By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Thanks to Twitter, Diplo can invite fans to graffiti his photos, Khloe Kardashian wishes followers good luck on midterms and fans truly believe “artists can be your best friends.” MTV has been talking with Millennials about this narrowing distance between fans & celebs … we call it “Zero Distancing.”
In a panel @MTVInsights hosted during Social Media Week, Millennial super-fans painted a picture of what today’s intimate interactions with celebs looks like. Here’s what we heard:
· Rewards in Re-tweets: Kassie, 22, went backstage to show the famous DJ Diplo her “Diplo Kitty” nails. “He Instagrammed this shot… and it made my life,” she explains. She also talked about when he invited fans to creatively alter a photo of him, and “make it trippy.” Kassie’s photo-editing creativity earned her a re-tweet. She says, “A re-tweet seems small, but it’s so rewarding… it shows me he acknowledges what I did and makes me even more obsessed with him.”
· Behind-the-Behind-the-Scenes: Devi, 18, loves One Directions’ behind-the-behind-the-scenes Tweets, whether it’s Zane taking a photo of Harry sleeping or the guys posting a goofing-off video when fans thought they would’ve been rehearsing. “It gives you insight into what they do all day… and we get to see this side of them that not all artists share.”
· Punctuation Perfectionists: Emily, 17, notes that One Direction fans are OBSESSIVE about every character in every Tweet from their favorite band. “We notice all the little things, where they put periods; how they do smiley faces… we know right away when something is off.” Like when a manager takes over. “It irks us. We know that’s not Liam. That period wouldn’t be there. We know Liam can’t spell.”
Real Love: Nicole, 14, gets real love and friendship from Khloe on Twitter. Khloe’s sent her advice on studying and offered well wishes when she was sick with the flu. Nicole says“It’s honestly like I know her, even though we’ve never met… it’s like we just have a relationship. I love her.” She explains that every Friday Khloe has FanFriday and will post a picture someone made for her on Twitter… here’s Nicole’s, along with Khloe’s glowing feedback:
So…What’s the Future? Through hack sessions MTV orchestrated with Millennial super-fans, we learned they are eager for 3 things from their favorite celebs or artists:
1. More “creative challenges” rewarded: True super-fans aren’t opposed to working for celeb-love… in fact it’s even preferred. They want to Photoshop images, go on scavenger hunts, write funny one-liners, and then be rewarded by their favorite celeb with something as simple as a re-tweet or as big as a special Meet & Greet for their city
2. Co-creation opportunities: Super-fans want to be part of the creative process , whether that’s contributing song lyrics, designing album covers or voting on merchandise. Devi, 18, dreams of a world where fans design official merchandise in place of the “cheesy” OD-branded UGGs… and a contest where a fan gets to serve as photojournalist and take over OD’s Instagram feed for a day.
3. Tapping the creative jugular: We’ve heard that celeb Instagram feeds are hot because they are like “mainlining” into the artist’s creative jugular. And our fans are looking for more vehicles to get this intimate revelation as to what inspires their favorite celeb… whether that’s through celeb-generated playlists on Spotify or inspirational photos. They want more than just in-the-moment status updates… they want to get inside celebs’ brains and unpack what inspires them to actually create.
By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
* Here’s a sneak peak of what’s to come in @MTVInsights presentation at Social Media Week NYC on Feb 20th *
It’s no longer unusual for the biggest pop star in the world to wish you luck on your math test, or for a reality star to forgo therapy and solicit advice from 8 million teen fans. The pedestal has been dismantled by social media tools in the hands of a generation that loves to flatten hierarchies. We indeed live in a flat world where fans demand not just a VIP pass to celebs, artists and entertainment experiences, but an eye-to-eye view.
This is the age of “Zero-distancing”
As Julian, 21, says “Today, artists can be your best friends.” So conversations like this between Nicole (@trukardashfan) and Khole Kardashian about Nicole’s upcoming midterms aren’t unusual:
As Nicole says, “Khloé always makes time to talk to all of her fans. Whenever I get a tweet from her it makes me so happy because it feels like we are close since we communicate often.”
