Fame can be a dangerous thing. Some people seek it because in their minds it fills a void. If you are talented and have a lot to offer it presents the opportunity to be valued and respected by many people. Fame has always had it’s drawbacks yet I feel there are two different periods of time that one must be aware of. These are Before The Adoption Of The Internet (BTAOTI) and After The Adoption Of The Internet (ATAOTI). In The last 25 years, the growth and development of the internet has been staggering. We currently live in a world of instant hyper connectivity.
If I had to pick a time to be famous I would pick BTAOTI in a heartbeat. News travelled slower back then. The digital world was less developed. I have no nostalgia or desire to live in the past, but when I look at the growth and development of social media today I flinch at the concept of fame. I would even go as far as saying that eventually it may even lose it’s appeal. It would take real guts to go down that path so much so that anonymity would become increasingly attractive. Andy Warhol said that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. The internet has provided a platform for everybody to publicly project themselves if they want to. There is so much content on the internet today. There is no way one would be able to absorb all the digital content out there in one lifetime. According to Statista, as of May 2019, more than 500 hours of video content was uploaded to YouTube alone every minute.
It is increasingly a rarity nowadays to not have any personal platform or content online. To be purely anonymous will be rarer and more cherished than fame itself.
Snapchat has had a torrid year so far. If one were to look at the company purely within the paradigm of its financial fundamentals there is a lot to be concerned about. There is also the risk that the company runs out of money and ceases to be a going concern. One cannot rule out this likely outcome. It’s current share price certainly reflects the very bearish sentiment many have towards the company. At one point the share price recently went below $6 a share. When the company went public last year, the initial public offering price was at $17 a share. Back then the sentiment of the general public towards the company was different. There was such a frenzy around the IPO at the time that the price duly rocketed above $25 a share. Since the beginning of this year though the share price has been on a downward trajectory.
It has been the victim of a number of mishaps such as an unpopular app redesign, key influencers leaving the platform, and even, since quite recently, the number of total users slowly dropping. One of the most damaging things to happen to the company though was Instagram copying it’s key ‘Stories’ feature.
The Facebook Group is an enormous global digital media juggernaut consisting of the Facebook platform, Instagram and WhatsApp as its primary platforms. Snap is a mere minion by comparison. This is a true battle between David and Goliath. Snapchat owns just a sling and a stone whereas the Facebook Empire has Kalashnikovs, WOMDs and other state of the art weapons. On the face of it, Snap doesn’t stand a chance. Or does it?
One thing that does stand out about Snap is that it is designed and created in such a way to be the communication platform of the future. For ten years, smartphones have come to dominate our lives and they still do. But what is the next step? I am tempted to go in the direction of Smart Glasses and Augmented Reality. Google tested the waters with this earlier this decade with their Google Glass product, but it was too ahead of its time and people weren’t ready for it. The biggest misconception about Snapchat is that it is a social media company. It is not. It is a camera app.
Both Facebook and Instagram are designed in a way that is made for the smartphone. Of course people share photos and videos, but they also share written text and messages. The other social media platform Twitter, is purely text-based and relies on the keyboard on your smartphone. Snapchat, on the other hand, is made in a way that can bypass the keyboard and the smartphone. It’s Snapchat Spectacles product enables one to record videos completely bypassing the smartphone. It already has lenses that react to sounds yet earlier in August it launched lenses with speech recognition capabilities. Snapchat is often ridiculed in the media as a platform that is ‘frivolous’ (and Facebook isn’t?) and only used by fickle people. Yet when it comes to technological innovation, it is ahead of Facebook and with far less leverage at its disposal. It would be deliciously ironic if the people who are ridiculing Snapchat today begin to adopt it like everyone else in the event of a massive turnaround in the company’s fortunes. Consensus views can always radically change.
Snapchat may currently be down in the dumps on the surface, yet there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we are not privy to. You can write off Snapchat all you want today, but don’t be surprise in the event that you find yourself with a different point of view a few years from now.
This is an essay I wrote towards the end of 2014 about being an artist and living in the context of our digital world. I have made a few changes since then but the general gist of the essay remains the same.
Today art can be split into two categories; “Pre-Internet” and “Post-Internet” art.
All the important and influential art movements are all of the Pre-Internet age. It seems to me that in this current Post-Internet age, there are no real lasting and meaningful art movements. There are of course many interesting artists today creating challenging and original works of art via digital media and who are very much in tune with the zeitgeist and more power to them. Yet there is something I long for which I feel is missing. And this is not strictly limited to artists and art. This applies to (and perhaps to a much greater degree) general living.
