Author Topic: Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)  (Read 6812 times)

23 Daves

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« on: June 01, 2006, 01:53:08 PM »
Most of you will be aware that Sandi Thom is set to take the number one spot next week, having gained fans totally through "The power of the Internet". She's a self-made star, goes the standard story, and something worth celebrating.  All very nice.  And all very well, BUT...

To my vaguely media-savvy mind, everything about Sandi just seems wrong. Her claim to fame, of course, is that her car broke down rendering her vehicle-less for a UK tour, so she opted to broadcast shows from her flat in Tooting online instead. These shows proved to be so popular that tens of thousands of people logged on to her site. The server company even offered her their help “for nothing” on the basis that “nothing like this had ever been done before”. As a result of this, she claims to be an Internet superstar, an overnight success who had no previous record label interest (signing her record contract over a suspiciously rapid few weeks if this story is to be believed).

Firstly, the statement about the originality of the venture is completely false. Webcams at acoustic gigs in London are an extremely common occurrence, and no novelty whatsoever. The 12 Bar even has one running on each and every occasion, and even with promotion they tend to generate very slight audiences. Live webcams from someone’s flat in Tooting are admittedly rarer, but still the concept isn’t original enough to have an Internet hosting company jumping up and down in delight and offering their services for no money whatsoever. And even if they did think it original, what would be in it for them? You can come up with as original an idea as you please online, but finding a company willing to host it for nothing is very hard indeed. Why should they, after all? I’m not arguing that this is impossible, but something about it still seems rather fishy. On top of that, there’s the small matter of the fact that web stat companies have since argued that her online audiences were miniscule and “nothing like” the tens of thousands of fans she claims to have gained. So that’s almost certainly incorrect.

Secondly, the wave of press attention in the wake of her gigs smacks ever so slightly of PR massaging. Since Nizlopi hit the number one spot over Christmas, the press have been keen to encourage more Internet stars – everyone loves an “ordinary girl/ boy made good” who “made it off their own backs without a big evil corporate behind them” story after all. The problem is, major labels are notoriously idle, plodding beasts these days who jump on artists when all the groundwork has been done for them. In the modern age, they want musicians to come with the whole package – with the music press on their side, an album almost already planned out (if not largely recorded) and a strategy already in place. For this reason, management and PR are playing far greater roles in artists careers prior to the ink hitting the contract. This leads us to the obvious question - did Sandi Thom have heavy PR backing before her major deal? Er, yes she did. And if you really think PR Companies are delightful little cottage industries run by hippies whilst major labels are evil soul sucking beasts of Hades you are living in a rather childish fantasy world. For a start, Sandi Thom’s PR company have previously represented Stevie Wonder. Hardly a bedroom operation, then.

Thirdly and finally, there’s the song. What there is of it. A slight, stomping acoustic ditty with lyrics about how the singer wishes she’d been born in a more revolutionary age for popular culture. And we can but nod our heads and agree. After all, in previous ages such free-spirited protest singers as Sandi Thom wouldn’t have played gigs for the Royal Family whilst passionately grinding their teeth. Which she’s supposedly doing this week.

It does increasingly seem as if "underground" responses to "unknown" artists are becoming increasingly suspect.  Knowing that the public loves and will side with the underdog, PR companies are tailoring their press stories to that end.  Idle hacks lap the stories up without checking the facts, and hey presto... a star is born.  Something about this whole process sickens me slightly.


Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2006, 03:28:01 PM »
Indeed. See also: Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen.

Wonder how many more "word of mouth success stories" will emerge (backed by hundreds of thousands of pounds of PR of course) before people start to get savvy to this nasty trend of exploiting the idea of art on the internet as a new PR 'trick'.

It creates work for the PR twats and puts coke up their nostrils, and it also pushes them into the background of attention, meaning they can take credit for any success while they're still flavour of the month, but also disappear and act blameless should the artist fail or suffer a backlash, leaving them to mop up their own mess. Foolproof.

Just another gimmick to delay the inevitable future prospect of even the thickest of the thick failing to be taken in by engineered hype. The marketeers can sense people getting savvy, and so they're pulling out any trick they can to further their cause.

'Download-only hit singles' was the last wanky myth. Now it's 'fame by MySpace'. Wonder what's next?

boki

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Re: Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2006, 03:35:19 PM »
Quote from: "23 Daves"
Firstly, the statement about the originality of the venture is completely false.