Millennials also crave intimate glimpses into the mundane daily activities of their favorite celebrities, such as Taylor’s cat claw clipping:
We hear from Millennials that they click through various social media channels to get different perspectives into a celeb’s life, like different video camera angles at a live performance. Each social media channel serves a distinct & unique purpose:
· Facebook is the most “formal and official outlet” for tour updates and information
· Twitter offers a “blow-by-blow feed”, and highlights interactions with other celebrities
· Instagram provides a direct line into their literal world-view, like “seeing the world through their eyes”
· Tumblr is the most intimate glimpse into an artists’ psyche/spirit. Jessica, 25, explains that it allows fans to get a authentic glimpse into an artist’s creative inspiration and process… it “shows how artists express themselves, the aesthetic that makes them tick.”
@MTVInsights will be speaking more about “zero-distancing” on February 20th at New York’s Social Media Week. We’ll start with a teen panel who will speak about their virtually-intimate relationships with celebs in social media, and then be joined by Viacom stars who will speak about their experience interacting with fans:
· Nev Schulman from MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show”
· Drita D’Avanzo from VH1’s “Mob Wives”
· Cody Alan from CMT’s “Hot 20 Countdown” and nightly syndicated radio show, “CMT Radio Live with Cody Alan”
· Ivy Winters from Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
- By Jillian Curran, MTV Insights
From the moment Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino stepped on the Summer Stage at Central Park last Monday, he refused to be categorized. One minute hard-hitting rap, the next an old school R&B croon. “This is not a rap show, this is a black rock show!” he announced mid-show (over an accapella re-mix of Adele), only to reverse his verdict in the encore.
Actor/comedian/rapper, he exudes what we at MTV Research call slashitude…as in “I’m a DJ/executive assistant/food truck CEO.” Even his name seems like an oxymoron wrapped inside an enigma.
One creative Millennial we interviewed in our study that coined “slashitude,” Marat Shaya describes it, “When I’m asked what I do, I say exactly what I’m good at… I say that I’m a video editor, an event planner, a photographer…but the older generation always wants to know my title.”
Another panelists Micah Spears says, “Now you can be anything…you don’t have to go to college and get a diploma that says you did ‘this thing’ you can now create your own identity, and be ‘these things’.”
Childish Gambino personifies the generation in a fascinating way. He is at once consciously playing with who and what he is, and letting us in on the game…polymathing with the rules in a way that almost invents the genre in real time.
Nick Shore, MTV Insights
Last night we took an @MTVinsights trip to see Fun. (as in “Tonight, We Are Young”) play the final gig of their five month tour, on home turf at Terminal 5 in New York.
It occurred to me last night, I might well be watching the anti-Nirvana…a band that drives irrational exuberance, unity, sheer happiness into your bloodstream…the way Cobain and co. drove in angst, cynicism and a plea for the misunderstood and disenfranchised.
As someone charged with studying Millennial behaviors, motivations, insights & trends I have, of course, bandied about a lot of rhetoric about the generation using optimism, fun and unity as their way of pushing back on Gen X values. Of a generation bullishly refusing to go to the dark side, even in the face of, say, a trillion dollar pile of student debt.
But it wasn’t until last night that I experienced the force of that outlook in full magisterial effect…of fun as a statement of generational intent.
Born of the fringe, but now living comfortably in the mainstream, without any hint or accusation of selling out, Fun. seem to say with every gesture, every anthemic lyric, every hand raised aloft in gleeful praise…celebrate! Everything is good. Life really is…fun. Even the period after their name (as in: Fun.) appears to offer it up as a definitive statement, end of story.
I resisted for a while, but the unbearable lightness of three thousand young voices in unison crashed against the X-er Berlin Wall around my post-Regan-omic soul until it melted away, and I was steamrolled into smiling.
And that, it seems to me, might just be how the soft machine of rebellion rolls, M-style…
- By Kassie Deng, MTV Insights
A couple of weeks ago, I made the holy pilgrimage to Miami for this year’s Ultra Music Festival, along with about 165,000 other intimate strangers. I got a taste firsthand of what’s driving EDM’s insane rise in popularity with my generation (http://bit.ly/GBsXoY) and got some serious PLUR.
