There was a time, when our band was deep in the throes of creativity, that I joined a couple of artist forums. (Are there any left? Not sure.) Artist forums used to be fun. Songwriters would post their latest recordings, whether polished or bare-bones, and online friends would comment, usually enthusiastically (because being an artist is hard and we all need encouragement). I had three forums I browsed regularly. One was cornily named Just Plain Folks, and it hummed along merrily for years. There weren't many accomplished songwriters participating, but it was a comfortable joint, undemanding. "Folksy", if you will. A month or so ago, I tried to access the site and it was deathly silent, But checking again as I write this, it appears to be back. I'm sure the old codgers, if they're still alive, will be thrilled.
The second site I browsed was called Tunesmith. I swear it had about nine regular posters, one of whom had actually written a number one country song, and thus it was an old boys' club, with one or two female posters diluting the testosterone. I only posted a couple of times, at the behest of one of those ladies, but I was met with such scorn that I consigned myself to reading only, and eventually drifted away. That site, too, is long gone.
By far the most welcoming forum was SoundClick's (ooh, our band's still here!) In fact, we still have four songs on the charts (sad). Years ago, however, SoundClick deleted its forum, and now it's essentially a site for "beats", whatever the hell that means.
Even Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan (remember them?) posted their songs on SoundClick. In my naivete I thought this little place was our ticket to a career in music.
I met some online friends there ~ Cliff, Rick, and one weird guy who called himself Len. At first I wasn't sure what his role was. He didn't make music, but he seemed to promote it. He never failed to offer gushing comments on new song posts, and like that hanger-on who you don't realize is a hanger-on, his feedback puffed us up. He intimated that he could advance one's career, so we all abided him and laughed at his weird jokes.
The place was like a little club, though anyone was welcome. There weren't many of us on the site doing decent country, and looking back, we were really the only ones boosting each others' careers. There were little skirmishes here and there; some wannabe record producer who tore down minor elements of a recording, artist jealousies, chart manipulation. Len was always there, egging on the dissonance; forming alliances.
At one point, he asked me to record promos for his "radio show", and I was too trusting to even ask for a web link. He later sent me a psychedelic instrumental track and wanted me to improvise a vocal to top it off. And I did. He suggested on the forum that I create an alter ego named Patsy and record another radio promo in a southern drawl. Yep, I did that, too. I have no excuse, other than that I just "knew" that all of it would get our band noticed at last. He was a radio DJ, after all, right?
I don't know when it finally hit me. Maybe it was the constant barrage of emails. Maybe it was the increasingly bitter tone of his posts. At last I Googled his name and found myriad sites full of weird amateur videos ~ tons and tons of amateur cell phone videos. It seemed he had created a page on every two-bit hosting site, and every one of his creations was nothing but spam. When I originally joined Facebook, he sent me a friend request, which I accepted, I guess for old time's sake, but I soon had to block him. His comments were inappropriate and embarrassing. It wasn't that I considered him a stalker ~ he no doubt did the same to every artist he knew ~ but I have no room in my psyche for Crazy Town.
I hadn't thought about him in years, but I was editing some of our band's YouTube videos today and found a comment he'd left on a fairly recent one. I deleted it.
I'm currently watching Friend Of The Family on Peacock and marveling at the utter naivete of the family the villain terrorized. How could anyone be so gullible? Even I, who lived a relatively sheltered life, would have raised my antennae at this guy's manipulations. But would I? It's scarily easy to get roped in. If someone is offering something you truly want, how much are you willing to compromise yourself?
Today I don't interact with people online, unless that person is a relative or a real-life friend, I ignore DM's on Twitter. If I leave a comment on a Twitter post or on a news site, I never, ever go back to view the responses.
Crazy people exist. They may be harmless trolls. But they may be obsessives.
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