I was intrigued by the headline to this piece on Vice the other day that examined a few examples where music videos from popular artists seemed to closely resemble the kinds of photos posted by popular Instagram travel influencers. Not that those people are being copied overtly, but there are similarities in the approaches and the kinds of images shown.
It’s not surprising that artists and singers would look to the world of social media celebrities for inspiration. That’s a good indicator of what’s resonating with the audience. Those influencers are tastemakers and music videos have always reflected the larger media world around them, whether that meant including leggy models shot in high gloss black and white, experimental indie film, or narrative portraits of complicated characters. Videos are advertisements for the artists and their products and so, just as ad agencies are hiring influencers to help them navigate trends, so too their habits are being analyzed and copied to sell music.
What was more notable to me was the fact that, like the Chicago River in 1900, the flow has been reversed. It’s not artists and other more traditional celebrities providing the influence, it’s the everyday person with an Instagram or other social media account that’s influencing the culture.
I’m much less interested in what visuals or themes may have been lifted than the fact that it’s no longer the traditional media that’s doing the influencing. That’s a profound shift in the dynamic that’s been in place since, roughly, ever.
It’s true that many fashion and other lifestyle trends, along with definitions of what’s hip or not, have often percolated up from the general public before they’re fully captured by the media. So the idea that consumers are driving these areas isn’t wholly original. But that handoff has usually meant the move from a niche to mainstream awareness.
Whatever direction the trends are flowing, one thing remains constant: It’s brands and companies that have a vested interest in defining “cool” that still have much of the power and play a large role in determining what is or isn’t seen. In the old days, they would work magazine and other editors to include their products on “Must Buy” lists, have their fashions worn on movie premiere red carpets and otherwise have them seen by those with the power to change habits. The goals are still the same, it’s just the tactics now include working with social media influencers.
So music videos and other popular entertainment retain their position as the outlet for secondary explosions from the initial efforts. You send review product to an influential person, that product becomes part of a trend because of those efforts and then that’s reflected in the entertainment world.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.
(Featured image via Vice)