Misleading ticket sale figures and loads of likes on social media has led to one of the strangest stories of the year
Bands pushing themselves hard on social media is nothing new. The (very silly) practise of ‘buying likes’ has been going on for as long as Facebook pages have existed, and frequent sponsored posts from brand new bands – with the goal of ending up on as many timelines as possible – is also common practice. On top of that, there’s another fact – followers do not translate to IRL popularity.
It’s important not to judge a band by its apparent online following for this reason. One LA band, who go by the name of Threatin, appear to have taken this mantra to its most baffling extreme.
Twitter user @buzzingbugs pointed out yesterday (November 4) that Threatin’s seemingly well-sold UK tour wasn’t all it seemed. The group – who have 38,000 fans on their Facebook page – looked primed for the road. However. Sharing a Facebook post that referenced a Threatin show at Bristol’s The Exchange, the story unfolds thus on Twitter: “We were expecting it to be a busy night because the promoter had supposedly sold 180 tickets,” said the venue, posting on Facebook. But all was not as it seemed
Upon arriving at the venue, the poster explains, it seems only the support band’s guest list had turned up to the show. The venue claimed that they asked for hire and staff costs before the show could go on, with Threatin paying. They say that the band then played to “literally zero people (aside from their tour manager and a couple of guys from one of the support bands because they felt bad for the guy)”.
So far, so odd – but perhaps no odder than a desperate, mid-life crisis wielding dad with his eyes on karaoke-upping grandeur. What really makes this fucking weird, is that it wasn’t an isolated incident. As The Underworld in Camden, London, posted on Threatin’s Facebook page, “What happened to the 291 advanced ticket sales your agent said you’d sold? THREE PEOPLE turned up. Please don’t lie about ticket sales, and please don’t contact us again for a show.”
According to Jon Vyner, the booking manager at Underworld, “They played the full show. If they’ve paid the hire fee upfront, we’re obliged to see the thing through,” he told BBC Newsbeat. “The most remarkable thing is that it didn’t seem to bother Threatin. He seemed quite happy to give it his all without an audience.”
Dig a little deeper, and there are yet more oddities. There are live videos on the ‘net where the crowd watching Threatin are obscured. There are more where the other members of Threatin are nowhere to be seen. Check out their official music video for wailing alt-rock stinker ‘Living Is Dying’, and you’ll see that the long-haired lad on all the tour posters plays every single instrument.
Billy Bingham, from Ghost of Machine – was booked to support Threatin in Bristol, and told BBC that he believes singer Jered was acting as his own promoter, manager and record label.
Jered Threatin has not responded to NME’s request for comment, and the band’s social media accounts are now set to private. He did, however, post this on Twitter.
The question is, is it a big fat fib? The Facebook figures certainly don’t reflect the turn-out at the shows, the alleged ticket sales are false, and even the YouTube comments pertaining to be from women who want to lick the sweat off Mr. Threatin’s body seem to be from bot accounts. Essentially, they may have out-Hunna’d The Hunna. And if they have, maybe they should be applauded?
“He’s wasted an opportunity and I don’t think he should have cancelled those last shows because I think they would have done quite well,” Patrice Lovelace, promotions assistant at Underworld told the BBC.
Of course, there’s potentially a slightly darker side to all this. If these ticket sales really were completely falsified, a number of small venues in the UK have just lost a big chunk of income. Though a hire fee does usually cover most of the costs associated with paying bar staff, sound engineers and security – and venues caught up in the saga say that Threatin did pay them for this – venues still lose out on an entire night of potential bar takings. There’s also the matter that a venue might’ve hired equipment for the show (stage barriers, for example) anticipating a bigger crowd. Support bands need paying, too – and chances are they probably hired a van and took time out of their schedule in order to play the show.
Given the precarious situation UK venues already found themselves in, look up your local venue, see if they’ve had Threatin roll through recently, and if they have – or, better yet, even if they haven’t – go catch a show next week. Get yourself a couple of pints at the bar, while you’re at it.
Update – 15:45 – November 9, 2018:
After the story of Threatin’s big dupe hit NME, we were contacted by Billy Bingham, singer Ghost of Machines, who supported Threatin at the Bristol Exchange date. We asked a few questions of one of the alleged victims of this baffling hoax.
NME: When did you realise there was something weird going on?
Billy Bingham, Ghost of Machines: “After our soundcheck at 6pm everything seemed normal like any other show. We were told 180 tickets had been sold in advance and we anticipated a great evening. Just before we were about to go onstage at around 8.45pm (with only a handful of people through the door who were on our guest list), I was told to postpone as the owner of the Exchange had pulled aside Threatin’s tour manager to explain why noone had entered the venue with advance tickets. It appears that that the promoter had lied about tickets sales and I was told that all of the confirmed attendees on FB were fake accounts based in Brazil. Threatin was asked to cover the venue costs or the show would be cancelled. In the end he agreed to pay and due to our later stage time, reduced our set by 15 minutes.”
What was the headline set like in the end?
“After our set, everyone left due to the circumstances of the evening. At the time I believed that the promoter had duped Threatin so I did feel sorry for him – therefore I said to the band that we should stay and watch his set as I for one didn’t want him to play to an empty room. In light of the events, his session musicians were very good (who probably didn’t have a clue either) and Threatin’s performance, despite the empty room, was energetic.”
How does it make you feel?
“At the time, we all felt a little bit stunned with the whole situation as it all unfolded.We didn’t really know what to think as we waited to hear if the venue would close or the show would go ahead. I believed, from what I had heard that evening, that it was the promoter who had duped Threatin and I did feel sorry for him (hence why we watched his set). It wasn’t until the hours and days after that I started to suspect that everything about his online presence is a lie and that he probably knew about everything beforehand – even before booking the tour. If so it damages the music scene and venues end up out of pocket because of an empty room. It also makes it harder for genuine bands like mine, who work hard, to gain live exposure due to the fact that no tickets were actually sold. We ended up out of pocket due to expenses, van hire etc. as we expected to sell merch at the show. It doesn’t put us off playing live, the owners of the Exchange were amazing throughout – just like many of the venues across the country. You learn from these experiences and we’ll just be more wary in future.”
Update – 13.33 – November 13, 2018:
Dane Davis, from Las Vegas, claims that he drummed with Threatin on the tour in question. Speaking to Classic Rock, Davis says he believes Jered “wanted this tour to be successful…. I think he genuinely thought it could happen and that there wouldn’t be any backlash if he did orchestrate a lot of this stuff. But that’s just speculation. I can’t say for sure.”
Davis claims that he was paid $300 to drum for the whole tour, and funded travel from his home in Las Vegas to rehearsals in Los Angeles himself. His mum and brother bought tickets to watch him play in Northern Ireland, he claims. “The $300 basically lasted two weeks, so I started using a credit card to pay for food,” Davis alleges.
Davis says that he didn’t notice anything unusual about the tour until the day of the Underworld show in London. “The venue was great, all the staff there, the sound there was awesome, everything was very professional, We had a back room to ourselves. Nothing was really too suspicious about how anything was going, up until we were playing the set.”
“As everything was going on it became more and more defeating,” he added of the tour as a whole. “I knew every show, no one was going to be there.”
After arriving in Northern Ireland and reading various articles claiming that Threatin was not what it seemed, Davis says that he and his bandmates Joe and Gavin left the tour. He didn’t ask Jered if he had faked fanbase and ticket numbers. ” I wanted to get out of there with minimal conflict. He kept saying the promotions company screwed up, it wasn’t his fault, stuff like that.”
“I just want clear this up.,” he said elsewhere. “We had no idea about any of this.”