The controversial photo seen above has been making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter recently, indicating that some of the most popular DJs / EDM artists on the planet are “buying” influence on social media websites. MixMag was first to report on the issue, with an article entitled “Are top DJs buying Facebook fans?” The general consensus is that these artists (among others) are paying money to services that promise to increase the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, presumably to make DJs seem more important, influential, or otherwise notable. Here’s the thing, though: They don’t have to.
We’ve avoided the issue for the past few weeks on Dancing Astronaut because there’s simply too much red tape and too much conjecture, and not nearly enough of the cold, hard facts. I don’t feel comfortable accusing artists of such questionable tactics without confirming it with them personally (or at least reaching out for comment). And quite honestly, it’s not nearly as nefarious as the mudslingers on Twitter would like you to believe. Keep reading to find out why.
First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way. Having Mexico City as the most popular city in the past week is not an indicator of having purchased fake fans. Excision, one of the artists included in the graphic, noted that Mexico City has an “extremely fast growing scene” and that promoters are going all-out to spread names and sell tickets. Sebastian Ingrosso also chimed in on Twitter, declaring that he gets 25 Tweets a day imploring him to come to Mexico (and maybe even inviting us to go with him). Excision also explains the logic of Facebook’s display ad system, and how his relatively high bids can outweigh lower alternatives, providing an explanation for Mexico’s high rank. (Also here are two fun facts courtesy of Wikipedia: Mexico City is the most populous city in North America, and the fifteenth in the world.)
that they bought follower it just mean that Mexico City loves them!!! I personally get more then 25 tweets a day saying come @dancingastro
— Sebastian Ingrosso (@SebIngrosso) May 29, 2012
Next, it’s important to remember that while most DJs do control their own accounts and maintain their own presence, there are other people with access. We work with many social media-oriented PR firms on a daily basis, and you’ll often see at least a few Tweets with “[MGMT]” over the course of a day if you follow enough people. At some point in the last five years, Twitter followers and Facebook fan counts became an easy way to “rank” people or compare status, and having more is obviously better than having less. Isn’t it possible that someone at a PR firm, record label, or even management company might have “bought followers” for them? To me it seems unlikely that David Guetta is sitting at his computer searching for companies to purchase Twitter followers — but maybe I’m crazy. (I did like his UMF set, after all.)
The graphic at the top of this editorial certainly has its flaws, but there is evidence to suggest that there is some funny business going on in the industry. Top Dee Jays has a tool to track follow counts, fan counts, and similar stats on a daily basis, and there are definite cases where massive spikes amid generally slow, even growth can raise questions. (Nicky Romero was pretty vocal about this on Facebook and Twitter a couple of weeks back, and you can see an example in the photo above.) However, I don’t feel comfortable enough to accuse any DJ of purchasing followers without asking first, and again, it’s very possible that this is happening without the artist themselves having any knowledge of it whatsoever.
At the end of the day, as many people articulated to us on Twitter, “You can buy followers, but you can’t buy talent (or influence).” In a statement to Dancing Astronaut, Ash Pournouri, director of AtNight Management which is responsible for Avicii and CAZZETTE, said that “we never bought anyone as we have no need to.” He went on to ask “What would we do with them? Sell them in 5 years for double the price?!” Sebastian Ingrosso also wrote that “all of those that are accused are extremely talented and have millions of fans, so whats [sic] the problem?”2/2 and we never even bought ads cause of the same reason. Social should be 100% organic but we are onvestigating [sic] how Mexico C[ity] could be.
1/2 Ive checked Avicii FB page and its true about Mexico C being most pop city but we’ve never wanted any1 who didnt actively chose 2 follow
— Ash Pournouri (@AshPunani) May 29, 2012
2/2 and we never even bought ads cause of the same reason. Social should be 100% organic but we are onvestigating how Mexico C could be.
— Ash Pournouri (@AshPunani) May 29, 2012
The EDM industry has benefitted immensely from the Internet, but if there’s anything that “followergate” can tell us it’s that the web can be a double-edged sword. Whether an artist is purchasing followers or not, the mere perception of being illegitimate or “fake” can ruin credibility for life. At the end of the day, however, it really doesn’t matter how many followers or fans an artist has. Reality sets in when it’s time for tickets to go on sale, tracks to be released on Beatport, or for big announcements to be made. If no one cares, no one cares. Swedish House Mafia would sell out MSG again even if they had zero Facebook fans, and that’s a fact.
I still don’t feel comfortable saying that any of the accused artists have engaged in these tactics — and that’s why this is an editorial and not a news piece. But you can be assured that if there ever is proof of monkey business (of any kind) in the music industry, Dancing Astronaut will be there just in time to cut through the bullshit and separate fact from fiction once again.