Before the internet the main media sources were television/video, the telephone, the radio and the printing press. The internet is all this and much much more. It enables us access to diverse and limitless quantities of information. In order to source information before the internet, most people went to libraries and even these institutions were no guarantee that you would find the specific information you were looking for. But with the internet almost all kinds of information can be accessed without having to travel to libraries or even spend valuable time and money employing people to find certain bits of information. Access to information has been truly democratised (assuming everyone has an internet connection) since the development and growth of the World Wide Web.
Today we have a whole plethora of internet related social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc. to communicate/express ourselves through. Before the internet, the only possible ways to communicate with one another apart from face to face, were via the telephone, fax, telegram or via mail (in the form of letter writing which save for a few dedicated souls is well and truly six feet underground as an art). The channels of far flung communication were limited. People were more in the woods with regards to what was happening globally.
People did not lose themselves or devote much of their time to living in “electronic virtual reality”. People actually spent much time reading books, spending their free time outside, having real relationships (we still have real relationships but these are decreasing and I believe in the wake of “hyper-immersive 3D virtual reality” more and more people will be cutting themselves off and almost be living at least half of their entire existence in this new type of virtual world. More and more people will even cease having sexual relationships since the stimulated virtual way will feel even better than the real thing).
Via the array of social media sites there are many different groups that artists join. Too many groups. A humongous vertigo-inducing fragmentation of different groups. In the context of today’s world, everything changes faster than before. This is a faster world. News travels faster. There is less mystery. Life is documented more than ever before. Through the internet, everyone can now express themselves. There are more artists today than before. Art or being an artist is not something that is taboo or contentious anymore. Things that may have been considered ‘renegade’ or less accepted in the past such as being an artist, a musician or traveling around the world are now accepted and quite conventional. To travel around the world for a year as part of a ‘gap year’ is now the done thing.
I think that to be a true artist (a most overused weird) in this current digital age is to leave no traces; no evidence of art or living. To disappear and be an eternal apparition.
Often I don’t have the guts or the humility to leave no traces. There is something intricately hardwired in me about having to ‘be somebody’. Yet as the great Indian sage Juddi Krishnamurti once said, ‘the moment we want to be someone we are no longer free’
A hundred years ago people had much more time than choice (and even only 20 years ago just before the rapid rise of the Internet). Radio was a new thing. TV wasn’t invented yet and video and the Internet were still some time off. What ‘entertainment’ distractions were there? The theatre (yes people used to go to the theatre in droves), books, newspapers, various sport and outdoor activities, musical instruments, poker, chess, backgammon, to name but a few.
With the invention of TV eventually video emerged as a major medium and would kill the radio star – or at least significantly reduce the major market share it had in the market for all global mass media communications outlets. Then it was the Internet which would upstage and threaten the video star.
With Virtual Reality one can potentially travel without moving and leaving their fixed space. Travelling Without Moving, to quote the title of an album by the pop star Jamiroquai which was released 20 years ago (what foresight Jay!). Taking into account the level of instant gratification which VR could bring combined with the Internet and the increasing sophistication of Artificial Intelligence, one could potentially satisfy all their wildest sensual wants, needs and desires without ever leaving their bedroom.
Jamiroquai – Virtual Insanity
Of course the virtual world is nothing new. Any time spent surfing the Internet especially through social interaction via the many social media sites available is time spent in the virtual world (and as is any fantasy experience such as getting lost in a good book). Yet this is still a 2D virtual experience. You are fixed to it but not completely immersed in it. VR has the potential to change all that. The 3D experience it offers is still very limited but with time the potential for further development is enormous. Yet perhaps it will never be a viable substitute to real life experiences? At least I hope not. I for one would rather still travel around different parts of the world the hard way, preferably overload via clapped out public transportation. But what if sometime in the future when every nook and cranny of the world becomes connected to the Internet, travelling virtually becomes a real possibility? Google Maps has already done a sterling job in shrinking the world and making it easier to navigate than ever before. Two of the original pioneers of globalisation, the Portuguese explorers Bartholomeu Dias and Vasco Da Gama, would be astonished with this progress.
The 15th century Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias
But if VR could provide even higher degrees of sensations than those experienced through real life experiences than it has a serious future. One area of pleasure that springs to mind is sex. I can with complete certainty see the growth of the virtual sex industry growing exponentially via VR as its main vehicle. And with synchronisation from additional growing technologies like haptic technology (which enables one to feel something virtually without actually physically touching it) than the potential for experiences and sensations even more intense than the real thing is very high. Yet this idea both scares and disconcerts me. This is one of the ugly sides of VR which seems unavoidable. Sex sells and there will be some people becoming obscenely wealthy through this.
The Digital Love Industry documentary
But what disconcerts me the most with VR technology is the further separation and isolation it will bring on its users. It will become so addictive and immersive, that there is a real possibility people will be living almost 100% of their days awake (un-awake spiritually) virtually. I would guess that currently many people spend at least 50% of their days awake virtually via the internet and social media sites.
