https://www.thestar.com/life/together/people/2022/01/30/how-music-maven-eric-alper-became-one-of-twitters-most-prolific-posters.html

“I’m really not on social media as much as people think I am,” says Eric Alper, which is a funny thing to hear from a guy whose Twitter account – @ThatEricAlper – spits out an average of 50 posts per day for an audience of 800,000 (with another 164,000 followers on Facebook). Even if you don’t actually follow his accounts, it often feels like you do anyway, because someone you know (or some celebrity you follow) has taken the bait and responded to one of Alper’s signature crowd-sourcing queries, such as “What song has the best intro?” “Who is the best SNL cast member of all time?” “What movie traumatized you as a kid?” Or, if those prove too challenging: “What’s a song with a musical instrument in its title?”

They’re the sort of softball-down-the-middle questions for which everyone has an answer, and every day, thousands of Alper’s followers are happy to offer up theirs. And thanks to Alper’s tendency to repost the same Tweets with ruthless clockwork efficiency – with many reappearing on a precise annual schedule – it seems those questions will keep getting asked until every last person on Earth has chimed in with a response.

Twitter’s greatest attribute is its ability to deliver breaking news as it unfolds in real time, but the Toronto-born, Richmond Hill-based Alper runs his feed more like a golden-oldies radio station: he plays the hits and plays them often, to engage new followers who missed out on the fun the last time around. In addition to the aforementioned ice breakers, @ThatEricAlper presents a ceaseless, often recycled stream of music-biz stats, pop-culture factoids, feel-good memes, candid archival photos of rock legends, concert-video links, celebrity-deathaversy notices, fortune-cookie platitudes (“Dear everyone upset, bored, or angry. I’m here for you. Sincerely, music”), and proudly terrible dad jokes (“I have a friend who writes about sewing machines. He’s a singer songwriter. Or sew it seams.”). Call it the Eric Alperithm.

“Even when I had 100 followers, I was using Twitter the exact same way as I’m posting now,” Alper says. “I never go negative. I’m there really just to promote music. It was never about building a brand. My brand was just, ‘I’m just a guy who works in music who likes to post stuff.’ I’m just here for my own entertainment first and foremost. I love reading people’s comments.”

For Alper’s legion of followers – which include such celebrity responders as Lady Gaga, David Crosby, Cameron Crowe and Brandi Carlile – his feed is a fun, innocuous distraction from the misery and toxicity that Twitter too often breeds. But for those less eager to share their favourite song with harmonica on it, Alper’s unwaveringly upbeat tone, predictable publishing schedule, and conspicuous absence from the conversations he prompts resemble the work of some nefarious data-mining operation. On Twitter, you’ll find no lack of users questioning if Alper is even a real person.

“It’s very strange,” Alper says of his reputation as a Twitter enigma, particularly since, with his eternally long black locks, he’s been an ubiquitous presence at Toronto concerts and music-industry functions for the better part of 30 years. As a publicist – formerly with entertainment conglomerate eOne, now as the head of his own company – Alper has worked with a veritable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony of clients (including Ringo Starr, Carole King and Public Enemy), and he currently hosts his own show on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks.

But while his own Twitter following rivals that of his most high-profile clients, Alper isn’t trying to be an influencer per se – aside from the occasional plug for his radio show or homemade industry-advice video, his feed is largely devoid of self-promotion or selfies, and it’s not like he’s using his viral content to leverage exposure for his PR roster. He’s essentially corralled the online equivalent of a flash mob, where the mere act of engagement is the end goal. And if some don’t like it – according to him, people on Twitter have “absolutely become angrier and more short-tempered” during the pandemic – Alper can lean into his experience representing famous musicians, for whom developing a thick skin is a job prerequisite. “Working with artists mentally prepared me for any criticism or any negativity on social media,” he says. “I know how to walk away from it, I know how to shut it off. Social media may be a big thing in my life, but it will never overtake my sanity and my mental health.”

For Alper, his Twitter feed is simply the latest manifestation of an evangelical music obsession he developed as a kid, when he would venture downtown from his Keele and Finch neighourhood to visit Grossman’s, the venerable Spadina blues venue owned and operated by his grandfather, Al Grossman. “It was a dive bar,” Alper recalls fondly, “but it made me realize that music wasn’t just about music – it’s a community. Grossman’s was a place where university students and draft dodgers and older senior citizens and doctors and lawyers were all coming together to listen to this music and hang out and talk amongst themselves.”

Now, some 40 years later, the 50-something Alper is simply encouraging the same sorts of communal experiences on Twitter, even though he harbours no desire to be the centre of attention. (Before long, he may be only the second-most famous Alper in the family, as his 19-year-old daughter Hannah continues to build a robust online presence for her eco-activist work.) If Twitter is one big water-cooler conversation, Alper is happy to just be the guy who installs new tanks at your office every day and let the chatter flow freely from there.

“Really, it’s got nothing to do with me,” Alper says of his feed. “People love to answer those questions because they love talking about themselves. It’s really about the memories that they’re sharing. And if my feed is a place for them to have those conversations, then that’s amazing.”