Archive for March, 2011


I had gotten this email through the African American Wiccans list proc, displayed by Toyin Adepoju and written by Onookome Okome. I thought it was very interesting to read because, well, read it yourself. It’s about Black victims in the Holocaust.

So much of our history is lost to us because we often don’t write the history books, don’t film the documentaries, or don’t pass the accounts down from generation to generation.

 One documentary now touring the film festival circuit, telling us to “Always Remember” is “Black Survivors of the Holocaust” (1997).

 Outside the U.S., the film is entitled “Hitler’s Forgotten Victims”(Afro-Wisdom Productions). It codifies another dimension to the “Never Forget” Holocaust story-our dimension.

 Did you know that in the 1920’s, there were 24,000 Blacks living in Germany? Neither did I. Here’s how it happened, and how many of them were eventually caught unawares by the events of the Holocaust.

Like most West European nations, Germany established colonies in Africa in the late 1800’s in what later became Togo, Cameroon, Namibia , and Tanzania. German genetic experiments began there, most notably involving prisoners taken from the 1904 Heroro Massacre that left 60,000 Africans dead, following a 4-year revolt against German colonization. After the shellacking Germany received in World War I, it was stripped of its African colonies in 1918.

As a spoil of war, the French were allowed to occupy Germany in the Rhineland -a bitter piece of real estate that has gone back and forth between the two nations for centuries. The French willfully deployed their own colonized African soldiers as the occupying force. Germans viewed this as the final insult of World War I, and, soon thereafter, 92% of them voted in the Nazi party.

Hundreds of the African Rhineland-based soldiers intermarried with German women and raised their children as Black Germans. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote about his plans for these “Rhineland Bastards”. When he came to power, one of his first directive was aimed at these mixed-race children. Underscoring Hitler’s obsession with racial purity, by 1937, every identified mixed-race child in the Rhineland had been forcibly sterilized, in order to prevent further “race polluting,” as Hitler termed it.

Hans Hauck, a Black Holocaust survivor and a victim of Hitler’s mandatory sterilization program, explained in the film “Hitler’s Forgotten Victims” that, when he was forced to undergo sterilization as a teenager, he was given no anesthetic. Once he received his sterilization certificate, he was “free to go”, so long as he agreed to have no sexual relations whatsoever with Germans.

Although most Black Germans attempted to escape their fatherland, heading for France where people like Josephine Baker were steadily aiding and supporting the French Underground, many still encountered problems elsewhere. Nations shut their doors to Germans, including the Black ones.

Some Black Germans were able to eke out a living during Hitler’s reign of terror by performing in Vaudeville shows; but many Blacks, steadfast in their belief that they were German first, Black second, opted to remain in Germany. Some fought with the Nazis (a few even became Lut Waffe pilots!) Unfortunately, many Black Germans were arrested, charged with treason, and shipped in cattle cars to concentration camps. Often these trains were so packed with people and (equipped with no bathroom facilities or food), that, after the four-day journey, box car doors were opened to piles of the dead and dying.

Once inside the concentration camps, Blacks were given the worst jobs conceivable. Some Black American soldiers, who were captured and held as prisoners of war, recounted that, while they were being starved and forced into dangerous labor (violating the Geneva Convention), they were still better off than Black German concentration camp detainees, who were forced to do the unthinkable–man the crematoriums and work in labs where genetic experiments were being conducted. As a final sacrifice, these Blacks were killed every three months so that they would never be able to reveal the inner workings of the “Final Solution.”

In every story of Black oppression, no matter how we were enslaved, shackled, or beaten, we always found a way to survive and to rescue others. As a case in point; consider Johnny Voste, a Belgian resistance fighter who was arrested in 1942 for alleged sabotage and then shipped to Dachau. One of his jobs was stacking vitamin crates. Risking his own life, he distributed hundreds of vitamins to camp detainees, which saved the lives of many who were starving, weak, and ill–conditions exacerbated by extreme vitamin deficiencies. His motto was “No, you can’t have my life; I will fight for it.”

