We interact with music in ways that were unimaginable just a few years earlier. I’m not just talking about being able to stream music— as much as you want and in a perfectly legal way, no less. Instead, we’re seeing how technology impacts the ways that artists reach out to their adoring fans, and we still don’t really know what to make of it.
Friday June 3 marked the start of the fifth annual Governor’s Ball, a weekend-long music festival that takes place in New York City. The following Sunday, concert goers who awoke in excitement had their hopes dashed as grey storm clouds loomed overhead. Since the safety of the audience outweighs the joy that comes from seeing some great bands, the show was cancelled (don’t worry, refunds were issued). Many people were understandably upset. After all, Sunday’s headliner was supposed to be Kanye West, riding high off of the critical an commercial acclaim of February’s The Life of Pablo, and already back in the studio to work on Cruel Summer. Kanye shows are not an every day occurrence, and when he tours the tickets can be expensive. Seeing a full Kanye set as part of an all day event for $90 before fees is kind of a steal in that respect.
So Kanye, not to be out Kanye’d decided to give his fans what they wanted: his music. He announced a pop-up show at a venue called Webster Hall, which isn’t exactly known for it’s spaciousness. The kicker? The show was free. It was a kind gesture of goodwill… but after the night’s events, it probably won’t happen again.
Long story short: it was a failure. At 2AM on Monday morning, streets in manhattan were packed with pedestrian traffic and an onslaught of cabs. Crowds mobbed the venue, dying to get a glimpse of Yeezus himself.
Writing for Fader, Rawiya Kameir recounts her own personal experience that night/morning. But in her reporting, she unearths just how different social media has made the whole concert going experience, as well as social interactions at large. Just a few years ago, Kanye may have actually been able to pull this off. It would have spread the old fashioned way— by word of mouth. Now, WOM is powerful, but it could still keep a crowd somewhat contained, especially in a city like New York where people are (rightfully) wary of anything that sounds too good to be true. Now, word could spread out from the Epicenter of West like wildfire. All you’d need to do is look at Kanye’s Twitter to see the announcement from the man himself, and quickly check Instagram to see if people are actually lining up for this opportunity. And they did, as Kameir Points out:
After all, there they were, throngs of fans willing to try their luck. They’d been egged on by social media: tweets from various Kanye associates, Instagrams from Virgil Abloh, Snapchats from Kim Kardashian, and a combination thereof from KTT sleuths, music journalists, and rando fans confirmed both the location and Kanye’s eagerness to perform.
Kim Kardashian, too? Unless it were some cruel joke, all the verification was right there in your pocket. You’d be a fool not to go. The problem of course, was that everyone thought that way. And that left Kameir thinking if it’s all really worth it. When you’re out there, you’re caught up in the moment and hanging onto hope. But when it’s all over, you take a step back and realize that maybe being stuck in a gaggle of people wasn’t at all worth it. Thanks, social media.