2018-11-16

Threatin Seems Alright By Me. What's The Problem Here?

Jered Threatin, real name Jered Eames, has earned himself the reputation of being a con artist. I myself, however, am conflicted.

For those of you who don’t have exposure to this world, let’s bring you up to speed.

Threatin is a “band” based out of Los Angeles. In truth, it is more of a musical project conceived, written, produced, and performed by Jered Eames under the stage name Jered Threatin. I have absolutely no problem with Threatin’s use of a stage name. That is a very common practice among both amateur and professional musicians. I also have no bones about the fact that Threatin the band is really just a creative entity that exists as more or less the solo project of Threatin the man. We’ve all heard Nine Inch Nails, and we all know that it is really just a Trent Reznor solo project. None of us care about that. Reznor is Nine Inch Nails, just as Threatin is Threatin. So, once again, the cast of characters in this story is really just a cast of amateur or semi-pro musicians doing things that are quite common for amateur or semi-pro musicians to do.

Threatin is not distinguished from the rest of us amateurs by the fact that he used bots and apps to gain fake likes on Facebook and Instagram – after all, tons of people do this, even people you know and like, and while we might roll our eyes about it once in a while, no one really thinks it’s that big a deal.

Threatin is also not distinguished by the fact that he invented record labels, promo, and management companies to help legitimize his act. After all, Devin Townsend created “Hevy Devy Records” way back in the nineties solely as a vehicle to promote Devin Townsend. Hevy Devy Records, you will remember, used to have its own separate website from Devin Townsend’s own artist website, and HDR used to list all of Townsend’s acts as separate artists on the HDR roster. At the time, must of us considered that clever. We knew all those artists were really just various flavors of Devin Townsend, but it all seemed fair enough. In fact, nowadays it is quite common for artists to self-publish their albums and invent a record label name. It’s so common that the fact that Threatin did this didn’t even strike me as being even a little odd. It’s just, you know, using the language of record promotions to self-publish your work. Big deal.

Nor, for that matter, is Threatin distinguished by the fact that he created YouTube videos that make it look as though he’s performing in front of a massive audience. Even the very earliest music videos from the 70s show well-known artists rocking out on stage in full regalia, as though they are putting on a big concert. In reality, most of those videos were filmed in studios designed to look like legitimate concert stages, and there was no real audience. I’m also aware of at least one major-label song – King’s X’s “live” cover of “Manic Depression” by Jimi Hendrix – of an artist’s being recorded in the studio with studio tricks being used to make the listener believe that it was recorded in front of a massive, arena-sized audience. To my knowledge, no one has ever accused King’s X of being frauds or phonies for having done this – nor should anyone accuse them of this, in my opinion. This is all pretty blasé music industry practice, as far as I can tell.

Threatin does, however, appear to have done some things that artists before him have not done, or at least not successfully. He tried to create his own Wikipedia page about himself. He listed non-existent artists on his record label’s website, and that of his promotions company. He invented a fake music award and claimed to have won it.

And, most importantly, he leveraged the power of his manufactured social media presence to hire a pickup band, book a European tour, and actually play. From what I can tell, Threatin legitimately paid the booking fees for these venues. So we cannot say that he defrauded these venues, since he paid them fair and square. The only apparent problem here is that the venues were expecting a packed house along with venue booking fees, and Threatin merely paid the booking fees. The audience never showed up, because there was no audience in the first place. Because Threatin is not a famous band with enough clout or commercial appeal to justify a European tour.

But so what?

The metal music press is all a-twitter about this allegedly “fake” band and “fake” tour, but I’m left scratching my head. Threatin appears to be an artist who makes good on his contracts, even despite having very little popularity and a mostly manufactured media presence. First of all, good for him for making good on his legal and business obligations – not every artist does that. Second of all, being unpopular is not a crime. Third of all, point me in the direction of the “legitimate” music act that does not exaggerate its own credibility.

VH-1 used to broadcast a program called “Behind the Music,” which would tell the story behind the rise and success of a famous band. One episode I vividly remember was about the band Oasis. In it, Noel Gallagher is quoted saying, “Look, if you go around telling people you’re the best band in the world, fifty percent of them are going to believe it!” Perhaps Jered Threatin saw the same episode I saw.

In the end, Threatin’s rise to infamy-if-not-fame is certainly unorthodox in its whole, but no one thing that he did looks particularly unethical or screwy to me. Much of what he did has been standard practice in the music industry for decades. No one yet has remarked that Threatin’s music lacks credibility.

So what really is the controvery here? One of the richest and most famous celebrities in the world today is a woman who rose to fame by having her sex tape stolen. She has managed to leverage that fame into multi-million-dollar business deals for herself, along with multi-million-dollar business deals for each one of her siblings, and her parents. Sure, it’s certainly en vogue to hate the Kardashians, but their expert use of social media and self-promotion reveals a business acumen that many “Instagram Models” have attempted to replicate – some with greater success than others. Beyond that, I think he’s demonstrated a fair amount of social media savvy, and had some fun along the way. None of this strikes me as being wrong, or even lame.

I certainly admire his ability to have created a media circus. Perhaps his only misstep here was aiming too high. Rather than a European tour, perhaps he should have merely attempted to sell out the Viper Room, and then the House of Blues, and then perhaps leverage those appearances to gain an opening slot on someone else’s tour.

Or perhaps he really just wanted to have some fun playing some gigs in Europe while on vacation. I’ve certainly entertained similar ideas myself. Wouldn’t it be cool to book a week at a resort in Cabo, with my friends and bandmates, and while I’m down there, play a couple of shows in local venues? I’d jokingly call it a “tour,” and why not? It kind of would be. Some ten years ago, I even tried to book a few shows around town in a city a few states over, just so that I could play music with a friend of mine. We only managed to book one appearance at an open mic, but again: big deal. It was fun! I bet Threatin is also having fun playing gigs here and there while seeing the sights in Europe. More power to him, I say.

I haven’t heard any of Threatin’s music. Maybe I’ll go listen to some now. I hope I enjoy what I hear, because I hope a guy with that kind of creative streak has at least a little success.

ADDENDUM: I listened to his music, and while it's not the kind of thing I usually listen to, it's actually pretty good. He plays all the instruments, and plays them well. He sings, and his voice is just fine. His lyrics won't change your life, but they're good. To be sure, he's an above-average musician, in my opinion, and easily deserving of some success. Good for him.