The personal/private line: part 1 of several
Due to a conversation that began as a discussion about Kanye and ended with my mother shouting "Biffy Clyro aren't real rock, they're soppy rock that tries to be harder than it is because they're Scottish", whilst praising Twin Atlantic yet not being able to tell the difference between them, I'm skipping the dialogue and getting straight into the post.
This was intended to be my promised post on Kanye, but as this rant got out of hand that'll have to be postponed - before this one is shared on social media, the next one will be being written, never fear.
Thanks to the wonderful power that is social media, we're now at a point where we can know every detail of our favourite musicians' lives, not just through what the interviewers and professional journalists tell us, but from what the guerrilla (is that a fair term? You know what I mean anyway) journalists, free lancers, opinion bloggers, Joe Blogs, and, of course, reading, stalking, and interpreting the social networking feeds of said musicians.
There would have been a time where musician X said so and so to paper Y, and A had a theory about X was saying, and would throw this idea about with B and C, who may pass the idea on or may not. Now, A can set up a blog in minutes and share it with potentially hundreds of thousands of people (or the handful of people who religiously read their blog, but you know). With chance and popularity, A can now have a fair impact in comparison to Y. We'll get back to this complex when discussing Kanye in the next post.
So we know every detail of musicians' lives, if we wish. The bigger artists, the ones less inclined to tweet inside jokes or what they had for lunch, things (God, I hate this term, but) "fangirls" can spend ages decrypting, are more likely to have camera crews following them to the same end. If you're One Direction (then my thoughts are with you, ha) or some college band down the road, unless you stay off social media and literally no one cares about you, you're being watched. And by fans, which is possibly scarier than the CIA.
Fact: people are just as interested in what musicians post about their personal lives as what they post about tour dates and music news etc.*
Predicament. A musician does something bad. The sort of thing you'd drop a friendship over. What do you do?
In the case of lostprophets, everyone stopped listening to them, sort of. Ian Watkins made £100,000 through royalties whilst he was awaiting trial* thanks to coverage playing clips of lostprophets' songs accompanying the news article. And there are musicians getting ripped off by Spotify for less.
Although Watkins was the frontman and therefore we don't know (expect for, for example, in the case of We Bring An Arsenal) if his intentions might have crept into the lyrics, the rest of the band were oblivious. But lostprophets songs are catchy as fuck, and people still catch themselves accidentally singing them; I know I've been called out for singing Rooftops before I realised what I was doing on several occasions. If you do wish to listen to them, please find a method that means Watkins will take no profit from it.
Jack McElfresh, aka Front Porch Step. The accusations here don't seem to have been much acted upon. For the record, yes, I believe it's true, and yes, I believe being dropped from the co-headline with Rob Lynch tour amongst other things is fair and proper, but… Drown was one of the first songs I learnt to play, full speed, really well, and one of those that's so satisfying to blast out. I still play it. If anyone ever heard me playing it and wanted to know the original, I would explain as above - listen if you wish once you've read up on him, and do so without him getting any money from it.
Third case. I won't name names and point fingers because this involves a medium sized band I don't want to point fingers around because (thank you social media) what I've heard might not be the full story. You'll recognise it if you know it.
The lead singer of a band I like did something I didn't, and I think many people didn't, approve of. Nothing illegal, nothing horrific or terrifying, but the sort of thing I'd frown at a friend a lot for, and would call them out on and generally remind them they're a shit person for. Does it change how I listened to the music? A bit, yes. I didn't stop, I was a bit "well, he's a prick" for a while, and some of the songs I skipped more often than not. This was the sort of size band that every so often you might get a reply from on Twitter, semi tricking you into the illusion you knew them vaguely, that you had some right over their personal life and to judge them for it. They fell into the tweeting inside jokes and what they had for lunch level.
Some people stopped listening to their music. I would still urge you to buy their music through the outlet that gets them the most money for it. For fans to judge them for what the frontman did was to cross the public/personal line for the worse.
Make no mistake, I feel the public should know if a musician oversteps the mark and commits a criminal offense, but that then becomes a legal matter, not a private one. Somewhere, there is a line between what the public should know, and what is personal. There's a line between business persona and public persona, and there's a line that both fans and the media shouldn't cross. These are, after all, ordinary people at the end of the day, especially if they're still tweeting about their lunch.
I suppose it would be fair to use the friend complex here - what would you do if your friend did that? - especially when it doesn't directly affect the music (i.e. illegal label activity of taking advantage of the fans - I'm looking at you, Austin Jones).
But when is it our business to know, and how much should we know? Well, I presume that'll be for another blog post.
*I did a five thousand word essay on the effect of conventional and modern methods in music promotion, and found an even split of interest between "personal" and "music related" posts from musicians on social media. I also did a fair bit of research into what puts people off artists, and referenced the Ian Watkins case. Figure gained from BBC and literally everywhere covering the story. I am happy to send out the full report, just ask me.