According to Essex University’s Delroy Constantine-Simms, there were Black Germans who resisted Nazi Germany, such as Lari Gilges, who founded the Northwest Rann –an organization of entertainers that fought the Nazis in his home town of Dusseldorf–and who was murdered by the SS in 1933, the year that Hitler came into power.

Little information remains about the numbers of Black Germans held in the camps or killed under the Nazi regime. Some victims of the Nazi sterilization project and Black survivors of the Holocaust are still alive and telling their story in films such as “Black Survivors of the Nazi Holocaust”, but they must also speak out for justice, not just history.

Unlike Jews (in Israel and in Germany ), Black Germans receive no war reparations because their German citizenship was revoked (even though they were German-born). The only pension they get is from those of us who are willing to tell the world their stories and continue their battle for recognition and compensation.

After the war, scores of Blacks who had somehow managed to survive the Nazi regime, were rounded up and tried as war criminals. Talk about the final insult! There are thousands of Black Holocaust stories, from the triangle trade, to slavery in America, and to the gas ovens in Germany. We often shy away from hearing about our historical past because so much of it is painful; however, we are in this struggle together for rights, dignity, and, yes, reparations for wrongs done to us through the centuries. We need to always remember so that we can take steps to ensure that these atrocities never happen again.

For further information, read: Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans J. Massaquoi.

This is the final piece of the Black Witch series “Fandom and the Fan”. Normal postings resume next week.

Just about everyone wants to know someone who’s famous. To walk around and say, “I know so-and-so! [Doesn’t that make me cool?],” is a dream many people have, to be friends with those that they admire. To be so close to all that glitz and glamour and hey, some of that shine may even rub off. That’s something which would be perfect for those trying to break in the business.

Man, if only it were really that unilateral. What often gets forgotten is the human side behind the fame caused by all the smoke and mirrors of flawlessness and grandeur. Also what gets forgotten is even if you were friends with the famous, it’s not an easy terrain to maintain a friendship on. Anyone noteworthy has their time very pockmarked with the demands of their career and little for the more personal enjoyments that everyone else usually has, such as spending quality time, fostering a friendship from the ground up, developing trust and a good sense of each other. People generally want to be friends with the famous because the persona (or life) that famous person has is captivating but the fan still doesn’t know what the famous person is like beyond that.

Take me, Black Witch, for example. Read my column or even note my twitter and you’ll know I really like Janelle Monae. I’m a complete and total fan – her music is captivating, such a relief for the state of Black music and entertainment which has become rather minstrel, self-deprecating and coon-like when seen at mainstream value, and she’s really amazing. I honestly really do appreciate her music, passion and ideas. If you also read my column (or at least “Mental Mentality” or the end of “‘Tis the Holidays!”), you’ll know that I’m friends with her guitarist Kellindo and photographer Nastassia. They’re both lovely and wonderful but even with two friends in Wondaland, guess how many times I met Janelle Monae? Once and it wasn’t really with their aid (Kellindo did try to help me out but Janelle Monae was nowhere to be seen. No problem, it just meant more time spent with him, which I greatly appreciate and cherish). I didn’t nag Kellindo or Nastassia about Janelle Monae because A) What about them? And B) I saw what could come of that a long time ago from another friend of mine.

Y’see, I’m happy to be friends with them but one of the biggest fears I had (and still kind of have, I’ll admit)  is what was the friendship for. Was I friends with them because they are really nice people that I want to get to know or was it because of who they know? These questions still linger in my mind because back when I was on a P.O.D. forum called The Southtown some years ago, there was a friend of mine who I’ll name Den. Den was a well known regular member and posted consistently. He was a rabid baseball fan (I think his favorite team was either the Cubs or the Red Sox), avid Halo gamer and a longtime Warrior (a P.O.D. fan). Everyone knew him but everyone wanted to know him more that one fateful day he announced that he knew someone in the band. P.O.D. had an in-band conflict that cause a change in guitarist from the band’s co-founder Marcos Curiel to Living Sacrifice guitarist Jason Truby. It turned out that Truby was a long time family friend of Den and Den had the pictures and stories to prove it. They were close enough that Den proudly called Truby his cousin and everyone was much esteemed of him and their luck. All of a sudden, everyone grew interested in Den’s interests, life and most importantly, his cousin.