Indeed. Future Sound Of London were doing it over ten years ago, but then they're hermits.  It'll go wrong soon enough, 'cos it'll be like the left-field electronic scene (yes, I'm trying to avoid saying things that make you cringe like e*******ica or i*M) where (at least) half the punters end up becoming bedroom producers and some of them are actually pretty good, so it'll get to the point where there's 'net labels' all over the shop that are struggling to give away decent music.  It'd probably help if they throttled their output a bit, mind.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2006, 05:55:38 PM »
Quote from: "Darrell"
Indeed. See also: Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen.


To be fair on the Monkeys, they did build up their initial support without the PR influence - they sold out Upstairs at the Garage in November or December '04 because of the songs they'd put up on their webpage and word spreading across internet forums. After that though the hype machine obviously went into overdrive.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2006, 06:16:53 PM »
I'm not sure what the problem is here. Hype and made-up stories in order to gain success. It's nothing new. I'd wager that most of us would have to throw out a sizable chunk of our music collections if we really objected to stuff like this going on.

23 Daves

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2006, 07:04:10 PM »
Quote from: "Peking O"
I'm not sure what the problem is here. Hype and made-up stories in order to gain success. It's nothing new. I'd wager that most of us would have to throw out a sizable chunk of our music collections if we really objected to stuff like this going on.


This is the standard line that seems to be dished out by Thom's defenders, but my problem is that this is rather seedy underground posturing - the sale of something PR'ed within an inch of its life as being "good" "honest" and "punk rock".  That's a few rungs up the dishonesty ladder from telling a few fibs about your family background or saying you met your lead guitarist in a record store over a Bo Diddley album.

What concerns me about this move is that it's likely to breed cynicism about artists who genuinely are doing it for themselves.  The next time we hear about somebody making it online off their own back - and it will happen, though probably in the dance music sector  - the story will be drowned out by cries of "Yeah, sure, but I bet you had EMI secretly involved the whole time".  There's something heartening about little victories against the music industry, and scams like these just stamp out the warm, cosy fire.  If I were an ardent conspiracy theorist, I'd be having a field day right now.

Then there's the icky, self-conscious "Wish I was a revolutionary and could stick it to the man" subject matter of the song itself, which really rubs salt into the wounds.  It's a marketed idea of something "authentic" and underground, which riles me in ways I can barely articulate.  

Of course, on top of that there's the fact that there were some very obvious lies surrounding this scam from the off, and not one Fleet Street hack could be bothered to check the facts surrounding them.  Anyone working as a journalist who is aware of the Internet should know damn well that webcasts are not a new thing, and alarm bells should automatically ring in their heads as soon as that's passed off as fact.  So... this appears to be another case of music journos everywhere changing the phrasing on Press Releases and passing it off as "news" again (hello, NME) which is equally infuriating.

All I have to comfort me is the fact that Sandi has the overpowering whiff of a one-hit wonder about her.  It's still more than she deserves, though.  I've heard better acts than her on the bottom of the bill in pub backrooms recently.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2006, 11:50:31 PM »
Fair enough, I think they're all good points. Ho-hum, another bubble pierced. :-(

I have thusfar thought of the internet's possibilities for pop being more like the rise of D-I-Y in the wake of punk. D-I-Y fizzled out rather pathetically, but I think it was influential in its way. I hope that MySpace and its offspring will provide a genuine avenue for people to bypass the record industry, you know, in time.

It's just exciting to me that you could make a record here and now and have it "released" on the internet in minutes. That's got to be a good thing hasn't it? Even if Sandi Thom and Lily Allen represent a kind of false dawn. It's interesting too isn't it that they're anti-war hippy chicks. Very "underdog" that, maybe that's what this scene will be called  - "Underdogs". ;-)

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2006, 12:38:16 AM »
This site says much the same about her evil rise to power.

I agree about this whole "anti-hype" hype thing being shit, but then it's been going on for years surely. It's a question of image. Just as Starbucks or Apple computers or Ben and Jerry try to project an image of being all cuddly and hippy-ish, so the ambitious popstar acts like they couldn't give a fuck about the fame game in order to get their name known.

