April 22, 2019
The definition of pop culture among teens differs greatly from previous generations as traditional Hollywood stars and professional athletes take a backseat.
“I think Generation Z has moved away from the super celebrity and are now moving into this phase of the everyday celebrity,” said author and speaker Meghan Grace. “It’s the YouTube vlogger or the Instagram influencer that looks just like Gen Z—they act just like Gen Z and go to high school like Gen Z does—while living a very ordinary life, except they have this strong following in an online world.”
With the drive to go “viral” and the fear of being “canceled,” the idea of building a personal brand at a young age is a unique aspect of the generation, according to Grace.
“It is interesting that your lifestyle can be considered famous. It allows people to find people they’re interested in and to see as role models, but it also does put a new pressure on people where everything that you do is part of an image,” said Grace.
Technology is heavily connected to current pop culture trends, including the popularity of music and video streaming. According to the Consumer Technology Association, 84 percent of Generation Z use their phones to listen to music through streaming services and online music videos.
Grace said that the fact that it is easier to gain a social presence is also utilised by the new generation in the form of political activism and generating online discussions.
“I’m intrigued that Generation Z doesn’t want to just change the world through new technological platforms because they want to get the fame and glory for it; they want to change the world because it’s the right thing to do and since it impacts all of us,” said Grace.
Firmly planted in social media, everything from music tastes, slang, and television viewing has diversified and experienced rapid growth.
The Rise of Teenage Influencers
“With YouTube and Instagram, I get to show you guys a lot of parts of my life, but there’s some parts that I don’t show you. I thought it would be cool to have you guys fill in the blanks,” said Minnetonka High School Sophomore and social media influencer McKella Tiziani in the introduction of her YouTube video reacting to viewer assumptions on her personality, dislikes, and lifestyle. Assumptions ranged from Tiziani being nice and easy to talk with to mean and judgy. At one point, a commenter added: “I love you, you’re my idol.”
“Having a following is both a blessing and a curse,” said Tiziani. “Being able to reach an audience and to be able to share a story that I have, makes me feel like my opinion is valid and that I have a group of people to talk to.”
Tiziani have over 30,000 followers on Instagram along with a YouTube video that boasts
almost 300,000 views.
“I have lost some friends because of it,” said Tiziani. “It can create distance with people that don’t support social media. At the same time, it also shows which of your friends are there for you and will support you.”
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the usage of the word “influencer” doubled each month in 2017 compared to statistics in 2015—five years ago. The term in the social media sense was fully defined in the dictionary in 2016.
The rise of social media giants can be attributed to the fact that humans are social animals, according to Psychology Teacher Kevin Johnson.
“The one time in life where this really plays a lot of precedent starts in adolescence and starts to tail off once you get into your mid to late 20s. It’s a medium that speaks to a concern that people have about themselves—where they fit and their identity,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, getting notifications and likes from social media acts as a reward, affecting pleasure regions of the brain acting in a similar way to sex and drugs. The uncertainty social media provides—whether a post will be liked by a large audience or the volume of engagement—is what makes engaging in platforms such as Instagram more effective.
“‘Maybe’ is much more addictive,” said Johnson. “It’s not actually seeing the notification from your phone, it’s the anticipation of it that affects the brain.”
The pleasure gained from social media can easily become pain inflicted, according to Johnson. Another area of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex, sends the same pain signals as physical pain when an individual feels left out or ostracized, often through social
media; this allows other people’s images maintained online to have a powerful hold on an individual’s actions and emotions.
“Everyone’s seeing what someone manipulates people to see; it gives us the illusion of how everyone else is doing and that you’re inferior compared to their life. It doesn’t give an accurate portrayal—you can tell people that and they can admit that it’s not real, but it still plays a role,” said Johnson.
According to Tiziani, she doesn’t put a lot of thought into what she posts in terms of how she looks, but does have to take into account the influence her profile may have on her life as well as others.
“I definitely am extremely careful with the things I post,” said Tiziani. “For example, I can’t take pictures or videos outside my house or show my school. I also have to be very careful with sharing my opinions to keep peace and respectability with my audience.”
