Artists are obsessed with building a large following on social media, but as we learned in January when Desiigner unintentionally conducted a social (media) experiment while fishing for RTs and likes in exchange for the release of a new song, big numbers mean nothing if they don't translate into actions.
Case in point: On February 25, Arizona rap group Injury Reserve—who currently has slightly less than 15k followers on Twitter—set out on a 28-date domestic tour, in which they are the headlining act.
One week later, many of the dates are already sold out.
On Sunday, IR group member Ritchie With a T reminded fans, and the rest of the artist community, that "a real connection with real people," not empty digits on a mobile app, is the true catalyst for building a fan base that is ready and willing to support.
With major record labels signing artists based on "cultural relevance" and Instagram followers—Gotta get your clout up!—it's easy to understand why so many aspiring artists are confused about what truly matters most.
Realistically, as Ritchie pointed out, an artist or group will almost always see greater longevity and financial growth with a small but loyal following, not an artificial, bloated follower count on a social media app that might not be around in 10 years.
Simply put: A following (real world) and followers (internet world) are not the same things.
Obviously, the Holy Grail of fanbase-building is to accumulate hundreds of thousands or millions of fans online and converting these individuals into a paying support system offline. For an artist, being able to monetize a following of, say, 1,000 die-hard fans, could mean the difference between working a part-time job and making music a career.
Don't get me wrong, a follow is great and a retweet is wonderful, and neither action should be labeled as lesser, but you know what's even better? When a fan purchases a concert ticket and a piece of merch.
A million followers might be a "good look," but good looks don't pay the bills.