Many creators, especially up-and-coming or micro-influencers, are paid in free or “gratis” products, although the practice is a subject of debate across multiple niches and online communities. In November, this common debate got flipped around after a photo studio owner claimed in a now-deleted viral TikTok that an influencer left an angry voice memo after the studio refused to let her use the space for free. The video sparked debate over whether “exposure” is enough not just for creators, but for the businesses they work with.
The deleted TikTok video, which was posted on Nov. 12 and gained over 1.9 million views as of Nov. 14, shows TikToker and photography studio owner Sarah McCreanor (@smacmccreanor) dancing to a voice recording in her studio while on-screen text read: “This is a real voice note an influencer left on my studio business IG when I said No to her using our space for free.”
In the purported voice memo, the influencer dubbed the business owner “hilarious” before saying, “I asked to come there for twenty minutes to shoot something with my daughter, and that’s disappointing? For free? When I charge a lot of money for postings?”
She continued, “We get, like, 12 million hits on our TikTok. … Are you 90 years old and not know how influencers work? … I asked, ‘Oh, can I shoot there for twenty minutes with my daughter to do a viral video and, like, support you guys and post you around, and people will book your studio because it’s colorful and very on-brand for me, they will book your studio.”
Based on the voice note, various TikTokers are speculating the influencer in the recording is Amy Roiland, a blogger who posts fashion content with her young daughter on her Instagram and TikTok accounts. Passionfruit reporters were unable to contact Roiland or independently verify if she is the person in the voice note.
In the comments section of the viral TikTok, viewers debated whether or not creators should ask businesses to give them products for free.
“Why couldn’t she book the studio if she loved it so much?” one TikTok commenter wrote in response to the video.
“This isn’t the collaboration she asked for, but it’s the collaboration she deserved,” a second asked.
As previously covered by Passionfruit, many creators are asked to provide content in exchange for free or “gratis” products, although the practice is heavily debated. Some viewers flipped this debate around, offering complaints on behalf of small businesses being pressured to offer free products or services to influencers in exchange for exposure.
One viewer joked the business owner should ask their landlord if they could pay their rent in exposure, while a fourth user said: “It makes you wonder who else she took this tone with and bullied into a second-guessed decision to just let her have what she wanted.”
Neither McCreanor nor Roiland responded to Passionfruit’s request for comment via email in time for the publication of this article.