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Summary:

News that Neil Young is on Twitter led thousands of exultant fans to follow him. It’s too bad, then, that Young appears to have nothing to do with the account. The fake hype reflects badly on both the company and the musician.

Neil Young

When a popular musician joins Twitter, mobs of excited fans say they can’t wait to hear directly from their hero. But often the famous name on the account is just a front for an anonymous celebrity shill. Is it time for Twitter to be more honest about authenticity?

The latest case in point is Neil Young who joined Twitter yesterday. Thousands are already following him, presumably to hear the rock legend wax about life and love in 140 characters. But the debut has so far been a flop.

Young’s inaugural three tweets haven’t been about rocking in the free world or even the Canadian prairie. Instead, they form a small stream of promotional pap:

 

 

And so on. It’s pretty clear that whoever is writing and tweeting this stuff isn’t Neil Young. Heck, for all we know, Young hasn’t even used Twitter in his life.

This is grating on a number of levels. For one, it’s annoying to see such blatant commercial tactics from an artist who famously refuses to license his songs to advertisers. While philosophy or song lyrics might be a tall order, some fans expected something better:

 

Young, of course, is hardly the first musician to give the keys to his Twitter account to a publicist. Bob Dylan as well as numerous celebrities and politicians have done the same. It’s still a disappointment though, considering how other creative figures like Margaret Atwood have used Twitter as an authentic extension of their own voice. (Twitter didn’t help matters by having its publicist hype that “Neil Young” was on Twitter).

More broadly, the Neil Young episode raises questions about rights of identity in the age of social media. Companies like Facebook are already trying to ban fake names to appease advertisers and one day Twitter may try to do the same. If it does, will there be an exception that allows the rich or famous to keep their fake accounts? Or is it time for companies to start flagging the difference between brand and personal accounts?

  1. Maybe his silence is the point. The John Cage of Twitter. Kudos, Neil!

  2. Brilliant cat of the bag commentary. We’ve long suspected this. It is what makes twit and fb out and out shams #thisstinks

  3. “it’s annoying to see such blatant commercial tactics from an artist who famously refuses to license his songs to advertisers”

    So because he doesn’t choose one form, he is not allowed to use another form of commercial tactic?

    1. Ringo, he can do what he likes — it makes sense for artists to use Twitter to reach out to fans. The issue here is that this Twitter account is not “Neil Young on Twitter” but rather a corporate promotion account (which is fine — but I think Young and Twitter should be clear about the distinction).

  4. I don’t see anywhere in this article that references where Neil Young (himself and not anyone else) says he is on Twitter. Can you please provide a link? Or did an anonymous source tell you?

    Thanks.

  5. Jeff John Roberts Thursday, September 27, 2012

    Hey Karim, the account says “the official twitter account of Neil Young” and his inaugural tweet says “look forward to talking to all you music lovers”

  6. The other question here is Does Neil Young need to be a *person* to be on Twitter – or would it suffice to be “the business entity known as Neil Young to his contractors”?

  7. I’m pretty sure any *actual* NY fans would *never* expect to hear from him on Twitter. You have to listen to his art.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. I don’t know why anyone would expect an old skool rocker (I mean that as a compliment) to give a rat’s @ss about social media. I’m sure the existence of his account came at the behest of his managers telling him that he “needed” to be on Twitter. He was probably didn’t know enough about it to care one way or another, but saw that all of his peers had Twitter accounts.

  8. Typical Neil…did anyone really believe Neil was going to chat on twatter!!! Long Live Neil Young!!

  9. Suzan Mansfield Friday, October 19, 2012

    the Neil Young episode raises questions about rights of identity in the age of social media.
    http://www.ticketsreview.com/concerts/neil_young_tickets/
    Great stuff!

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