PLUR, maybe the mantra of the EDM community, stands for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. It may sound all Hippie, but was actually born in rave and Kandi culture (http://bit.ly/245nmE), and is a super intense vibe that typifies a Millennial craving for community + a fully immersive, togetherness experience. But it’s not chaos and mosh; like our MTV Research visits to Zucotti during the height of OWS, we found orderly lines, organized activities, and fast friendships at Ultra. As Brian, 21, told me, “All differences fall away when the beat drops and everyone is dancing, smiling, and sharing in the same beautiful experience.”
One thing that sets Ultra apart from other events is that it’s an ultra-interactive/transparent/”full-contact” experience. Not only were we constantly interacting with strangers but we were also interacting with the DJs themselves. Instead of demanding to be the center of their performances, DJs demand the crowd to be part of it. This zero-distancing between crowd and performer is another key marker of Millennial culture.
Check out master of audience involvement Steve Aoki – notorious for spraying bottles of champagne and then crowd surfing on top of a pool floatie at his shows – here he is smashing a birthday cake into the face of one lucky girl: (http://bit.ly/H8Sw2H), many happy returns.
- Matt Cohen, MTV Insights
Having grown up using the same digital tools to interact with both friends and celebrities, Millennials have come to desire radically intimate relationships with their favorite stars. As a result, celebs are revealing more authentic versions of themselves online and treating their “fans” more as “friends”…
While traveling in Canada recently, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez serendipitously discovered “Call Me Maybe” – the uber-catchy single by Canadian artist Carly Rae Jepsen. After recommending “Call Me Maybe” to their millions of Twitter followers (which promptly led to an explosion of the song’s popularity), Justin and Selena decided to supercharge their endorsement by creating a YouTube video which would give the song an extra social-media boost. The video features Justin, Selena, and a few of their celebrity friends (including Ashley Tisdale of “High School Musical”-fame and the guys of Nickelodeon boy-band Big Time Rush) goofily dancing and lip-syncing to the single while decked out in sweats and sunglasses.
On the surface, the video looks like the byproduct of a few bored college students and a few too many shots of vodka. It looks like it cost absolutely nothing to produce and required nothing more than a friend with a MacBook. Yet, this video has nearly twice as many views as Jepsen’s professionally-produced official music video for the single.
That’s because the appeal of Justin and Selena’s video lies in its accessible, human quality. The fact that this video looks like something you would make while hanging out with your friends actually increases its appeal because it offers fans just the kind of authentic and intimate insider-access that Millennials crave.
With this video Justin, Selena, and co. are showing us that they are just as goofy with their friends as we are. It’s the digital equivalent of Us Weekly’s “Stars – They’re Just Like Us!” feature. The key difference, however, is that in this case, the insider glimpse is provided not by the paparazzi but by the celebrities themselves.
By sharing a private moment among friends, Justin and Selena are inviting us into their world — making us feel like we are another member of the party. (No doubt Justin and Selena are aware of the major points they earn with fans by sharing this type of intentionally-unpolished content.) In doing so, these young artists are forging a more intimate relationship with their audience by blurring the boundaries between “fan” and “friend”.
- Britta Schell, MTV Insights
In recent ethnographic work with millennials nationally, I’ve heard more and more about electronic/dance music (EDM) – across all demos I’ve met with recently, every millennial was adding a little EDM into their playlists or daily routine. Time to take a closer look!
In a poll we ran a few weeks ago, 89% of millennial respondents agreed EDM is becoming more popular among millennials - and 62% of our respondents already listen to EDM.
So what is it about EDM that’s so millennial?
EDM artists are all about access and transparency
Through social media, popular DJs like Skrillex, Steve Aoki and David Guetta offer fans personal access to them, their interactions with other artists, and their creative processes. Here (http://ow.ly/9KdHv), Kaskade powerfully mashes up fan-submitted media with news coverage and his own footage to honor a recent event for his community.
Participation is EDM’s lingua franca
In all of our research, we hear millennials tell us resoundingly how important it is for their voice and ideas to be heard. EDM’s vibrant, fast-paced world of remixing, commenting, events and video-making is an open invitation for millennial creativity.