What the Internet has achieved is an increased fragmentation and separation of global society (even though it has, ironically, provided the tools for greater connectivity with one another than ever before). VR has the potential to speed up this fragmentation. In spite of the rise of the net, there are still ‘hubs’ where people meet. And cities, towns and villages where people live. Communities (although decreasing) still exist. Yet if everybody were to live all of their daily lives (including their professional lives) via 3D virtual reality (and have all their provisions delivered by super fast drones), one could live anywhere in the world with an internet connection. The very concept of cities, towns and villages could blur (a wild and demented prediction but what if this occurred?).
VR could mean a future where people almost only communicate and socialise virtually. I think Facebook knows this hence their purchase of the VR company Oculus VR two years ago, which may prove to be a very shrewd move. Communicating via Facebook is still a 2D virtual experience but with the additional VR vehicle of the Oculus Rift device, this 2D experience is transformed into a 3D one. And how many Facebook users currently are there?
Oculus Rift VR device
What implications would this increased disconnection from the real world have? Could there come a time when real life socialising dramatically decreases? People meeting one another face to face less? People not having real and meaningful relationships anymore? People not going to cafes, bars, pubs or clubs anymore like they used to? The rise and development of the Internet has already had a catastrophic impact on physical high street retail outlets (through the rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon), that could VR be the final (or penultimate) nail in the coffin for the high street? Could most leisure activities like nights out to pubs and clubs, social meet-ups in coffee shops, holidays abroad and travelling to exotic places, going to gigs and festivals, day trips to theme parks etc, almost disappear if VR really takes off? Such a scenario depresses me. I hope I am talking rubbish and none of these situations occur.
Back to nature
Yet the real world is always there. No one is forcing me to be deeply sucked into VR. I can take it or leave it. The Internet and the fast pace of globalisation has already succeeded in making the world a smaller place but the world becomes a larger place again if one is prepared to free themselves from these digital shackles for just a moment.
The Curve is an innovative and groundbreaking concept by Nicholas Lovell. His excellent book The Curve (2014) explains how one can survive and be succesful in what they do in the context of the current Digital Age where many things are free. This is especially true if you are a creative person such as a musician or a writer struggling to make ends meet in a world saturated with Free Content.
The video below is a presentation by Lovell where he explains the Curve model and the significance and relevance of it today…
Nicholas Lovell explains The Curve
The Curve is split into three parts;
Use Free to find an audience
Use Technology to be able to talk to your audience again
Use Technology to understand what your audience wants
The model of The Curve focuses on two groups of people; Freeloaders and Superfans. Freeloaders make up the bulk of your potential audience. They want something for nothing but that doesn’t mean that they should be ignored or treated with contempt. On the contrary, they should be viewed as ‘potential converts’ rather than unscrupulous pirates. They may not always remain Freeloaders and may at some point down the line spend some money on your products and services.
Then you have your Superfans which represent a small fraction of your audience (perhaps 10%). They are the most important part of your audience since they are the ones who love what you do so much that they are prepared to spend serious money on your products and services. This is the part of your audience you should care for the most since it is through them you’ll be making the bulk of your revenues.
To further explain how the Curve model can be applied today lets take the example of a band trying to raise funds to make their next album. The fundraising sites KickStarter and Crowdfunding really take the Curve model to their bosom. A potential Curve model the band can use could be as follows;
1. FREE : Free download of new album.
2. $2-5: Live clips of the making of the album streamed directly from the studio
3. $10: CD copy of the album
4.$30: Vinyl copy of the album limited to 5000 copies
5.$50: Red coloured vinyl copy of the album limited to 1000 copies
6.$100: White coloured vinyl copy of the album limited to 500 copies
7.$250: Gold coloured vinyl copy of the album in a luxury box-set with booklet limited to 100 copies
8.$2000: Private acoustic gig anywhere – the buyer pays for all transportation. One hour slot. 10 slots
9.$5000: Private electric gig anywhere – the buyer pays for all transportation. One hour slot. 10 slots
10. $10,000: Private electric gig anywhere where the band play NAKED – the buyer pays for all transportation. One hour slot. 5 slots.
This is just a rough model I drafted up which is far from perfect (and maybe some of the prices need some reconsideration – hehe) yet the most important thing is that it very much embraces a ‘Curve’ model. The old way of making money through selling ‘units’ of your album at the same price worked perfectly well in the pre-Internet age but sadly not today.
by Nicholas Peart
14th May 2016
(All rights reserved)
You can download a free e-book by Nicholas Lovell entitled ’10 Ways To Make Money In A Free World’ by clicking on the following link…
Or you can buy The Curve by Nicholas Lovell by clicking on the link below…