Massive Attack: the first major dance music artists to withdraw in protest from Facebook.
The recent Facebook scandals show we're being spied on and lied to on a daily basis, but what does it mean for dance music and is it time we finally ditched the social media giant from our lives?
Let’s face it. None of us love Facebook. If we’re not bemoaning its distracting influence on our lives, we’re threatening to take ourselves off it. It is an addiction, perfectly engineered to tap our synapses and keep us scrolling through our feeds moronically like hamsters on a wheel.
We all of course know this. But still we keep coming back for more. But could the spell that Facebook has cast over the world finally be coming to an end?
The social media platform was outed by The Guardian over past week for allowing huge invasions of privacy by external companies. The scandal has cast doubt on various political events such as Donald Trump’s election victory in the US and the Brexit victory. Both winning parties use the company at the centre of the scandal, Cambridge Analytica, to harvest information illegally and manipulate voters.
The backlash against Facebook has already begun in earnest, with The Guardian and activists worldwide instructing people on how to delete their accounts. In the process of which, many have discovered that the company also has logs of all of your calls and texts.
Massive Attack joined in to announce that they would suspend their account and issued a statement to say: “In light of [Facebook]’s continued disregard for your privacy, their lack of transparency and disregard for accountability - Massive Attack will be temporarily withdrawing from [Facebook]. We sincerely hope they change their policies around these issues.”
There is a lot to love about Facebook of course. The way it brings people together and allows us to stay in touch with friends and family has revolutionised how human beings maintain friendships even across huge distances. And even if it is responsible for spreading fake news, it is also responsible for spreading good ideas. Would the various trends of mindfulness, yoga or veganism sweeping the world have happened without people sharing thoughts, articles, memes and videos on Facebook?
Like the rest of the planet, the world of dance music has a strange relationship with the social media platform that at times is akin to a pimp and a prostitute, or a heroin dealer to a junkie. Regardless of how much we want to say no, we are locked into the cycle of using.
Facebook's week of shame https://t.co/egiF9NN50Q— The Guardian (@guardian) March 24, 2018
DJs and artists on the surface have gained more than most for the vantage point the platform has given them. Facebook decentralised traditional media to remove the power from the press and TV networks and gave artists their own soapboxes. DJs like Nina Kraviz or Jamie Jones now have huge million plus audiences which are far greater than the readership of any traditional dance music magazine.
But while the site gave artists a loudspeaker to amplify their voices, at the same time it locked them into a cage. When boosting and paid advertising were rolled out by the site and the only way to reach these huge audiences was by paying for the privilege, the shine rapidly vanished from Facebook.
Where previously they were able to reach huge numbers of people with their posts, suddenly engagement figures that weren’t boosted, dropped numbers radically. It was in retrospect, the oldest con in the book. Hook your audience into using your product for free, and once they are hopelessly addicted, whip out your card payment machine.
Regardless of this however, DJs the world over plodded on with the platform. And like it or not, the Like button is still one of the most important promotional weapons in dance music. Last week we wrote about the scandal erupting around the Facebook Like Checker, which tells you where the fans of a Facebook page are actually from.
A depressingly big number of DJs were suddenly found to have huge fanbases in countries like Indonesia, that suggested that a large number of their likes were actually fake. Many promoters claim they pay no attention to how many likes an artist has.
Perlon's Zip: possibly now feeling very smug for not having a Facebook account.
But huge audience numbers must play a part in the decision making process of whether to book an artist, as there are very few artists playing big stages without big social media numbers. The world of vinyl only music might just be the exception as artists like Perlon’s Zip continue to abstain from the site.
For the rest of dance music, artists are clearly desperate to boost their number of page likes - some to the point of paying external agencies to create fake accounts to like their pages. And the knock on effect for the audience is having to endure a relentless drip feed of awkward shots of DJs doing the same thing week in, week out. Here they are at dinner. And here’s one who just got a flight upgrade to first class. Here’s another video of them playing their track at a party. Oh, and here they are meeting in the airport or backstage and awkwardly playing the game of Facebook chicken to see who’s going to suggest they get a photo first?
There are, of course, many DJ who happily wield social media like a weapon, who are funny and engaging and are comfortable sharing their lives with the world. But for many others, the Facebook tour photo is an unpleasant task that has been forced into their to-do list by management.
Whether we like it or not, the dance music industry of today has mutated into a popularity contest and Facebook has provided the stage and enabled others to rig the contest. Thanks to the recent investigations by The Guardian, we are only fully realising the extent to how it is has been used to spy into our lives and control our habits and ideologies. We have to ask ourselves at this point do the benefits of Facebook still outweigh the drawbacks? Whether we are fans or DJs, the argument for getting off the grid has never been greater. But have we got what it takes to finally pull the plug?
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