November 9, 2018 12:52 PM   Subscribe

„Fake band“ Threatin just played a UK tour to...pretty much no-one. It‘s a weird story of paid Facebook likes, non-existent pre-paid tickets, duped venues and long shiny hair. Don‘t miss the link to Threatin‘s official music video „Living is Dying“.

Reddit is alternating between calling him the Tommy Wiseau of rock music and marvelling about how this would actually be a pretty good bedroom project, were it not for the ridiculous context.
posted by Omnomnom (17 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
"Fake it till you make it" taken to its absurd logical conclusion.
posted by clawsoon at 1:35 PM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am terribly curious how common variations of this story are. I'm doing research on a venue, planning to write something about several of the shows that have happened there in the last couple of years. As a result, I go to pretty much every show there, whether or not I am necessarily into the particular band.

I'm going to leave the act's name out of this story, because I still can't decide whether I want to 'out' them in an article. But I went to the show, and realized that the vibe was really off. Normally, if people are at a show to see a band they are excited to see, there is a palpable, rising energy in the crowd as it approaches show time, right? This felt like waiting at the DMV to get your driver's license. At a certain point, one of the owners of the venue stopped to talk to me, and mentioned that there was a block of prepaid tickets all paid for at once, so this wasn't like your average show, and that he suspected that some of the people there were being paid to be there.

I bumped into another friend that I had volunteered with at the venue, and told him that I had heard this. He looked both ways, and then said "Yeah. I'm one of those people. I got paid $40 to be here. I'm on a listserve of opportunities to be an paid extra, for commercials, TV, and film, and this act's last six shows have had paid audience members."

The show started, the crowd stood up and cheered, especially when a reporter from a German CNN-equivalent came in with a camera crew. It was an extremely uncanny and slightly paranoid experience, trying to discern who was actually there for the act, and who was being paid. I figured that it was about 30-40% paid. There were certain people who were clearly just clocking in. Some people were actually shaking their heads at how absurdly bad the act was. But a lot of people seemed to be truly into it.

After the show was over, people were talking to the reporter and lining up next to the stage to talk to the artist. Meanwhile, another line started, out in the open, next to the other side of the stage. The show was over, and the extras were getting paid, 2 $20s each. In order to get paid, you needed to stay until the end of the show. From that line, I figured that I could count who was a real fan, and it looked like it was about 50%/50%. But little by little, the people that were enthusiastically talking to the artist and the reporter moved over to the paid line, and got their $40 as well. By the end, around 100 people got paid, and around 15-20 people didn't (I had a season ticket, so I didn't pay for this particular show. It could be that at least some of the others that didn't get paid were like me).

I left with so many questions. This was advertised as an actual show, not the filming of a video or short film. Were there true fans who didn't know that almost everyone else was getting paid? Was the German CNN-style features reporter in on it? Was she a real TV reporter? (it turns out that she was. I saw the feature on youtube later, but at the time, I wasn't so sure.)

The artist seems to be trying to go viral on youtube. Were they trying to truly create a local following, providing kindling for the spark, or were they just trying to fill out the venue so that it would appear that they have a following on youtube? The whole thing felt terribly zeitgeist-y and bleak, as just that week, it had been revealed that pro-government supporters at a contentious local government meeting had been paid. Could it be that some of the paid extras at the two events were the same?

I wonder if anyone is enough on the inside of certain corners of the casting business to be able to detail how common this is becoming.
posted by umbú at 2:23 PM on November 9, 2018 [46 favorites]

Oh, dang, now I'm really curious about the band, but I get not wanting to out them. I'll just ask: How big are they? Are they like "Yeah, music geeks might know these guys" or is it more like "Even if I outed them, you would be all 'huh'?"
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 3:19 PM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

My pet theory is that Threatin and his ilk may be rich kids who are living out their rock and roll fantasy, throwing money at attempts to create real buzz with fake fans until either they get bored and move on to something else, dad stops writing checks to subsidize them, or in the extremely unlikely event that they pull a Rebecca Black.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:59 PM on November 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Were there true fans who didn't know that almost everyone else was getting paid?

