Let’s be real. A message to the unreasonable fans and those artists who expect it all on a plate.
Social Media. What a powerful tool it is. In the blink of an eye you can share with the world your new music, your thoughts, your opinions and your cat memes. My Facebook and Twitter is awash with Synthwave artists, gig organisers and fellow fans who are all sharing the retro love. It’s helped me to discover new artists and to grab tickets to that gig that I had no idea was happening. But most recently there has been a sea change. Over the past 12 months there has been a ramping up of what I would perceive as ‘toxic’ elements to the scene which, or rather I should say ‘who’ are either hell bent on causing controversy or actually can’t filter their damn mouths. Or in some cases – Both.
Now I have thought long and hard about writing this piece. I had concerns that it was going to upset or insult people. I worried that putting it out there might damage my very young brand. However just last week those scales tipped. I’ll get to the issue soon, however at that very moment I happened to have an online chat with a Synthwave artist who had seen what I had seen and essentially encouraged me to write this. And here we are.
So whilst we are on the subject of brand, let’s explore that a little more – It’s a good place to start. Music is music. The tunes often speak for themselves, however in this online world there are some artists in the scene who have some seriously strong branding to help them along the way. I’m refer to artists such as Robots with Rayguns, who I heard actually took 3rd party advice and instruction on his branding and consistency of communication with his fans. Ollie Wride is another artist who has a quality online presence with a distinct theme, all of which feed fantastically into his upcoming album release. Also worth a mention in the strong branding club is Mr Sunglasses Kid. SK has found that great balance of fan engagement and sneak-peeks, coupled with the strong 80s aesthetic via pictures and visuals that come together to make a welcoming and clear brand. You know exactly what you are getting with SK. And whilst that is comforting for the fan, his progressive experiments with branding show an awareness of pushing that brand forward. It’s smart. Finally – and at the risk of overegging my point, we have The Midnight. Tim takes the lead on most of their online communications and it’s almost as if it is all conducted under the same ‘filter’. When you scroll through an instafeed you can point out his posts without even looking at the name. And that’s the point, right? As a fan you can’t always put your finger on what it is about that brand that makes it stand out. It just does.
So what do all these artists have in common? Well for one I would say success. Their music is popular, they take their time to get it right and their communication in the ‘down time’ keeps their message on point. There may be some label influences however I’m sure a lot of the content is up to the artist.
When you break it down it starts becoming a question of what came first, the great music or the great branding? Do I like your music more because of how it’s branded? Probably not… but maybe!
What I can say though is if your branding is shit / self destructive then that does impact on how I feel about your music – If I even bother to listen to it at all.
Now you don’t have to follow convention. Be it the mystery of Mitch Murder or the personable approach of Player One (which I have grown to like more and more). I enjoy getting to know the person behind the artist. The motivations etc.. plus 9 times out of 10 they are a fucking great laugh. Those I have got to know personally are chilled and can drink me under the table!! But for me, there is a simple and obvious line between the promotion of music, engagement with fans and the cringy complaining that results in attention-seeking antics of artists and fans being plastered all over my various feeds.
But this is by no means a new phenomenon. Observations suggest that there are 2 camps. For a number of years now there has been a prominence in the music sharing social media groups for a lot of peer and fan critique to be taken to the extreme.. A simple dislike for a tune didn’t seem to be enough and less successful artists and bloggers seemed to find joy in shitting all over someone’s musical success. ‘Your new release- It’s not 80s enough’ they scream. What it actually screams is jealousy.
The personal attacks seemed misplaced. I still feel that in the whole this is a very supportive scene for up and coming artists, but fuck, if you don’t like it, move on dude. You don’t need to give it the big’uns in your insistence to point out lack of originality or progress and then in another breath moan that it doesn’t fit the genre. Sit the fuck down.
The 2nd camp appears to be a little more recent. A little more associated with some of those ‘next gen’ artists who feel they are owed the success. Releasing tracks, flooding every single group with the link and then complaining if they get a negative response. I get that independent music is all about the self promotion, but you take the rough with the smooth. If you are promoting your brand as ‘something new to challenge the scene’ then that’s fine. But don’t let that very scene and its affiliates define your responses and get upset if you don’t get the reaction you hoped for. If you want to push the boundaries, expect some flack. Despite what they might say, some fans are not always as open to change as you might think – And that’s their problem.
Make the music you want to make, give it your everything and throw it out to the world. If you are proud of it then fuck the critics. But when you start whinging and shouting down those critics you make an arse of yourself. And trust me. We are all cringing.
Build that brand. Build that following and work as hard on that as you do your music and things will start to happen. Beyond the complaining, beyond the lack of support for the fellow artist, beyond the late night rants – Surely you have to consider the damage this does to your brand?! Like I said, a bad brand shoved down my iPhone will put me completely off the music. You could be the new FM-84 and I won’t care because you posted for 3hrs about your dislike for the scene and everyone in it. Like anything in life, there is good and bad on each side. Fans need to be more open minded and thankful for the sharing of new and hard-worked music. We should all be celebrating successes. Without the music there is nothing.
I have had the pleasure of meeting some cool people during my time at gigs, live events and meet ups. As someone who grew up in quite strange circumstances I hold this community close to my heart. Yes, it’s a hobby, but it’s something I feel very passionate about and all I want to see is proud musicians being daring and sharing their talent with us. Your political rants and religious bashings aren’t needed.
Like E.T said ‘beeeeeee gooooooood’
Now you’ll need to excuse me. I have to return some videotapes.