By 2020, the influencer market is expected to be a $10 billion industry, according to Ad Week. Paid influencer sponsorships have become a large aspect of social media, where rates depend on how many followers an individual has.
“For influencers starting out, you might do collaborations in return for some free products for one or two Instagram posts and a story. Once you get a bigger following, you can have a rate that you’re paid per Instagram post,” said Tiziani.
Tiziani has done sponsorships with companies such as Brandy Melville and Billabong; she has also received free products from skincare brands Bliss and ZitSticka which she broadcasts on her Instagram.
“I think teenage influencers are a really good way to start a good work ethic at a young age,” said Tiziani. “It requires a lot of patience because it’s not easy and you won’t see results right away.”
According to Tiziani, brands with either comment on a post or email through Instagram to initiate conversation, or the influencer will email a brand that they are interested in collaborating with.
“Even before social media, somebody has found that there was this crafting going on where some people were creating the style—whether it’s clothing, attitude or language which was exemplified with young people,” said Johnson. “It then creates the demand for the clothing or another product and so forth circuitously.”
According to Johnson, companies being able to have their desired target market advertise to others in the same age group for them is much more effective compared to overt advertisements.
“The bottom line is young people are the ones who change the language. For example, the use of words are passed down from old people to young people, it goes from young people to even younger people,” said Johnson. “It is very possible that we’re being manipulated to fit the profit margins of the corporate world.”
The Business of Music and TV Streaming
Over the past ten years, society has adapted to a staggering yet sudden change brought upon by streaming capabilities.
In the domain of television and film, Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu have become standard purchases since their expansion to streaming as opposed to shipping physical copies of entertainment. In 2018, Netflix reached a threshold of 118 million subscribers worldwide.
Music, however, has experienced a similar boost in streaming in the past 10 years. The iTunes store was a huge step forward in 2003, bringing the music marketplace into the sphere of technology; but along the way, new streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have become more prevalent.
According to the most recent data, Spotify currently has 75 million paid subscribers, and Apple Music has 56 million.
Movies/television and music share one primary variable in response to the rise of streaming – the reduction of the need for higher-priced, less convenient, individual copies of these goods.
For the consumer, this is great news. As streaming technologies have become more accessible, people have gained more convenience in their pursuit of music, as well as falling prices for individual songs as well as albums.
As more songs were purchased online, iTunes dropped their prices from $1.99 to $1.29 several years ago, and a select few even fall under a dollar.
Streaming in music caused an especially large change in the ways the market affects the artist. In a report done by CNBC in 2018, it was found that Spotify pays its copyright holders approximately $0.006 per stream on their service.
If we travel back in time to the dominant era of CDs, it was reported that Michael Jackson signed his deal for “Thriller” to pocket $2.45 for each sale of an album. “Thriller” sold approximately 66 million copies, leading Jackson to make over $150 million.
At Spotify’s rates, however, this equates to less than four million dollars.
A similar case was made by David Crosby (via Twitter) last year, as he claimed that “[record] companies made a deal to sell out the artists by agreeing to a very very low rate in return for which they got ownership share in the streaming companies.”
Overall the expansion of music, streaming, and further strides in digital capabilities have a positive effect by making music more available to consumers, while negatively impacting the artists.
For movies and TV, this digital age is more about general convenience than negative effects for anyone. It is much easier for a person to sit down on their couch at home and pull up Netflix rather than go out to a movie theater.
The idea of streaming was brought about by the convenience created for the customer. Being able to pay a low rate each month for unlimited shows and movies was revolutionary, saving consumers both money and time.
Unlike music, however, these services minorly diminished the profits of regular studios, as they already released their films and movies through a different platform before making a contracted deal with streaming services.
While streaming has a correlation with the decrease in box office sales, these studios are still making money long after the movie leaves theaters due to the longevity of online accessibility.
These services have (almost) completely removed the need for physical DVDs. As easily exemplified by the fall of video rental stores, Netflix and Amazon Video have diminished the need to purchase and own a $20 movie.
The changes in technology over the past twenty years have vastly altered the ways that entertainment reaches its consumers. While certain artists and companies have lost money during this shift, the entertainment market is shifting, similarly to many other mediums, towards convenience.