Last modified 09.09.02023

X: Social Medium

In which followers are on sale

By Frederick O'Brien

Illustration for Funnyfarm Part X: Social Medium

The Band with No Name blew town in a daze of hysteria. Word of their gig had spread like wildfire and the Neon Duck was desperate to book them again. Elaine Gould hadn’t let them. Instead they were beelining down the motorway.

Alan Hazard watched the tenements blur past from the window seat of the van.

‘Why couldn’t we stay?’ he said. ‘They were gagging for more gigs. The people loved me.’

Gould glanced at him from the driver’s seat.

‘When you cast a spell you have to get out as fast as you can,’ she said. ‘All you’ll achieve by staying is giving people time to realise all the things you’re not. Something special happened back there and I’ll be damned if we ruin it by letting people have a second look at you.’

‘Gekaiiehvtc?’ said a pile of clothes on one of the bunks.

‘I’ll tell you what we do now, Bas darling,’ Gould said. ‘We start building your brand on social media. There’s talk about you. Good talk. People are interested. We need to capitalise on that.’

‘So it’s time to show the world what we’re about?’ Irvine Waltz said.

‘Dear god no. It’s time to show the world what we want them to think we’re about.’

‘And what do we want them to think we’re about?’

‘Possibility,’ Gould said. ‘Freedom. Youth. Love. Being yourself and sticking it to the man and being a man, man.’

There was a pause as the band processed this.

‘But that’s meaningless twaddle,’ Ray O. Sunshine said.

‘Exactly!’ Gould beamed. ‘By communicating to the world in platitudes and vagaries you can be all things to all people. This dovetails nicely with your postmodern masterstroke last night. We’ve already set a tone of ambiguous profundity.’

‘Is that what we want?’ Hazard asked.

‘Oh yes.’ Gould suddenly looked grave. ‘Some young artists get themselves in a right pickle by standing for something like voting rights or equality of the sexes. Then they get big and find themselves pigeonholed as the designated pied piper for the zeitgeist of the week.’

‘And we… don’t want that?’

‘Heavens no. The Band with No Name must be relevant across multiple zeitgeists. Multiple markets.’

Theo creased his immense brow. ‘So what do we say on social media?’

‘You won’t be saying anything, darling. I’ll take care of it. I’ve already secured our handle across the major platforms. Take a look.’ She handed her phone to Hazard, who looked at the screen and frowned.

‘@nmlssband?’ he said.

‘Pickings are slim these days, but not to worry. I’ve already started building your following.’

‘So how many followers do we have?’ Hazard asked.

‘Four thousand.’

All the band gasped in unison save for Theo Stone, whose eyes narrowed.

‘How many of those are real people?’ he asked.

‘What do you mean?’ Gould asked, her voice suddenly sickly sweet.

‘I’ve read about these bots people buy. To inflate their numbers.’

'There’s a buy one get one free offer at the moment,’ Gould said, shrugging.

‘So they’re not real?’ Sunshine asked.

‘Plenty of them are, I’m just giving them the sense of belonging they deserve.’

‘So what are these real people saying about us?’ Waltz said.

‘Salslkhljkaqetlkjjh?’ said the pile of clothes.

‘All that and more, my sweets,’ Gould said. ‘You’re hot shit. People are dying to hear your material. Gigs are all well and good - I’ve arranged thirteen for the coming week - but we need to step up our efforts elsewhere.’

‘And what does that mean?’

‘It means,’ Gould said, as the van veered onto the off ramp, it’s time for your radio debut.’