WKU POP 201

Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Where Web 2.0 Went Wrong, Part 3

Posted by nathanpowers22 on February 15, 2017

I want to discuss three of the four last sections in Chapter 1 of Spreadable Media—“Nothing Is Ever Free,” “Toward Transparent Marketing,” and “We Don’t Need Influencers”—because they made me reflect on more recent events and attitudes in pop culture media that are directly related to each topic. I personally experienced something remarkably similar to the provided example of Nine Inch Nails’ free release of The Slip a few months ago. I’ve been a fan of the rap group Run the Jewels since their inception in 2013, and part of the reason for that is that by signing up for their “newsletter,” I received a free download of their self-titled album. Ever since, I’ve gotten emails about merchandise, tour dates, and other promotional stuff intermittently throughout the years. However, around this past Christmas, my connection with RTJ came full circle in a sense: they released Run the Jewels 3 as a free download 3 weeks before it was supposed to come out, and I learned about it through their newsletter! While this “free” download has minimal value as an economic commodity, as Spreadable Media detailed, it was worth the continued support of fans like myself because it was so unexpected and tied so close to Christmas that it’s nearly impossible not to view the gesture as a gift to everyone who enjoys their music.

Additionally, I think this sort of thing parallels a larger trend going in the rap scene currently where artists release their music for free via streaming and mixtape downloads to garner dedicated followings. Most recently, Chance the Rapper, who has always made his projects available for free via streaming and/or download, took home three Grammys at the 59th annual awards ceremony and made history in the process [1]. As quoted in a recent interview, “I never wanted to sell my music because I thought putting a price on it…inhibited me from making a connection [emphasis added],” [2]. In other words, one could argue that Chance’s actions truly embody the idea of social reciprocity that drives a “gift economy” in that while he doesn’t expect monetary payment for his music, he hopes to foster a sense of community that encourages fan interaction amongst themselves and with him in the hopes of obtaining financial support through alternative avenues.

Honestly, I did not expect to write this much, so I’ll try to keep this last bit as brief as possible. While reading about audience demands for increased transparency in advertising and the concept of “influencer”-driven marketing, I thought about an incident with the Kardashians a few months ago. I’ve never been one to “keep up” with the Kardashians, so I don’t remember how I heard about it, but I distinctly remembered a controversy over Instagram endorsements that were not explicitly stated as such [3]. All I wanted to say about this was that it appears progress toward transparency may not be as steady as one might hope, and that while the impact of “influencers” may not be as clear as corporations believe it to be, I think if you cast a net over a following as big as the Kardashians’, you’re bound to catch plenty of fish in the process.

[1] – http://www.forbes.com/sites/ogdenpayne/2016/12/06/chance-the-rapper-makes-history-with-59th-annual-grammy-nomination/#3b05f38a5135

[2] – http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/02/why-chance-the-rapper-music-is-free-and-how-he-makes-money

[3] – http://variety.com/2016/digital/news/kardashians-instagram-paid-ads-product-placements-1201842072/

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