Everyone wanted to be Den’s friend, even those who barely had an interest in him beforehand. I can’t say I didn’t find this all exciting myself but I already knew him prior. I remember once calling him just to talk. I asked him how he was doing and how Truby was doing (he’s family so it makes sense to check up, I do the same for significant others) and what stood out to me most in the memory was the excitement I had when Den told me Truby just left right before I called. I was ecstatic and dropped my jaw, I became giddy – I was thiiiiiiiiis close to talking to the guitarist of one of my most favorite bands! Omigosh! I was about to ask a barrel of questions but then a thought got me, What would I do then afterwards? Just hang up on Den? Truby’s gone but Den’s still here and I did call him to talk, why should it be about Truby? Instead of asking a barrel of questions about Truby like I wanted to, I figured I should ask Den how he’s faring amongst all this mini-fame he got. I always knew that Den could be honest and straightforward and he was exactly that. He told me not to get too wrapped up in Truby, there were things happening that Den wasn’t allowed to talk about but definitely going on. He was happy about the new bump in popularity it got him, which he barely noticed because he was already an outstanding member of The Southtown, but he didn’t feel like talking about Truby and I thought that was fair. Den was still completely stoked but there were now rules he had to follow that didn’t exist before, such as what he could talk about and to whom. Before the rules, Den was a gushing river of proud information but slowly that started to become dry with a constant “I can’t really talk about that” to anyone who asked, including me. Respecting Den, we talked about what was happening in his life because that’s what he wanted to chat about most.

As time went on, I believe the popularity was starting to irritate him, everyone was asking about Truby always or just questions upon questions about P.O.D. that Den couldn’t answer for one reason or another. There were questions about tours, tour dates, albums, band gossip, you name it, he heard it. Den became The Southtown’s door to everything P.O.D., our personal and trusted insider, and he wasn’t liking it much anymore. I would chat with him online and try to see how he was doing but those times weren’t often and soon we started to fall out of touch. When Marcos came back and Truby left P.O.D., everyone had questions and they were going to Den but someone had also made a thread asking about the matter. Den took that opportunity to tell everyone that they shouldn’t be so swayed by what they saw from the magazines and personal interviews, Truby definitely wasn’t perfect. Some Warriors were a bit upset by that because any sort of bad mouthing of the band was very looked down upon but from some of what Den could tell me or said in confidante, he was right and he also was tired of being Truby’s secretary.

I didn’t get a chance to speak to Den for a long time after that but when I did, I asked him how he was doing as always. By this time, Marcos came back and Truby left the band so I didn’t know how Den was doing. It turns out Den went back to being a normal, regular poster on The Southtown, no one was really buzzing around him anymore like before. Because he lacked the inside scoop, not many people wanted to be around him besides the ones who were actually friends with him. He was happy to have the cling-on people gone but a little depressed that they came and left so suddenly. It made me very cautious and to check myself when I would be in a friendship with those who knew someone famous because that person gets used as the stepstool friend – just befriended for who they know rather than who they are – and it really sucks to see the attention they get and how misguided it is. The people who really buzzed around Den weren’t very concerned about him, it was Truby that they were after. The goal was to get in with Truby and perhaps even leave Den in the dust or use him as the messenger. Not cool.

I’ve seen the role of the stepstool friend play out multiple times as I grew to like other bands such as Linkin Park and Fort Minor but it became a different world once I got pulled into the role myself.