One thing that springs to mind is surely these internet gigs must have been shit if they were live. I've never seen streaming video that looked and sounded decent without constantly needing to rebuffer.

23 Daves

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2006, 08:35:47 AM »
Quote from: "Claude the Lion Tamer"


One thing that springs to mind is surely these internet gigs must have been shit if they were live. I've never seen streaming video that looked and sounded decent without constantly needing to rebuffer.


Well, yes!  Can you really imagine tens of thousands of people watching a crap rebuffering webcast of an acoustic singer who isn't exactly stunning looking?  I doubt you'd get that many people to bother if an established artist tried it, never mind an unknown one.

It's the badness of the lies that hurts me as well...

TJ

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2006, 09:16:47 AM »
Quote from: "cool_penguin_0"
http://arts.guardian.co.uk/netmusic/story/0,,1786403,00.html


I like the way that cretin pretends that the Pistols/Bill Grundy incident was deliberately staged, neatly sidestepping the well-documented facts that they were a literal last-minute replacement from EMI for Queen, that the band themselves didn't want to go on the show, that the "Today" production team very nearly pulled the interview before a single audible obscenity had been uttered (and spent the remaining couple of minutes waiting desperately to hear the closing credits theme), that Grundy was later suspended and censured which hardly suggests he was 'in' on something, that for all his bullish later claims Malcolm McLaren was probably sitting there thinking "fuck, I've blown it now", and that the incident - which probably did little to boost record sales in real terms - really did change popular culture forever in a number of ways. Still, never let reality get in the way of promoting an internet nobody, eh?

I hated this awful song anyway, even before I knew all this. And I've said it before and I'll say it again - anyone involved in 'viral' marketing can go fuck themselves.

Jemble Fred

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2006, 09:19:52 AM »
What's really annoying is that KT Tunstall (who I love) is in her thirties, and been scraping a living making music all over the place for many many years, in crappy little pubs, obscure fests and the like, learning her trade, and she's just now (at an advanced age for the music business) got people to recognise how good she is (whether you agree is perhaps a subject for a different thread). Then along comes some PR machine to announce that they've found 'THE NEW KT TUNSTALL!', who's been performing, er, in her flat. For a bit.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2006, 09:46:40 AM »
...and this so-called talent is actually a mean rotten misery guts (a friend went to school with her)...

i guess, like the film Gypsy 'You Gotta Have a Gimmick' rather than any actual talent.

When i heard the song, i honestly thought it was a joke as there is nothing to it and, also, it has some of the WORST lyrics ive heard in a very long time. Something very 'weak' and 'schoolgirlish' about it.

What makes me sad is that Music PR folk are no longer interested in new talent or new music, they just want a gimmick to hang off of an artist.

"WOW...that 'Crazy' song has been at number one and that was all down to the internet...so, we need to spend 2 hours online to look for the next best thing!"

Just depressing!

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2006, 11:34:33 AM »
Quote
What's really annoying is that KT Tunstall (who I love) is in her thirties, and been scraping a living making music all over the place for many many years, in crappy little pubs, obscure fests and the like, learning her trade, and she's just now (at an advanced age for the music business) got people to recognise how good she is (whether you agree is perhaps a subject for a different thread). Then along comes some PR machine to announce that they've found 'THE NEW KT TUNSTALL!', who's been performing, er, in her flat. For a bit.


This is the thing though, from what I can gather Sandi Thom has actually paid her dues (if not to the same extent as Tunstall) over the last couple of years- hard enough to garner a publishing deal with Windswept and major PR aid from Quite Great last year. However, she's gone and shot herself in the foot by agreeing to be party to this bullshit stunt. Ok, it's gotten her what looks set to be a Number One, but in the long-term, now that people are starting to smell a rat, it could be disastrous for her, especially as she seems to have neither the material nor the charisma to help her ride the storm and achieve any degree of longevity.

Quote
When i heard the song, i honestly thought it was a joke as there is nothing to it and, also, it has some of the WORST lyrics ive heard in a very long time. Something very 'weak' and 'schoolgirlish' about it.


