Pleasing fans is a tough job, maybe even one of the toughest in the world. For entertainers, it’s easy to feel unappreciated at work, especially when your de facto boss is your fanbase, who, yes, can be supportive, but can also be hypercritical, fickle, determinedly cynical, and worst of all, jaded. I know from experience that it can be so frustrating to look at a stalled career as a performer and determine that if only people were a little more fair and forgiving, you’d be further along. Or, at the very least, you’d have an album out.
So, I can see where Tinashe is coming from with some of her comments from an interview with The Guardian that found its way into social media’s crosshairs yesterday. However, the truth of the matter is that in the case of Tinashe, it’s not her fans who have dropped the ball. As a fan, I can say with confidence that her management team just hasn’t done that great of a job marketing and promoting her as an artist.
Now, while she says her comments were taken out of context — she definitely wasn’t blaming colorism for her career status — Tinashe certainly makes some good points about the music industry, its practices, and the way we consume media now. The way the pop music world currently works, there’s only so much attention span to go around, and the bigger brand artists with higher name recognition tend to suck the air out the room, both in terms of bandwidth listeners are willing to dedicate to streaming new releases, and how much major label marketing departments are going to budget to increasing social awareness of a project’s existence. Even online publications that cover music are beholden to committing more print space to artists that generate more interest — you know, like Beyonce and Rihanna — and keep the lights on, so to speak.
Where her complaint breaks down — and here’s where the employee has to take a little accountability for not doing her job — is that Rihanna and Beyonce are legacies of a pre-social world, when the only artists who could get airplay or significant market share had major label machinery behind them. Tinashe is solidly a product of the internet mixtape era, just like contemporaries Jhene Aiko, SZA, and FKA Twigs, who have helped her to jam pack the whisper-singing, ethereal, Tumblr-introvert-favorite, hippie, black girl lane practically to bursting. All of them had self-released mixtapes as well, and most released them right around the same time. They are also all decidedly further along career-wise than Tinashe is at the moment.