Never before has there been a situation where I’ve wanted to sit someone down and advise them that, before their next major career decision, they should ask themselves ‘what would Rebecca Black do?’
See, Rebecca Black bought the pop star dream. In 2011 her parents spunked $4,000 up the wall for LA music production company ARK Music Factory to write the aspiring starlet a catchy hit song – the now seminal pop classic ‘Friday’ is a kind of ‘Firework’ for people who can’t remember which order the days of the week go in – and film a professional video set in an insane lawless dystopia where 14-year-olds are allowed to drive themselves to teenage raves so wild that all grammatical sense is instantly punched out of their cerebral cortexes by high-grade synthetic fun-fun-fun-fun drugs. At latest count, ‘Friday’ has notched up 127million YouTube views and Rebecca is, at the very least, Jonathan Pie famous.
Jered Threatin, on the other hand, appears to have bought the nightmare. It’s every rock band’s greatest fear – paying through the over-pierced nose to book an entire European tour where literally hardly anyone turns up, there’s disastrous media coverage and half the band quits on the overnight ferry to Antwerp. And, as Jered’s band Threatin – front-runners of what’s fast becoming known as echo metal or tumbleweed rock – stagger further into their viral UK and Europe 2018 tour, notoriously attended by almost no-one at all, it certainly seems that he may have planned it this way.
A quick recap for anybody who missed the whole story. Threatin frontman Jered, a misguided LA rocker tragically born attached by the hands to a picture frame, allegedly faked a record label, a booking agency and a promoter – each has what looks suspiciously like a fake website complete with company histories and rosters. There’s also speculation that Threatin bought thousands of Facebook likes and comments, and doctored live footage to make his LA gigs look rammed, like some kind of face-melting Sarah Sanders. All in order to secure gigs at fairly small European club venues that probably would’ve been happy to put him on if he’d just turned up with 20 mates and the hire fee in unmarked notes.
Jered then had his promoter of questionable existence tell the venues that they’d sold most of the tickets. Hundreds of of Facebook RSVPs for the gigs convinced venues to staff up for a busy night, despite the fact that all of the ticketholders appeared to be from accounts based in Brazil.
As I write, Threatin’s management (who also, we understand, handle Timmy And The Lords Of The Underworld, Wyld Stallyns and Sadgasm) have announced the cancellation of their Belfast appearance, no doubt citing poor fantasy ticket sales or nervous delusion. Their touring guitarist and drummer have reportedly quit (Jered, who usually plays everything himself, plans to continue the tour just with a bassist), and the internet is in uproar. Yes, the support bands are inconvenienced and out of pocket and the venues are missing out on a moderate mid-week bar take. But since he’s paid for the venue hire and band travel costs upfront, at what must be a huge personal cost, surely Jered’s only really scammed himself. Like a pretend 419 scammer transferring you $5million to convince you he’s genuine.
The whole scheme smacks of a musician with a glimmer of how the music industry functions in 2018, but entirely the wrong idea of how to play it at its own game. You can buy the pop star dream alright. Labels do it every day. You can buy millions of Facebook fans, or Instagram and Twitter followers to try to look like a social media sensation. You can hire the toppest dollar radio pluggers and PRs, and there are companies offering to sell you hundreds of thousands of YouTube views so that the radio stations, magazines and blogs will take notice of you. If that gets you airplay, the station producers will go check your Shazam or Spotify plays to see if their listeners liked it – and guess what, there are online services like Streamify promising to bump those at the appropriate moment too, for a fee. Bang, you’re playlisted, meaning you get more streams, more media attention, a bigger share of the online income. You’ve bought yourself a shell of stardom. Now simply wait for the sheep to flock.
The music industry, and those who exploit it, are well versed in hyping up fan-less projects in whatever ways the loopholes allow. And as such an easily-manipulated platform as streaming becomes dominant as the accepted barometer of what music fans are (supposedly) listening to – and in an age when the technology to manipulate it will always move faster than the measures to stop it – more and more innocuous dross clogs up the slave-to-streaming playlists and an increasingly irrelevant singles chart. You know how you got so bored of sponsored Facebook posts that you pissed off and left your mum to it? That’s pop culture, 2018.
So fair play to Threatin, they may have sussed that that you can con your way to success. They just made the rookie error of actually playing the gigs. The correct move would have been to blow more of their bottomless budget on booking Academies, buying up all of the tickets, sticking SOLD OUT signs across the front and never even leaving LA. Then sending glowing fake reviews in to blog sites and metal mags, penned by John Riggers. Actually showing up to play shows they know will be empty is the self-defeating metal equivalent of, well, doing Brexit. Unless poor Jered actually started believing his own hype, and convinced himself that his ballooning Brazilian fanbase are so supportive, surely they’d travel…