Exactly- airy-fairy, faux-naive nonsense that positively reeks of cynical, committee-based songwriting.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2006, 12:51:45 PM »
Quote from: "Jemble Fred"
What's really annoying is that KT Tunstall (who I love) is in her thirties, and been scraping a living making music all over the place for many many years, in crappy little pubs, obscure fests and the like, learning her trade, and she's just now (at an advanced age for the music business) got people to recognise how good she is (whether you agree is perhaps a subject for a different thread). Then along comes some PR machine to announce that they've found 'THE NEW KT TUNSTALL!', who's been performing, er, in her flat. For a bit.


Oh I'm not interested in that kind of insistence on musicians "learning their trade" or "honing their craftsmanship" and so on. I think that's a boring old rock idea. The worst kind of Musician's Union crap. So that wouldn't bother me at all. I quite like KT Tunstall, mind.

Jemble Fred

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2006, 12:59:04 PM »
Quote from: "ninestonecreature"
Quote
What's really annoying is that KT Tunstall (who I love) is in her thirties, and been scraping a living making music all over the place for many many years....


This is the thing though, from what I can gather Sandi Thom has actually paid her dues (if not to the same extent as Tunstall) over the last couple of years


Well I kind of knew I was on dodgy ground if I suggested that this other girl has had absolutely no crucial grounding in music, paying her dues etc. But we're talking about over a decade of hard experience finally culminating in long overdue recognition, and already the PR cunts are screaming 'Next!' It's wrong no matter how you look at it.

Who needs 'the new KT Tunstall' when we've only just realised that the 'old' one is fucking brilliant? One album, one Ivor Novello award. We don't need a 'new' one, ta.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2006, 01:21:13 PM »
Quote from: "Jemble Fred"
Who needs 'the new KT Tunstall' when we've only just realised that the 'old' one is fucking brilliant? One album, one Ivor Novello award. We don't need a 'new' one, ta.


You're right, but that's just a banality of the music industry. I was put off buying Tunstall's album because of a big sticker on the cover screaming "She like the new Janis Joplin!". And of course these comparisons only make a vague kind of sense, it's not just a matter of "right, next"! I don't think of them that way, anyhow. It's just a way of saying "you'll like this if you like KT Tunstall", albeit in a bombastic way. But that's marketing for you.

23 Daves

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2006, 01:28:34 PM »
Quote from: "ninestonecreature"
Exactly- airy-fairy, faux-naive nonsense that positively reeks of cynical, committee-based songwriting.


Oh, just you wait for her album.  It's entitled "Smile, It Confuses People".  The woman is like walking, talking "Have A Nice Day" badge.  She should be employed at Starbucks.

On the plus side, on almost every other forum "friends" of Thom's have been leaping forward to defend her.  I'm really happy to see that on here, all we get is someone saying "A friend knew her, and she was a horrible grumpy old cow".  Things like that make me realise why I post on here...

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2006, 03:45:41 PM »
Quote
On the plus side, on almost every other forum "friends" of Thom's have been leaping forward to defend her. I'm really happy to see that on here, all we get is someone saying "A friend knew her, and she was a horrible grumpy old cow". Things like that make me realise why I post on here...


Heheh, she really is though- she was positively renowned for walking round Liverpool with a face like a smacked arse when she was at the Institute for Performing Arts. I had to larf when I saw her on GMTV- I thought her face was gonna crack as she struggled to maintain that fake grin in the face of Lorraine Kelly's relentless cheeriness.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2006, 04:05:11 PM »
Ugh, what an ugly thread. It's verging on someone talking about "real" music at any moment. The thing about dues paying is that all those bands/artists who are busy paying their dues would happily give up that part for some success. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Paying dues is awful! It's living on no money, getting into debt, playing in shitty venues to dwindling crowds. If someone came along and said "fancy playing in front of 50,000 people at the Reading Festival?" what are you going to say? "No sorry, I haven't quite payed my dues yet." Give me artifice and hype any day of the week.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2006, 05:14:46 PM »
Well, what I personally was saying about dues-paying in regards to Sandi Thom is it's a shame for someone of her ilk, who's spent time honing her craft and worked to get were she is (with the odd piece of good fortune along the way), to be considered a 'lucky bitch/bastard' or a bit of a charlatan based on a load of PR baloney.

I've no problem with artifice and hype per se- they'll always be necessary to some degree- but I think this whole thing is a touch more unsavoury than that. The whole basis for Thom's success is essentially fraudulent.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2006, 05:33:22 PM »
Quote from: "ninestonecreature"
The whole basis for Thom's success is essentially fraudulent.