I really dig P.O.D, they’re one of my favorites but my other favorite is Linkin Park. Through Linkin Park and being an active member of the Linkin Park Underground, I was introduced to Fort Minor, Mike Shinoda’s hip hop side project. Long story rather short, I grew to get to know the moderators – best known as mods – of the site. It was fun, hearing their crazy stories of concerts and modding the message boards, band chats and even interacting with the bands. They were the ones who took me down from seeing being a mod and close worker to the musical talent as something glorified to something that was normal – intriguing but normal. I loved the stories and the talk but I also began to learn that not everything should be shouted from rooftops. The mods would tell me the rules they have to abide by enable to keep modding and how to steer interactions and questions about the band. They joked with me and told me their stories but I couldn’t share them with others, a notion which saved my derriere multiple times when there were info leaks and all the mods would be under a microscope. Because I never opened my mouth, the mods I were friends with didn’t get in trouble but they would check with me when these leaks happened and remind me that if a leak were to get traced back to me and hence to them, we would all be in nasty trouble.

Due to my position, I’ve had the chance to meet really cool people within the Fort Minor/Linkin Park circle but with that came people I rather not meet again. One kid was the “upcoming rapper” – no one knew who he was but he had dreams of being the next Jay-Z. I met him by simply chatting in either the Linkin Park or Fort Minor-based chatrooms (perhaps the Fort Minor Militia, the FM version of the LPU) and there was a discussion of the music industry. I had mention I knew people who could manage and produce because I dwelled in Baltimore’s massive poetry underground and I believe that’s what caught his ear. I didn’t know it at first because I never had been approached about it before. Just because I saw it happen to Den doesn’t mean I could tell when it was happening to me, just like Den. I thought that the guy was nice and, hey, I don’t mind making a friend but when he started sending me music samples and asking me who I knew and things of that sort, I wised up quick. I didn’t care about dishing info about producers and managers and he only pretended to care about whatever I said. This guy was only being nice to me because he wanted to know who I had in my inner circle – that’s a pretty quick way to piss me off, I don’t appreciate being used. I didn’t tell Mr. Pseudo Emcee (his raps were not that good and his beats were much alike his words, unoriginal) to lay off but instead I would divert him until he went away, frustrated that he couldn’t somehow get a manager or producer out of all the time he spent on me. That experience, among others that aren’t going to be delved into for the column, kind of made me clam up on boards and chatrooms because I learned firsthand what it was like to have people only like you for who you knew rather than who you are. Granted, I have made some amazing friends who could share my background and experience such as Lindsey but usually I don’t discuss it much unless around those I can be certain won’t try to get something out of it for themselves.

This leads me back to Wondaland, particularly Kellindo and Nastassia. Seeing what happened to Den, what the mods had to go through and how that rapper kid made me feel, I became pretty worried constantly. On and off I would think, I really like Janelle Monae, what if I wind up attempting to use them as a way to get to her? What if once I meet her, I’ll ditch them? What if I don’t care about them like I thought? Do these things sneak up on you or are they ulterior motives? How do I not screw up? What if they don’t trust me? What if I mistakenly talk to gossip folk without knowing it? How do I show I really want to be friends with them and not for who they know or are? Even now I worry about it from time to time because I know that in such an industry with lots of snakes in the grass, a true friend is pretty hard to come by and it’s very easy to create insular friend groups where people can leave but not many can come in. Add that with not being able to always stay in touch because of touring and traveling and demands and you’ve got a pretty fretful Black Witch. It’s concerns like these that actually are part of the reason why even if I’m a big Janelle Monae fan, I’m not part of any Janelle Monae sites such as her official site, Neon Valley St. or any other sites. Even if I wanted to participate, it would probably only be a matter of time before I would become Den so it would be best to keep everything separate.

I think I’ve only asked Kellindo to see Janelle Monae once or twice but when those fell through, I never lamented because at least I still had a cool friend to spend time with and I would always remind myself that I’m not friends with him because of her but I’m friends with him because he’s really sweet and kind. Even when I did meet Janelle Monae, I wanted to find Kellindo right after so I could hang out with him still because while it was awesome meeting Janelle Monae and being nervous and having my petticoats pick the most opportune time to plot against me (at least they were black and white, thankfully), it doesn’t quite beat spending time with a friend you haven’t seen for a while. As for Nastassia, I don’t think I really chat much, if at all, about Janelle Monae to her because I’m already stunned by her work to the point I’m a fan of that as well and it’s a tricky balance being a friend and not fangirling at the same time. It is a little weird getting used to all this but worth it – Wait, I think the one time I completely forgot was when I met Lupe Fiasco in NYC and found out that he’s a reader of mine. There I totally fangirled to Kellindo and Nastassia afterwards because I was so excited about the whole ordeal.

