The Price of Followership

New York, N.Y. “Leadership.” The word evokes a particular image in the reader’s mind, most likely one dominated by a superior authority figure if the reader hails from the Western Hemisphere. The idea of follower inferiority may be consciously frowned upon, yet the Western obsession with savior figures continues to prevail. [1]

leadership-marker

In the twenty-first century, a perplexing juxtaposition of globalization and isolation gives rise to a new perspective of leadership. Today’s realm of followers holds immense power in everything from affecting social change to initiating a revival of a beloved television show. At the same time, the relationship between leader and follower is becoming increasingly commodified.

What is a follower? In a modern context, a prominent manifestation of the idea of a follower is a fan: an avid supporter of an artist, creator, or other type of leadership figure.

The modern follower, in order to become a fully active follower, must inevitably pay money. Fans of certain musical artists must pay a monthly subscription fee to a service such as Tidal in order to access things like music videos and exclusive songs. [2]

This content often cannot be found on any other platform; it can be accessed only through payment. Music streaming sites do, however, often offer a free version of their service. The caveat is a listening experience laden with advertisements. Fans can escape these pesky ads exclusively by monetary contributions.

This commodification inevitably leads to frustration. The leader figures, in this case artists—musical or otherwise, are often already in the upper class. Fees paid by followers increase the leaders’ wealth while simultaneously lowering the wealth of the followers.

A single monthly payment of $12.99 to Spotify, one such popular music streaming service, may not seem to make a big impact either way. However, with economic inequality in the United States being as prevalent as it is, roughly $150 a year from Spotify’s subscribers, totaling upwards of 20 million, makes a much more blatant affect. [3]

With this is in mind, a follower contributing his or her own money to a leader seems a less than ideal situation, to say the least. Despite this, fans and followers continue to do so.

Why?

Money results from hard work. How money is spent speaks volumes of the spender’s priorities. So a follower making the conscious choice to financially back leaders shows support for the authority figures, faith in their accomplishments, and belief in the success of their future endeavors. Though leaders may be able to personally cover the financial loss of having no followers, active and enthusiastic followers are vital for the leaders to have any real influence.

The pooled resources of followers now encourage creators to continue creating, through digital crowd-funding platforms like Patreon, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe. Similar to Kickstarter, GoFundMe “allows campaign organizers to invite others to take part in their story…People will always be eager to support others they care about. GoFundMe removes the physical barriers traditionally associated with receiving financial support from the people in our lives.”[4] GoFundMe allows anyone to become a leader and gain support from followers who believe in their cause.

In a time full of leaders and followers at every level imaginable, the power to support worthy or unworthy causes is in the hands of the people. Both leaders and followers must consciously choose to place their support, both emotional and financial, in causes that seek to better the world.

References

[1] McManus, Robert M., and Gama Perruci. “Understanding Leadership.” In Understanding Leadership: An Arts and Humanities Perspective. New York, New York: Routledge, 2015.

[2] “What Is TIDAL?” TIDAL. Accessed November 11, 2015. https://support.tidal.com/hc/en-us/articles/202992312-What-is-TIDAL-.

[3] “Information.” Spotify. Accessed November 11, 2015. https://press.spotify.com/us/information/.

[4] “About Us.” GoFundMe. 2015. Accessed November 12, 2015. https://www.gofundme.com/about-us/.

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Rylie Wahl

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