…And remixing pushes the genre to be self-sustaining, innovative, fresh
Subdrive Records’ (http://ow.ly/9KdLz) millennial founder, who describes his EDM-focused label as “completely open-source” summed up the innovation dynamic inherent to EDM: “If you buy [EDM artists’] music, you’re invited to be a creator too. EDM is an environment that’s open, constantly fresh, constantly regenerating.” The fast-paced culture’s openness and focus on cocreation jibes well with millennial predispositions.
Good times in a tough period for millennials
For a generation that faces close to 20% unemployment (http://ow.ly/9KdOn) in many areas of the US, music can be an important release: of the 62% of millennial respondents who told us they listen to EDM, 76% listen at a party, and 57% at a bar/club.
An active, inclusive community with values already common among millennials
A millennial fan recently told me that above all, EDM culture values the music (of course!), tolerance, acceptance, and individual expression. The community is active at both EDM IRL events such as Electric Daisy Carnival, as well as online: 90% of EDM fans in our poll interact with other fans regularly on Facebook, and 31% on Twitter.
EDM is definitely the genre to watch as millennials bring it to the mainstream in their own way. At MTV we’ve been really excited about EDM for a while: back in 2008 A-Trak DJ’d the Woodie Awards, followed by Diplo in 2009. This year, there’s a whole new category (http://ow.ly/9KdQx) devoted to the genre. We love engaging with the thriving fanbase, too: @MTVClubland is part of an active community, and we’ll also be at the Winter Music Conference The rise seems to be reflecting back in other parts of culture as well. Skrillex was recently snarked by Gawker (http://ow.ly/9KdV0) and mainstream events like Coachella and the Grammys are including a significant number of EDM acts.
We’ll be following this growth closely, stay tuned for more…
All quantitative data points (excluding unemployment figure) are from February 2012 MTV Proprietary survey of 213 US respondents aged 15-24.
By Nick Shore, MTV Insights
Last week the Insights Innovation team at MTV went roaming the five boroughs for one of our regular M-Nights. We go “walkabout” from night spot to night spot seeing what’s happening in youth culture, and if we can identify anything fresh and interesting that we should be feeding into the creative machinery back on the mothership.
Last week we caught some soundtrack-inspired improv comedy, a neo-retro-hipster bowling alley, and some up and coming bands…including Behold The Arctopus, who describe their sound in classic Millennial mash-up vocab as “fusing free-jazz, ambient soundscapes, and experimental math metal”
What stood out to us this particular M-Night was less what was happening within the performances, but what was happening in the spaces between them.
At every turn lead singers were taking time in the gap to mumble quasi-diary-esque anecdotes….very stream of consciousness, each monologue a micro-Ulysses.
One singer told us his tale of a forty-pound weight gain over the last year, another about an acid trip on a booze cruise and a fight with “music” (as in, fighting with the very concept of “music” itself…). Arctopus just sort of, well, had a conversation with their friends in the crowd while the rest of us listened.
It speaks (literally) to a Millennial syndrome one might call Zero Distancing….the total collapse of any sense of separation between artist and audience.
It’s the linguistic equivalent of just getting out of bed at 7am and performing in your pajamas before you have even cleaned your teeth or looked in the mirror.
It’s anti-polish. Nothing says I am letting you under my artistic kimono like a bit of public nonsensical rambling, of the type usually reserved for close friends, late night, half in the bag.
We couldn’t help feeling that the artists on Thursday were in a way working their mumble, elevating it to art form, as potent a statement as the music in between.
The overall effect is a radical intimacy that’s quite disarming. It’s the kind of open-ness that Millennials unconsciously embody and celebrate….raised in family structures that “talked about anything and everything”, with school councillors who encouraged everyone to express their truth and so on.
It also speaks to the kind of deep inner view into artists that M’s increasingly demand. In a post reality tv, post Facebook world, when everyone can and probably will have their fifteen minutes of fame, the performers are heeding the audience call….”let me into your world, all the way in, deep enough so I can feel what it’s like to be you, touch the ‘ordinariness’ of you, so I get a sense that it could be me up there….”