Will the relationship between fans and artists change for the worse?

In today’s music industry, achieving stardom is limited to more than just raw streaming numbers or platinum certifications. Now, there’s a whole new metric to judge artists by: Does your fanbase have a name (Beyhive, Beliebers)? Is your personal life lively enough for blind celebrity stuff? Has your latest single made everyone decode it for hidden messages? Do you speak out about things that matter to your fans? Are you doing it right?

For many music artists, their popularity is now not just about what they create or who they are, but about their fan base Wants They can be and have the access they desire. This phenomenon has brought the concept of “parasocial” relationships back to the forefront of discussions in recent years, raising questions about fans’ expectations of their favorite artists and the limits that should exist in this dynamic.

As fans become more interested in the lives of celebrities, a range of fan behaviors have come under scrutiny. From throwing things on stage to online harassment and holding artists accountable for their dating choices or food preferences, these actions have prompted some artists to step back and set boundaries. Or, in Bad Bunny’s case, speaking out during major shows. He also addressed his fans at Coachella this year, responding to criticism from A.J time Interview: “You’ll never know me from Instagram, you’ll never know me from a viral video on TikTok, you’ll never know me from an interview.”

However, as one might think, this evolving dynamic between fans and artists did not appear in a vacuum. Gayle Stiver, a psychology professor at the State University of New York, has been studying fan behavior and parasocial attachments since the late 1980s, immersing herself in fan communities of artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna. For her, this does not mean that the relationship between artist and fan has undergone a radical change; Some aspects of it have even become more visible and easily accessible – thanks to social media.

“Honestly, everything I see today, I saw in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Stiver told Remezcla. “Certain types of social media have made direct interaction with a celebrity somewhat possible, but they have also made fan behavior more visible.”

Photography by Ricardo Arduengo/AFP (Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jesús Trevino, TIDAL’s music executive, likens social media to a drug — it has appeal because it creates a connection between an artist and their fans and helps artists grow, but it also blurs reality. “In the beginning, you start from scratch, with the support of your friends and family,” he said. “Once your numbers start going up, you get more attention, but you also add the anxiety of having more eyes on you.”

While having more viewers, followers, and likes can propel a talent’s career, it can also foster a sense of ownership among fan communities, especially with all the effort many make to support their favorites externally. TikTok personality and pop culture commentator Teffi Pessoa believes the current dynamic has its roots in the early 2000s when shows like Trl And American Idol Giving casual viewers the ability to “pick” the next big star or influence the charts. Social media’s ability to act as a launching pad for new artists has amplified this feeling.

This perception of power – as flawed as it may be – has left some fans with a sense of entitlement. “Any time someone makes a mistake now, there’s almost a feeling of, ‘Don’t forget we created you,’” she said. “There comes a point in someone’s success where they’re no longer human. They represent the idea of ​​a person. Like with Bad Bunny dating Kendall Jenner, there’s this feeling people have of, “We supported him so much, and look how he’s repaying us.”

The Puerto Rican artist’s love life has been a major point of contention among his fans since he started dating Jenner. Jennifer Mota, a Dominican-American journalist and public researcher, points out that although Bad Bunny has a history of dating white women (including white Latinas), fans disagreed with him dating Jenner because of what her family represents. “Their history of dating men of color and monetizing the culture has been really upsetting to a lot of women and fans,” she said.

Having worked in different corners of the music industry, Motta points out that there’s more to it than just ownership. Fans increasingly expect artists to conform to their morals and values, especially among Generation Z audiences. This expectation has led to discussions of “listener responsibility,” where fans feel compelled to support artists who share their beliefs. “Are we going to help some artists generate income when they are being irresponsible in the way they move through society?” I noticed. “Ultimately, a lot of music is created through survival, through resistance. It’s created in response to what’s happening around us, so it all goes hand in hand. I see how fans want to know what their favorite artists believe in.”

However, Motta admits that this thinking can lead fans to look past or be unkind to artists. A recent example of this is Yahritza y su Esencia, the emerging musical sensation in the regional Mexican space, who faced intense criticism from fans after expressing their food preferences, leading to a wave of harassment, racist bullying, and people questioning their Mexican heritage. Since then, many have pointed out how inappropriate the response was, especially given the nature of the comments and the fact that Yahritsa is only 16 years old.

“Any time someone does anything wrong now, there’s almost this feeling of ‘Don’t forget we made you.’”

Pessoa adds that this heightened scrutiny can overwhelm artists and make it difficult to overcome past mistakes or perceived neglect. She noted: “No matter how famous you are, you have to learn lessons for yourself.” You have to go through relationships, disappointments, trials, and tribulations just like everyone else, but that added pressure of what we want someone to be is too much.

While Motta points out that our awareness of mental health issues has increased, the scale of social media and the amount of attention given to any given wrongdoing makes it difficult for artists and their fans to engage with conversations with nuance. “We are in a time where (artists) may face more criticism than those in the past,” she said. “One TikTok can spark conversations between millions of people, and if you’re an artist, you put yourself in a similar situation, you see the comments, and it takes a toll.”

There is a feeling in popular culture today that celebrities He should Be open, that they have to manage the impossible balancing act of being ambitious but still self-aware. Activist but not very political. Above all, they are grateful to their fans – something that makes it difficult for them to set boundaries.

“Artists are damned if they do, damned if they don’t, but they also need fans to feel close to them in order to continue to support them,” Pessoa said, though she also noted that this dynamic is not the case. Sustainable. It won’t be long before we return to a pre-social media world where there is an air of mystery between us and our favorite artists.

There is no doubt that the evolving relationship between fans and artists, fueled by social media and rising expectations, has reshaped the music industry. While fans’ desire to conform to their values ​​is the driving force, it is necessary to strike a balance that respects artists’ boundaries and personal lives. We must ask whether we are allowing them to grow and develop while maintaining their connection with their audience. In an age where we give tours of celebrities’ homes on YouTube and paparazzi share their latest locations, Pessoa asserts: “There’s no need to know people that way.”

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