Keeping a consistent image in music is essential. This becomes infinitely more difficult in the internet era, especially for a musician who might not uphold the same onstage beliefs in his or her personal life.
Public image betrayed the band PWR BTTM (pronounced “power bottom”) this year. Here’s what happened and what musicians can learn from their mistakes.
1. Keep your band’s image true to who you really are.
PWR BTTM was a gender neutral duo from Brooklyn who advocated for LGBT rights. Their image was built around their ideals, and this lead to a lot of initial support for the group. Through this identity, they gained recognition for their music and were signed by a progressive label.
Making a band out to be progressive is a fantastic move, but when the offstage persona and actions clashed with the ideals they represented, they ran into trouble.
2. Be careful what you post online.
An image of the front man of the band standing in front of a swastika on a beach was leaked and spread across social media. This definitely did not match the group’s image of equality and acceptance.
They came out and said that the image was from their past, when they didn’t know how their actions rippled. The photo was somewhat forgiven by the public, but certainly not forgotten. The duo was on thin ice.
Everything that goes online is permanent, and the decisions people make can scar them forever. This is true now more than before the internet era.
3. Being a good and decent human being goes a long way.
Right before the release of their second album, victims of abuse by the front man came forward. They called them out as a hypocrite and a fake, and worst of all, they labeled him as a sexual assaulter.
The label dropped them and stopped distributing their music. The distributor even offered refunds for people who had purchased the album. Not long after that, the group disbanded. Their career in music was over.
PWR BTTM was on the rise, but their murky private lives came out and ruined their reputation. They mislead their audience and made one of the biggest mistakes an artist can make: they misrepresented themselves in an entirely hypocritical way.
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Gabriel Dufurrena is a mathematician, writer, and educator living in Oakland, CA. When he’s not watching YouTube videos or teaching math, he’s listening to music in his car.