A TikTok Story: Tiny Crowds
A Story Only TikTok Can Tell
I am steeped in the fascinating world of social media, particularly female driven social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest. I find these spaces ripe for epic tales of pure human experience through a lens that is entirely absent in all other forms of media.
TikTok is its own world and the stories you follow are often quite real. For content creators, the stakes are extremely high. On TikTok, clout is everything - and it can be a game changer. The beauty is that anyone can find success, and it only takes one video to set it all in motion. Over the long term, clout can generate paid promotional opportunities for creators. Get a big enough following, and creators may find themselves a member of the creators fund, or in the elite class of those with coveted blue check verification. It all has real world career and financial benefits, especially for Gen-Z.
Though, as quickly as an account can rise, if it falls, it falls twice as hard. One video can reduce your clout to ash, and once it's gone it's nearly impossible to get back.
Then there are accounts like @Tiny.Crowds. They barely got off the ground before their wings were clipped, and I find the story fascinating.
What I see unfolding on TikTok right now for Tiny Crowds is a pain only social media can inflict. The pain of posting something you think is cool, finding out in the comments that it's actually not cool at all, and then being accused of perpetuating class and racial warfare.
Who is Tiny Crowds?
According to their website, Tiny Crowds is a socially distanced concert series presented by the Brooklyn venue, Purgatory. Purgatory describes itself as a "venue, watering hole, and community space." They seem to be a new thing in the area, but they have boozy snow cones, apparently.
The Tiny Crowds concert series is made possible thanks to New York’s Open Culture program, which “provide[s] critical revenue and recovery opportunities for hundreds of arts and entertainment organizations, while giving New Yorkers brand new ways to enjoy their neighborhoods” according to Ellyn Canfield, Executive Director, Citywide Event Coordination and Management.
It appears the primary purpose of the program is to provide opportunities for venues and organizations to apply for event permits. The program seemingly does not include any form of direct financial support for events like concerts.
So, What Did Tiny Crowds Do?
First: Watch the video.
Looks like a fun party right? Wrong.
Rather than try to explain what is wrong here, I am going to let the comments speak.
These comments are not only extremely funny, they are also a great representation of the real conversations Gen-Z is having amongst themselves about class, race, and place. It also shows the power of 'sarcastic activism.' Some call it cancel culture, others may say it's accountability culture, most will say "it's not that serious," and they might be right. Regardless, these comments lit a fire under someone at Tiny Crowds, because when I began writing this, the video had already been up for about a day, and was their most watched video by over 20K. But as of this sentence, the video has been taken down and scrubbed from TikTok (except for those of us who took screenshots while the gettin' was good).
Tiny Crowd - Big Implications
Now, I fully understand that this feels like punching down. This entire thing comes off like a well-meaning event, put on by well-meaning young people trying to make the best of things in a struggling entertainment industry. However, there are some larger implications of this event, that go beyond the lack of diversity and lack of masks.
Based on the linked sources Tiny Crowds provides on its website and its social media pages, it looks like they thew a Block Party. According to the Citywide Event Coordination and Management page, A Block Party is designated as "a community sponsored, public event where there are no sales of goods or services." In addition, it states that hosts "Cannot charge a fee to participate or fundraise." (read the full Block Party rules here)
While I cannot verify if Tiny Crowds or Purgatory obtained special permits for this event, we clearly hear in the video that the event organizers were charging $20 with proceeds going towards local artists. Which sounds like charging a fee and/or fundraising, depending on your interpretation. Even if it their permits were all in order (I assume they were) it still looks like a group of privileged young white folks ignoring safety measures to raise money for their friends with the help of the New York State government.
I respect the hustle, but it rubs me the wrong way.
The Moral of the Story
As someone who has worked in arts and culture institutions for most of my career pre-pandemic, I am aware of how important state and city funding is for arts, culture, and entertainment businesses and organizations. I have no problem with the overarching idea of the Tiny Crowds concert series. I think it's great. I think it's absolutely critical that we all do our part and get vaccinated so we can get out into venues, theaters, museums, galleries, comedy clubs, botanical gardens, open-mics, etc. Strong communities need the arts, and we should absolutely be putting pressure on all levels of government to ensure our arts, culture, and entertainment landscapes survive.
But Tiny Crowds and their weird, poorly attended, homogeneous, Columbusing of block parties isn't helping. When organizations and businesses run by and for young people don't do their homework, when they are tone deaf, and exclusionary, it makes it harder for the folks out there doing important work to get the same opportunities in the future.
The silver lining in all this, for me, is watching the nuances of how Gen-Z nips stuff like this in the bud.
Gen-Z doesn't tattle, they don't run to authorities - no. If one of their own fucks up, they have no problem reading them to filth in the comments and ruining their whole bag.