It's Not About How Many Followers You Have on Instagram, Your Art Still Matters
If I hear the word “Platform” one more fucking time, I’m going to punch someone in the face.
Seriously, I am.
If one more person values my work in terms of my platform, I AM GOING TO LOSE MY SHIT.
This post is for anyone who has ever created anything in the digital age. It’s for every musician who was told to build a Youtube following of covers instead of making new music. It’s for every author who was told to post photos instead of writing. For every comedian who needed to learn to be funny in under 140 characters.
Platform is THE buzzword these days. It refers to your social media currency. How many people follow you on Twitter or how many emails you have access to on your mailing list. It’s the number of subscriptions to your Youtube account or your Instagram.
And these days, it means everything.
When I finished my comedy novel, Unintentionally Celibate, I started contacting agents and publishers. Repeatedly, over-and-over again, they gave me the same advice, “Work on your social media presence.”
One agent even wrote, “It’s really funny, but humor doesn’t sell unless you have a platform. Get back to me when you have 10,000 followers on Twitter.”
I get it. In the world of marketing and sales, a large platform is a guaranteed win. It’s a built-in audience of people ready to consume your art with real money. And that’s great. Truly, it’s great to make money for your work. It also allows people to love and share your work easily…which is also great.
I acknowledge that social media has been a positive force for the creative field. It levels the playing field. One viral YouTube video can launch your career. It also saturates the market with content: the good, the bad, and the ugly, which is why people with a platform rise to the top. But rising to the top is no longer a reflection of hard work or talent.
And that’s my problem with valuing people’s work solely on their platform. There’s the assumption that a lot of followers equates to talent or good work. On the flip side, if you don’t have a huge following, you’re told that your value is worthless. That your art or your music or your comedy doesn’t matter.
Let’s look at the notoriety of the Instagram celebrity @FatJew who recently came under scrutiny for not crediting his sources. This is a guy who made a shit ton of money curating other people’s content. Literally, just stole content that other people created, didn’t give them credit for it, and walked away with a fat check from advertising contracts. Why? Because he had a platform.
Maybe I’m an old fashioned creative, but books existed for a long time before Twitter. Music existed before YouTube. I‘ll be honest, I’m tired of being constantly being connected to my phone. I’m tired of being told that I need to immediately respond to every single tweet that comes my way.
Quite frankly, I’m scared for the integrity of creativity. We’re told by the advertising industry that it’s more important to create a following than create good work. We’re no longer artists. We’re brand managers, marketers, and advertising gurus. We’re businessmen and women, CEOs, editors, and promoters. We’re expected to be good at all of these things.
And it we’re not…then our work doesn’t count. We don’t have a voice in the digital age.
So for all my artists out there (singers, writers, comedians, whatever) I want to remind you that your work matters. Keep creating. Keep creating quality. Because you were put on this earth to create art, and you can’t forget that. A lack of twitter followers doesn’t make you a less talented comedian. And a mere 3 likes on your blog post doesn’t mean your words didn’t inspire someone. And only 52 plays on Soundcloud doesn’t mean your song didn’t touch someone’s soul. And maybe, just maybe there’s a stranger out there who listens to your song all the time and hums it in their head frequently. Maybe they quote your lyrics. Maybe it was the only song that got them through their breakup.
You don’t know.
So I repeat, your art is valuable. You are valuable. Keep creating.