist and the audience is "good" or "bad" -- whether it's beneficial to the entertainment industry or detrimental.  One can't argue that the easy access of a variety of opinions due to social media doesn't bring the artist's perspective closer to that of their readership -- but there is no doubt that so much sharing can spoil the experience for others.  It is effortlessly clear that the ability for celebrities to share so much with their fans online creates a tighter and more intimate bond between Artist and Audience, deepening the liking for our favorite stars.  

However -- is it possible that being too invested in the lives of strangers is dampening our own life experience and making it harder to enjoy what's in front of us?  Is live tweeting ruining our experience of the show itself?  Is it possible to be too connected to those outside our immediate scape?  These are questions I can't begin to answer because like most things -- it just depends.  There are infinite ways to use the tools we have; infinite ways to abuse them and infinite ways to use them profitably.  There is no doubt that the relationship between the artist and the audience has evolved incredibly due to technological advances, and it is up to us to make as best use of this as possible.  The power lays not in the hands of the social media itself, but in the hands of the people using it.