The ever-growing importance of social media in the career of a musician poses many moral challenges. Artists are torn between slowly building their digital fan base in a genuine fashion by producing high quality work, or purchasing fake digital fans to falsely inflate their online presence at a much faster rate.
While criticisms have been made against those who choose to go the route of the robotic, non-existent fans — like the charges made against American ‘EDM’ musician DJ M1X — purchasing fake Facebook likes, Twitter followers, or Soundcloud plays might be more advantageous to an artist’s career than investing resources in the music itself.
“As time went on, putting a lot of time into the quality of my music or my skills as a DJ just didn’t seem like it could bring me where I wanted to be,” says M1X.
“When my manager mentioned to me that it might be a good idea to falsely inflate my digital following to secure more gigs from promoters, at first I was skeptical. He went on to explain to me that there are many promoters who book shows based on an artist’s social media stats. After it became clear to me that this was true, buying fake followers seemed like a no-brainer.”
The 24-year-old DJ, who is now being booked regularly next to big-name acts and speaking on panels at festivals, is a great example of a young artist taking advantage of the ‘new model.’
On the opposing end of the spectrum is 36-year-old producer and DJ, ColdF33t.
“The industry has just been so fucked since the internet got huge,” articulates Coldf33t.
“I am only clearing a few hundred dollars every month from gigs…how am I supposed to live off of that?”
When others suggest to ColdF33t that perhaps he should get a ‘real job,’ he becomes agitated.
“If you were in ancient Greece would you have asked Aristotle to ‘get a real job?’”
Unlike DJ M1X, Coldf33t has never purchased any fake social media followers, and he is of the opinion that doing so would “totally ruin any of my credibility as a musician, which is something I’ve spent years establishing with my loyal fans.”
With his Facebook page sporting only 130 likes, Coldf33t is hard-pressed to get booked anywhere but the local goth bar where he rounds out nights from midnight until 2 am after heavy metal bands finish performing.
On the other hand, while DJ M1X might indeed possess a similar number of ‘real fans,’ he has already been asked to tour alongside the likes of Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, and Porter Robinson; offers he largely owes to mass-manipulations of Microsoft’s email services.
For Coldf33t however, keeping things ‘authentic’ has its benefits.
“These guys recently asked to interview me for a documentary they were making on Pioneer CDJ-1000s, which are primarily what I use. Those types of opportunities would cease to exist if word got out that I was buying a fake online fan base,” he says, legitimizing what might be a poor decision for his career in the long-term.
Meanwhile, DJ M1X explains that he has been “blown away” by how much money there is to be made in the world of dance music.
“Before I purchased all of my fans online, I had no idea how much money big name DJs were actually getting paid…it’s crazy. A year ago I was making almost nothing, but I was doing the exact same thing.”
M1X goes on to explain how he thinks the fake followers are increasingly developing into real ones.
“The thing is, I know when I go to a Facebook page the first thing I do is check the number of likes it has. The more likes, the more likely I am to pay attention to it and like it myself…a phenomenon I’ve observed first-hand with my own Facebook page. My posts get way more likes now than they did before.”
While M1x’s career is quickly blossoming into a six-figure income, Coldf33t is counting on a gig he has lined up opening for a local rock band to pay his next month’s rent. Additionally, his last Facebook update received only three likes and zero shares.
“I don’t want to be rich,” says Coldf33t.
At press time, DJ M1x was prepping his bags for a gig in Ibiza while Coldf33t was on the phone with his wife, who was lecturing him on the importance of retweeting.