Fan-to-Artist Interactions Advance Due To Social Media
Written by Alessandra Guarneri
Establishing a community through music has remained a staple to its existence. And while the sounds and talent of this industry have also been around for centuries, the music industry and the connections fans have with each other, as well as with their favorite artists, have evolved immensely over the past several decades. Currently, it seems as though both artists and their fans are experiencing a new world that was never established or considered realistic previously. This is partly due to advancements in technology, such as social media, and the up-close encounters with celebrities many are desperate to experience firsthand.
The possibility of meeting and planning an interaction with a celebrity was unheard of ten years ago. However, fans are now making those once distant dreams a reality. Will Heffernan, a music superfan currently living in Los Angeles, has been following and supporting his favorite artists intensely for several years now.
“I’ve met hundreds of celebrities at this point…it’s definitely something I’m good at,” Heffernan said.
After spending over two-thousand dollars to secure meet-and-greet opportunities with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Ariana Grande, Will has realized that sometimes it’s easier to meet the celebrities he admires outside of paid experiences to avoid extensive barriers. This has become a reality due to social media and technological advancements.
“When I met Ariana Grande…she was so nice, but it was so quick because it was a meet-and-greet and so many other fans had to meet her too. I was also in my photo with a stranger, so it wasn’t really what I expected,” Heffernan said.
He believes the internet now allows him to avoid expensive costs and unnatural or forced interactions. Meet and greets, a paid photo-opportunity and interaction with a celebrity, are something Heffernan now steers clear of to save money and keep his experiences as natural as possible.
While tracking an artist’s whereabouts is becoming more common, it still remains unknown territory. These craved and potentially problematic experiences are attainable due to fans having unlimited access to private information through the internet and social media. As a result, concerns revolving taking dedication too far have come into question and caused celebrities to ban public selfies, such as Justin Bieber and Amy Schumer, as well as take hiatuses from social media.
In 2016, Bieber issued a statement on Instagram stating: “I feel like a zoo animal and I wanna be able to keep my sanity. I realize people will be disappointed but I don’t owe anybody a picture.”
Despite the controversy and concerns, the question of taking dedication too far seems to be an easy one for Will Heffernan.
“Do not go to their house or try to find them at the airport. That’s just awkward and creepy. I have heard of incidents where fans go to David Dobrick’s house, but I think he moved,” Heffernan said.
Will has attempted to meet countless celebrities for several years, but he believes that it is more about the way individual fans handle these interactions and prioritize respect in the process. The way he has located these celebrities varies from running into them randomly to locating them and their current hotel/location based on tracking them via social media. This has become a skill to acquire due to the type of investigating and researching it takes to find out this information.
“It has always been a goal of mine to meet Shawn Mendes,” Samantha Wiener, a friend of Heffernan’s, said. “Because of Will, that goal and dream was turned into a reality. He’s just so good at what he does and I’m grateful that I know him.”
Countless celebrities, such as Shawn Mendes, have been known to willingly take photos with large groups of fans in public and have yet to ban selfies. However, for industry professionals who are aware of how these so-called “run-ins” happen, many ponder the ethics surrounding this concept.
In a specific scenario back in 2015, artist Chris Brown had his house broken into by a superfan. He opened up to The Guardian and revealed: “She threw out my daughter’s clothing as well as my dogs’ stuff,” Brown said. “Then had all these crazy voodoo things around my crib.”
Due to the different circumstances surrounding each interaction, it is difficult to have a system in place to completely protect celebrities from unwanted experiences. It is also up to the interpretation of a fan to recognize whether or not they are crossing the line. The lack of privacy barriers between fans and artists have caused supporters to put themselves in situations that may not be considered socially acceptable. Without any set boundaries, it may seem to outsiders of these niche fandoms that locating public figures has become a free-for-all. However, whether or not people understand a supporter’s devotion to people they should consider strangers, will there ever be a way to fully stop these interactions?