So the Adelaide Fringe website has a new toy this year. The Bank SA Talk Fringe section has a leader board for social media popularity. It tells you which shows have been spread the most over Facebook and Twitter and gives you the top 100 of these triumphant little legends. What a delightful feat of information technology that is surely a boon to the festival. Right? Wrong.
First off, famous people get the edge. Acts that have a television or radio profile are kings and queens of this leader board. Plus, many have an agency machine behind them generating copious amounts of paid publicity. Hey, good on them. Who doesn’t want a successful career? I certainly understand that having a profile is part of doing well in this showbiz game. I do alright out of my own TV credits and social media hustle, so why am I biting the hand that feeds me?
Because I believe this social media leader board is not doing what it was intended to do. It should be showcasing a qualitative public response to a broader range of acts. What it is doing is just reminding everyone who already has a pre-existing profile. I keep hearing the phrase “spirit of the fringe” lobbed around like it’s the mantra of a revolution. Well if so, my dear fringe friends, I’m going to put it out there that this social media leader board takes the spirit of the fringe and farts it out a technological anus.
Is it not more in the “spirit of the fringe” to reward good shows instead of savvy social media? The most astonishing part is that Talk Fringe already does this quite well with the review section. Anyone can review a show. Awesome! I’ve read some of the most elated responses to fringe shows I’ve never heard of. It puts the focus on the art over rewarding the fact you’ve got wide publicity.
My next point on this leader board is that the system can be cheated. I’m not accusing anyone. But it certainly is suspicious when acts with no commercial profile all of a sudden rocket up the charts. To prove my point I staged a little experiment to see if I could play the system. I found a website that offered 12 000 retweets for $5. Another that offered 1300 Facebook likes for $5. An insane amount of social media currency, for a quarter of the average ticket price. Look at my event page now. It looks like my show has gone gangbusters all because I gave $10 to web nerds.