Being a fan and wanting to connect to your favorites, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. It’s not all invitations to parties, free concert tickets or backstage passes and the license to flaunt your relations to anyone who may or may not care but more than that (You may not even get the parties, tickets or chance to flaunt). When talking to fans and hearing how they want to be close to their desired performers so bad, it can be a bit disheartening because what you hear is incredible focus on the glamourous side and you wonder if they would be around for the non-glamourous side, the human side which is filled with quirks, worries, insecurities, issues and even fissures that any friendship goes through. Would those people still be there after the starshine is gone and why are they there in the first place? To mirror off the fame or to use that person as a foot in the door? Like I said in the first Fandom and the Fan piece, if the famous person was just a normal Joe on the go, would you still want to know ‘em?

This is the final post of Fandom and the Fan. I would like to thank my good friend Lindsey for participating, the contestants of the Travelin’ Light: Lasers Giveaway for making it so successful and for the readers for sticking through the very first Black Witch series. Normal posting resumes next week and any Ask Black Witch question asked this month will be answered in April’s ABW.

As always, you can find Black Witch on Twitter, Facebook or even submit your own question for Ask Black Witch using the submission form on the side.

This column was penned by Lindsey W. and is a continuation of the Black Witch series “Fandom and the Fan” which continues throughout the month of March.

You can’t go a day when looking at music headlines to catch the tag-line “… ruined the music industry.” The association changes day by day: iTunes, Napster, The Pirate Bay… How is the industry going to survive when there are so many forces going against it? That’s the clincher. Maybe the music industry won’t survive, it’ll turn into an entirely different beast. The signs are slowly showing.

The highlight of a band’s career is to get signed to a record label. It means they “made it” and more-so, they’re going to be earning a living from that point on, creating music and playing it for the fans. It was just the case for a band called Hawthorne Heights. They were quickly signed by Victory Records and were put on the road, had singles on the air, music videos on the tv, in music magazines everywhere and in whatever they did, they absolutely had to promote — records.

That was the ‘new’ plan, it’s not the bands that matter, but the brand, the record company that matters. Hawthorne Heights suffered because of it. It didn’t  matter how many albums they sold, they never saw a return, everything was invested back into touring, CD recording and most importantly (for the label), marketing. To top it off, Hawthorne Heights couldn’t even see what expenses were being put where and how much they were actually losing. The band wasn’t making a living and they seemed all in debt all while their songs were high on the billboard charts. So, they sued Victory Records. They demanded out of their contract or, in the very least, to see some monetary return to float their bills.

The lawsuit took years and Hawthorne Heights thought they could get out of it. They started recording material on their own dime and touring themselves accompanied with their own merch, fully fan supported. Then tragedy stuck while on tour, the bassist and “screamer” vocalist Casey had died in his bunk. The untimely death was caused by complications from pain medicine he received after a recent dentist visit and his own anti-depressant medicine that no one knew would conflicted. Without knowing Hawthorne Heights full catalog, it would be tough to say how this affected them, more-so than the devastation of the band losing their best friend. Casey was one of the vocalists, apparent in most of their singles and if they were to perform, there would be an clear void in the voices heard on stage (on top of the guitar work he also did). Soon after, the court case was completed and horror of horrors, Victory Records won, the band signed the contract and owed Victory Records one more record…

Surely this was a unique situation, that Victory Records, with the industry suffering, wanted to cling to an established and growing band that was trying to escape a contract that gave little to no benefits. But no, Virgin Records also thought they were owed a record. The band? 30 Seconds To Mars.

