Last Friday, rapper Lil Nas X, who most people know as the mastermind behind the 2019 smash hit “Old Town Road,” released his latest single, “Holiday” – his first release since his debut EP, “7,” in 2019. I’ll be honest, I was expecting more of a Christmas theme from this song – he dressed up like a futuristic Santa to promote the song and the music video is set in the North Pole – but it still is a bop, to say the least.
One of the tactics the rapper used to promote his new single included a 30 second commercial advertisement-style video featuring a specific phone number, and when people called or texted the number, the person who answered was none other than Lil Nas X himself. At first glance, a major celebrity publicly giving out their phone number may seem concerning, but not to worry; the number that Lil Nas X and other celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and John Legend has publicly share are not their real phone numbers. These numbers are primarily set up through a company called Community, a texting app launched in 2019 that helps manage direct messaging from a large audience as a way of “monetizing” the social networks of celebrities and influencers. But what is the difference using this texting app over other popular sites like Twitter or Instagram?
How Community Works
As expected, not everyone is able to use the popular texting app. Go on their website and try to get a number, and what you see is this:
So, unless you become an overnight TikTok sensation, it looks like us common folk won’t be able to get a Community phone number anytime soon. Apparently, if you get a number through the app, it costs money, but the company is secretive about their pricing so the exact cost is unknown. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not potentially sell an organ on the black market in order to text other people.
If you’re a fan who wants to text your favorite celebrity, using the app is pretty simple. When you first text them, they respond with an automated message asking you to sign up to their “contact list.” Once they click on the link and fill out the form, they are subscribed to receive future text messages from that person. Here’s an example of how it works when I used the app to text Lil Nas X.
Will They Text Back?
I know what you’re thinking – “If I have to go through all this trouble to talk to a celebrity, will they even respond?”
To put it simply, yes and no. They won’t completely ignore you, but don’t expect a personal response either. I’ve used this app to stay up to date with some musicians I listen to, like Halsey, G-Eazy and Hoodie Allen, and from my experience, the messages are pretty much the same: automated messages that are sent out occasionally, most likely if they have an album, song, or other type of work to promote. However, there have been a few times that I’ve sent a message and I got a response! Unfortunately, I don’t have it saved because my hard drive was wiped out after I spilled something on my laptop a few months ago. Whoops.
Why is It Helpful for Artists?
Though the concept behind the app is based on connection, it is primarily a new way for artists to advertise their work directly to their audience. For Jennifer Lopez, she used it as a way to celebrate 100 million followers on Instagram and tied it to a promotion of her 2019 movie “Hustlers,” while Halsey recently used her Community number to promote the release of her new poetry collection “I Would Leave Me If I Could” last Friday.
When you think about it, Community isn’t that different from social media sites like Twitter and Instagram because of their usage by artists to promote their work. But while it still is marketing, I have to give Community credit for attempting to make it more personal.