If I was a true fan but I noticed everyone else standing in line and getting $40 I would probably try standing in line too.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:08 PM on November 9, 2018 [13 favorites]

I am reminded of Chris Dane Owens a while back.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:12 AM on November 10, 2018 has a story on this as well, with an interview from another one of their support acts (and more in the comments) and noticing how weird the band's YouTube videos are:
A bit more about those YouTube videos, because this is where shit starts to get REALLY weird. Threatin’s YouTube channel has a number of videos on it and they’re all bizarre in a number of different ways. To start, there are a couple of live clips designed to give the impression that the band has a room packed full of fans, but all of them either show only the band on stage or only the crowd — never both in the same video. What’s more, although there’s no way to prove this, one gets the sense from the audio on these videos that they’ve been overdubbed with the sounds of screaming fans (the performance videos) or music by Threatin (the crowd videos). Here are a couple of those videos, one of which appears on a different YouTube channel with a laughable description that attempts to explain away why the band isn’t even pictured (“Live video of Threatin. Got this video last june. i could only get a few seconds here and there the crowd was pretty wild. i kept almost dropping my phone..great show though.”):

It's really the least of the issues here, but who wants to bet that this guy does not have the appropriate visas for this European tour?
posted by zachlipton at 2:19 AM on November 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

The NME link is now borked. I can't find the article on a search of their site, either. Did they take it down?
posted by Floydd at 6:03 AM on November 10, 2018

It‘s weird, the link is borked and the one from reddit too. But if you google „nme threatin“ and follow the link it works. Safari tells me there are „too many redirects“.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:55 AM on November 10, 2018

I’m wondering whether this itself is not a scam; i.e., perhaps Threatin are a real band, albeit a forgettably mediocre one indistinguishable from any number of other mediocre bands, and this whole thing (the “faked” audience videos, the shitstorm of a tour with nobody showing up, there being only one guy in the band and him pretending to be his own booking agent) was contrived to build viral hype and get all the people who liked The Room and The Great Hip-Hop Hoax to see this otherwise missable band when they actually tour Europe in a month or two.
posted by acb at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2018

"Living Is Dying" made the skeletal hand of the '90s burst through its grave and grab my ankle and try to drag me back down to dwell in some long-haired upset teen boy's rec room forever
posted by Countess Elena at 10:17 AM on November 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

He's gotten more international PR by doing this than any conventional and legitimately executed tour could have netted him.

I half wonder whether the remaining dates are going to stay up simply because the clubs expect people to show up to drink and gawk and heckle.
posted by ardgedee at 10:18 AM on November 10, 2018

I'm so baffled by the point of this. It's a lot of work, for... what?
posted by sarcasticah at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's a lot of work, for... what?

For that rock and roll fantasy, man. That moment when you're plugged into however many thousands of people that are sending their energy through you in the arena of your dreams. Back in the seventies, Bob Greene (yeah, I know, he's a creep, but this was over forty years ago) wrote maybe the best book ever on touring with a band; Alice Cooper let him tour with them on a holiday tour where he played Santa Claus (as an encore, the band beat up Santa). The first time he put on the suit, Greene felt like an idiot and told Alice so, and Alice said something to the effect of, hey, this is my day job, I've been doing this for years, and Greene went on stage and almost immediately felt the rush and suddenly everything was OK. Even I've felt a little bit of that; I played in a band with some friends for the senior talent show, and my legs were shaking while I was onstage, but not from fear--it was from the energy. And that was just a high school auditorium. Imagine being on the stage at Wembley Stadium.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:00 PM on November 10, 2018

Looks like he pulled out (FB link) of last night’s Belfast gig.
posted by doop at 6:27 AM on November 12, 2018

Oh. "Threaten". "Threatin". Oh. I get it.

I was initially pronouncing it "three-ate-in".
posted by clawsoon at 8:29 AM on November 12, 2018

Interviews with the drummer and the guitarist, both of whom quit once they realized they had been scammed. The bassist seems to be stuck in Europe without return airfare.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:30 PM on November 15, 2018

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