Great! You see, to me that's pretty interesting. Getting to the top of the charts based entirely on lies, that's right up my alley. I've got no interest in hearing this Thom woman though.

23 Daves

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #22 on: June 02, 2006, 05:45:57 PM »
I think it's a bloody stupid move as much as anything else.

I seem to remember that a couple of years ago an author got massive headlines in the dailies for "getting a record breaking publishing deal for a new author!" of "millions of pounds!" (or something as ridiculous as that).  As soon as the obvious lie was exposed, her career went arse-about-face, and nobody reviewed or bought her book.  Journalists may be often be idle in their fact checking these days, but they don't like being made monkeys out of.

Mr Smug of her PR company may stop comparing himself to Malcolm MacLaren as soon as this all goes horribly wrong.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2006, 06:23:05 PM »
Doing something stupid and transparent just to con your way into getting what could be a very brief moment of fame before you're hounded out of the industry - you're inadvertently making it all sound very exciting, at least to me. I'd rather all-or-nothing shenanigans like this went on than some calculated Coldplay-style approach in which the word "risk" becomes something that turns their PR people's legs to jelly.

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #24 on: June 02, 2006, 07:24:03 PM »
I don't mind talentless people lying and hyping themselves to the top in itself - it can have a sort of Malcolm McLaren/Yoko Ono/Frankie Goes To Hollywood-style mischief about it. What I don't like is panicky journalists insisting that 'No, they're definitely 4REAL, my brother was into them as early as July '05, hooray for the internet' etc. I don't like fake (ie, safe) versions of 'alternative'.

Emergency Lalla Ward Ten

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #25 on: June 02, 2006, 07:32:33 PM »
Also, 'Sandi Thom' sounds like a Chris Morris parody-name, a la 'Purves Grundy'.

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #26 on: June 02, 2006, 07:43:27 PM »
I'm going to spend the summer making a record, and I'm thinking about the possibilities of using the internet to get my stuff out there. In this context, yes I think viral marketing is fairly unfair and like viruses tend to be, a nasty, negative thing. In this sense, yes I agree with those railing against the Sandi Thom "machine". But Sandi Thom's music itaself ought to be a seperate issue. There's a sense in this thread of "don't like her, so the whole shebang is a false dawn". I'm not that interested in yer opinions of Sandi Thom, really, But the means used to distribute music. Now, is this a swindle? Is the internet-as-means-to-distribute-music a swindle? Or are you saying that Sandi Thom is a swindle?

chand

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #27 on: June 02, 2006, 11:24:16 PM »
My main concern is that her single is utterly shit. She seems terribly confused about whether she wants to be a hippy or a punk, just any time when there was 'revolution' going on, because people don't care now apparently. Just a horrible poseurish attitude.

Quote from: "Sandi Thom"
When record shops were still on top
And vinyl was all that they stocked


I wonder if she'll be sticking to her principles by only releasing her album on vinyl?

I also like that she closes the song by bemoaning the shocking disappearance of an important aspect of our society:

Quote
And footballers still had long hair and dirt across their face


But yes, the whole PR circus around music is depressing. My friends are in an unsigned band, and recently ended up arguing with their fans on their own forum about whether to include their former co-frontman and co-songwriter in their biography. They'd 'decided' not to, giving lots of spurious reasons, but the argument rumbled on until their manager told me that the reason they were glossing their bio was because their PR girl had told them no record company would sign a band who'd been around four or five years, so they've written fairly important ex-members out of their history despite there being numerous articles about them saying they formed in 1999 or something. All's well now though, apparently for about £6,000 they'll be buying some radio airplay. Yay!

Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #28 on: June 03, 2006, 12:39:59 AM »
Quote from: "Sandi Thom"
When music really mattered and radio was king,
When accountants didn’t have control
And the media couldn’t buy your soul
And computers were still scary and we didn’t know everything

She should write a song about irony next.
Quote from: "Sandi Thom"
I was born too late to a world that doesn’t care
Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair

Idiot.

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Sandi Thom (The Great Rock N Roll Swindle?)
« Reply #29 on: June 03, 2006, 12:51:26 AM »
She's got  a horrible voice - the voice of a pie chart vomiting shit.