Influencers Are Hot In Media, But They’ve Always Been Here

women with headphones on talking to a mic and recording herself- an influencer

A recent report on the State of Influencer Marketing 2024 from the Influencer Marketing Hub (IMH) provides some impressive statistics confirming the growing influence (sorry) of this media marketing strategy.

Ironically, I’ve recently gone through a little social media “influencer” journey of my own, rediscovering the enduring power of the “influencer” networks all around us.

Seemingly professional influencers are everywhere now. The flip side of the Waylon Jennings-Willie Nelson admonition, “don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” has apparently led more than a few to turn into full-time influencers. The Influencer Marketing Hub’s report, based on a survey of 3000 executives primarily from marketing agencies and brands, demonstrates the allure here noting that a $1.7 billion market in 2016 topped $21 billion in 2023 and projects that it will top $24 billion by year end 2024.

In a reverse of the “size matters” maxim, 70% of marketers prefer using “nano” influencers (between 1,000–10,000 social media followers) or “micro” ones (10,000 to 100,000 followers) rather than larger scale influencers and celebrities (price might be a pretty significant factor). Interestingly enough, IMH survey respondents have deployed influencers mainly to create content (37%) and only to a lesser extent to drive content distribution and persuade audiences, which seems a little odd for a group named “influencers.”

Speaking of understanding what moves an audience, I recently went through a Facebook-based exercise some of you may have tried: identifying an album that has most influenced your taste in music every day for 20 days. This is different than your favorite musical artists, songs, or albums, focused instead on how to define your own musical tastes and tracing back the sources of those tastes. If you go through it, you find yourself not just listing a compendium of album titles but wondering who and what has influenced your cultural tastes (in music at least) and maybe most importantly why you were influenced. And there are a host of non-professional influencers we’re all hopefully lucky enough to tap into.


Like many, I’d probably start with my parents. I have eerily strong recall from a collection of albums my parents played from my earliest memories from Broadway shows (from hits to flops) and artists like Barbra Streisand. And before I knew better than to question it, my mother plopped me in front of a TV on the weekend to watch Leonard Bernstein on Young People’s Concerts. Talk about influence – go back and watch those (a lot more illuminating than Maestro, by the way). Fast forward and you’ve got my daughters with Spotify playlists like “Dad’s Road Trip.” Does anyone remember the “generation gap”? Way overstated.


Even amidst a generally sedate set of music preferences, I remain an inveterate Who fan linked to the influence of one of my closest high school friends (always the hippest orthopedic surgeon you’ll find). And a good college friend opened by ears more fully to Frank Sinatra by blasting his music in the otherwise folksy campus coffee house he managed (much to the chagrin of the earthy-crunchy crowd frequenting the place).

I still recall our high school art teacher, set designer, and football coach – OK we weren’t great at football – walking a group of us during a musical rehearsal break through a line-by-line interpretation of the entirety of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” I have dutifully passed this on to my own kids. Rock and roll history in eight and half minutes. Another of my college friends recently shared his continued love of a Catalan folksinger traced to a high school Spanish immersion program. That is one influential teacher.

Wise Curators

These might be the professional pre-cursors to influencers, but with an actual expertise worth paying attention to. In the days of radio dominance this included for me DJs such as Charles Laquidara and Oedipus at beloved WBCN in Boston and much later with Jonathan Schwartz in New York who illuminated so much of the Great American Songbook. Newspaper critics are sadly a dying breed, but once you find a commentator whose sensibility resonates with you, keep listening.

Artists Expanding Their Palate

I’ve always been impressed with artists in one area that shine a light on art outside of their known field or focus. For me, this has included Woody Allen (pause for politically correct groan) bringing the music of George Gershwin to such dazzling light in Manhattan, jazz great Wynton Marsalis in his early years recording gorgeous baroque trumpet music, or Miles Davis interpreting the Disney classic “Someday My Prince Will Come” and the opera Porgy and Bess.

Far be it from me to deny somebody their shot at fame and fortune as a professional influencer. But real influence? That’s all around us.

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