The headlines this past week read something like: LA Band Faked Social Media Numbers to Book a European Tour That No One Attended.
Nearly every music outlet in existence has written about this incredibly peculiar saga. MetalSucks, in particular, has devoted wall to wall coverage over the past week covering everything from the (real) musicians hired to play in this one-man fantasy band, to revealing the mastermind(?)’s real identity to, how this was all a giant illusion to, well, you can go follow it.
Basically, what went down if you aren’t caught up yet is Jared Threatin (real name Jared Eames) created a social media presence for his vanity hard rock/metal band Threatin. He bought hoards of Likes, followers, views and Facebook Event attendees. Claimed phony ticket sales numbers, staged huge shows caught on shaky audience phone cameras (cut to the band, cut to the crowd, never in the same shot), listed fake previous US show dates, created a fake label, management company, booking agency and promotions company and booked a full European tour. He hired a backing band, rehearsed relentlessly, flew everyone out to Europe, rented a Sprinter van and, wait for it, no one showed up to any of the shows.
By the third show, word got out to the press that something was seriously off. The venues were understandably livid that the “293 tickets sold” that Jared's phantom promotions company had claimed had been sold in advance, had in fact not been sold. And literally zero people showed up. Once the news broke what was unfolding, his backing band quit and the rest of the tour was cancelled.
It’s a weird, wild, fascinating story that takes ‘fake it till you make it’ to new levels.
The story continues to evolve and unfold and if I know America (and I think I do) even though this European tour was a bust, and before all this he didn’t have two fans to rub together to make a third, Threatin will probably have a long, satirical career with a cult following ala Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. There are already covers popping up on YouTube of Threatin songs. God help us.
Mind you, the music is real. The recordings are real (all instruments played by Jared). And the music isn’t, bad, per se. It’s definitely a taste thing. But this is all besides the point.
Clearly, this guy has loads of money to blow on buying followers, hiring and flying a backing band to Europe and renting out every venue on the tour. And instead of spending that money on developing content people would want to share, investing in marketing, promotion, PR or building a fan base the old fashioned way by gigging and promoting those shows, he decided to attempt to live out a fantasy of touring Europe. EuroTrip!
I have to hand it to him, though, the amount of effort put into this epic rouse is commendable. Mind you, he has been blacklisted by nearly every venue and promoter in Europe. That is until a legitimate American booking agent, label and manager (because, let’s be honest, only Americans are this egomaniacal and soulless) takes on Threatin to quickly capitalize on all of this press. Hello Bhad Bhabie! Cash me ousside! How bout dah.
Even though the end of this story has not yet been written, there’s a lot we can learn from this. For one, just because you book cool venues, doesn’t mean people will show up (duh). Not even in Europe!
Faking your social media numbers never works in the long run.
I know I know you’re going to argue that this did work because he got all this press and he’s probably going to get signed! No. This was a narcissistic stunt that burned his bandmates (who got stranded in Europe) and the venues who over staffed the night. And it can never be replicated. Just like Vulfpeck’s Sleepify was a one time stunt. So is this. Now every venue is on high alert. And he totally fucked the indie music community’s reputation attempting to book our own shows based on faith, merit and our good word. His twisted attempt at fame and fortune might pan out for him because of how outlandish it is and people can’t look away from a car on fire.
You have to zoom out and remember what your true intentions are. Is it to be famous or have a music career?
Social numbers mean nothing if there are not real humans behind those numbers. Followers mean nothing if there is no engagement. We live in a post follower reality. It’s pretty damn easy to decipher if you faked your numbers or not (well, the Euro clubs clearly didn’t dig very deeply). And when people see that you inflated your numbers with bot followers, you immediately give off a desperate, sour tinge to anyone who takes a mild look.
We are past the point of fooling people. You can’t fool a manager into representing you. You can’t fool a label into signing you. You can’t fool a booking agent into working with you. You can’t fool a fan base into buying your tickets. You can’t fake a music career.
There’s no point in spending money to puff up your numbers for vanity’s sake. Advertising for real human followers is one thing, paying for bots to like your page, watch your video or stream your song is another. Bots don’t come to shows. Bots don’t back your crowdfunding. Bots don’t buy merch. Bots don’t help you become a full-time musician.
If your intention is to build a true, honest, music career. You need to do that with fans. Not bots.
And, above all, want to know the worst part about inflating your numbers with fake accounts?
All the social platforms are based on algorithms now. Your posts are shown to more of your followers if they are engaging. How do the platforms know if the content is engaging? Well, if people engage with it! When you post something, it gets shown to a percentage of your followers. If they engage with it (like, comment, share), then it gets shown to more of your followers. If they engage with it, it gets shown to more of your followers. And on and on and on. However, if you have, say, 50,000 followers, but 45,000 of those are fake, there is a high likelihood that every time you post something it will only get shown to your fake followers who will obviously not engage with it and then the post will never actually reach your REAL, human followers. In effect, destroying your profile’s effectiveness at reaching (or growing) an audience.
What is the end game here? Do you think that by having a zillion followers that you will magically turn into a star? Do you think that you’ll be able to convince (fill in the blank) to pay attention to you because you have a bunch of followers and then (fill in the blank) will make you a star? Sure, some social proof is important. I’ll be the first to admit that as a quick check on someone I’ll glance at their Instagram or Spotify numbers. If they have a bunch of followers, I’ll pause and dig a bit deeper. It doesn’t take me 30 seconds to determine if those numbers are fake or not. There are ways to build up your numbers in targeted, meaningful ways. It takes a bit of time. But worth it in the end because you are finding real, living, breathing human beings who are into what you’re doing.
Don’t buy followers. Build fans.
Oh, want to see how click farms work? Here’s a video from a Russian media outlet visiting a click farm in China.