Democratizing Fame Through Social Media

Opinion: Talent shows were once a good way for artists to transition to notoriety, but many now rely on social media

Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and Bo Burnham were all “discovered” after videos they uploaded to YouTube went viral. Bieber alone has sold more than 15 million albums globally—and we can safely say that the rise of social media has taken the concept of fame and turned it on its head.

Internet culture, paired with the prominence of social media networks, has democratized the talent discovery process. It presents performers with new platforms through which they can showcase their talent and passion, often from the comfort of their living rooms, local grocery stores or wherever WiFi is readily accessible. “Normal” people with myriad skills and talents now have access to countless channels that help them showcase their abilities—beyond traditional concert stages and television screens.

Social media gives artists their ‘big break’

The way that artists break into the music industry has completely changed, and for the better. Performers no longer need to land huge record deals through big corporate players to launch their careers. Look at Chance the Rapper. He scored three Grammy Awards in February without being signed to a major label, and he has built a following through music posted to his SoundCloud account and via word of mouth.

Bieber, Chance the Rapper and other artists who gained fame through YouTube, Instagram and Vine are exemplary of social media introducing a launch pad beyond the traditional auditioning process.

For unknown talent, auditions present a variety of challenges: They are expensive, nerve-wracking, time-intensive and often far from home. And while success is never guaranteed, user-friendly audio- and video-sharing networks alleviate many of the barriers associated with entering the entertainment industry.

Whereas talent shows were once a good way for artists to transition to notoriety, many now rely on social media to serve this purpose, further making talent shows a thing of the past.

At the same time, record labels and talent agencies also use social media to discover unknown talent. This is more cost- and time-effective than traveling the country hosting formal auditions (for example, shows like The Voice).

Keeping up with changing social media patterns means that producers are missing fewer opportunities to discover some of the best talent online. And while an online presence is key for talent to build up a social media following and interact with fans, labels and agencies can use associated statistics to assess an entertainer’s popularity and influence.

Internet sensations will replace traditional celebrities from music and television

Not only is social media offering more opportunities for artists to build careers and secure followers by the millions, but it’s also changing perceptions of talent and how society regards the concept of “celebrity.” Millennials, especially, might argue that social media personalities are more popular than ever before—and that viral sensations will ultimately replace the traditional television and movie star as we know it.

According to Clapit research in conjunction with YouGov, one in eight millennials believe that movie stars will become completely irrelevant in time. And considering millennials’ heightened engagement in social media and digital platforms (Snapchat alone reaches 41 percent of those aged 18 through 34 in the U.S. daily), it is easy to believe that one in eight are more familiar with entertainers with online careers versus those from television or film.

The bottom line: Fame is more attainable than ever before. Although the talents of singers, dancers, actors and other artists will never lose value, the internet offers new channels for existing talent and provides a foundation for alternate forms of celebrity to become mainstream.

For example, Vine star Cameron Dallas gained an initial following after posting videos of pranks he played on family and friends. He now boasts more than 18 million Instagram followers and has made inroads to film and television, even landing a series on Netflix.

In the world of social media, entertainers are no longer segregated to live stages or movie screens. They are born from touchscreens and are accessible to viewers wherever WiFi is available.

Mary Jane Bulseco is co-founder and chief operating officer of social entertainment network Clapit.

Image courtesy of AntonioGuillem/iStock.