30 Seconds To Mars started on shaky grounds: a media backlash was happening in the industry, all because there was a new wave of bands being lead by famous actors. For the most part, the bands were generally deemed horrible. Jared Leto (Fight Club, Requiem For A Dream, My So-Called Life, etc.) did his best to hide that he was in fact the lead singer and guitarist for the band and hoped his merits would be based on the music.

The first album, self-titled 30 Seconds To Mars was put out by Immortal Records, signing a general five CD contract. Now, they don’t have to put out all five CD’s but it does lock the band in to the label for a lengthy amount of time if they do well. The self-title got generally positive reviews and gained enough of a following for Virgin (parent of the now defunct Immortal Records) to release a second album again with little to no promotion, hoping to see a return on their little investment. Lucky, with Jared being an actor and continuing to do so, he would invest his money back into the band, in promotion, in touring, and tried to get the band public.

A year after the release, there was still a small cult following, but no big break yet. A word went out on the band’s message board: if there were fans that could travel to a location in Canada (and were preferably twins, though not necessary) to be extras in an upcoming music video, it would be appreciated. A few fans jumped at the chance, some thinking this would be a great way to meet the band and be in a music video, even if this might be their last one. Single “The Kill” came out, harking back to the movie The Shining and the band blew up, they finally had the mainstream’s attention. They shot a beautiful music video in China and on a glacier in Greenland. Eventually they would need a new CD, because they were running out of songs for singles.

30 Seconds To Mars saw how Virgin did nothing to help the band, and although they were getting the attention of the label, the band still wanted control and help in executing the new album and related promotion. So, they decided to sign to another label. Virgin sued the band for 30 million dollars, saying that they were still owed 3 out of 5 records. The band countered, in California (where they signed the contract) a contract is null and void after seven years and 30 Seconds To Mars was past that point. The band took the lawsuit personal and the album This Is War was created. Eventually the lawsuit was settled, the band wanted to continue on with their lives and release the album they had been working on during the lawsuit. They signed to EMI, parent of Virgin Records and released This Is War.

What is interesting about This Is War, beyond the legal troubles, harks back to last week’s article. This Is War, although mainly about the battle over control of the band, was created in part with the fans help. 30 Seconds to Mars turned the album into a declaration of not only themselves but everyone who wanted to make a statement. They held a “summit” where they had hundreds of fans come and sing, of which you can hear throughout the album and specifically in their first single “Kings And Queens”. That video too was helped by fans, owing some of their success as a band to the fans who helped them in “The Kill”, 30 Seconds to Mars asked people to dress up and come with them on a bike ride throughout the city of Los Angeles.

Not only all this, but the band asked their fans to submit a picture, much like a mugshot, to be the cover of the album. There are at least 2,000 different covers, featuring fans and celebrities (whom all submitted their picture to be randomly selected) and sent across the world. An American fan would find their picture on the album in New Zealand, a British fan in Germany and even so on. They were connecting fans personally, all the fans that submitted could ‘find themselves’ in the world with the help of others they’ve never met. Recently, 30 Seconds to Mars also highlighted their fans and the declaration of the band (“yes, this is a cult.”) in “Closer To The Edge”. It’s closing into two years since Jared Leto has appeared in a movie (biggest gap since starting his acting career) so it seems like 30 Seconds To Mars is finally on stable ground.

So, in the end, both Hawthorne Heights and 30 Seconds to Mars went back to a major label, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t survive without them. And that, even more than losing an established band to another label, scares major labels more than anything.

It seemed like an experiment at the time. Trent Reznor, essentially Nine Inch Nails, decided to produce and promote Saul William’s newest album at the time, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! The album was free, with an optional fixed price of $5 for any quality (for the audiophiles out there) of recording. The online release was arguably a success but not by much. Out of  the 154,449 people who downloaded the album, only 28,322 people paid the $5 for the record.  Since 2004, the same amount of albums were sold of William’s first album, Amethyst Rock.

Around the same time, Radiohead came out with their “pay anything you want’” for the album In Rainbows before seeing it release traditionally in stores. The amount they saw in return was never published and because they are arguably more of a household name than Saul Williams, the comparison for the labeless online distribution was mute.

No one thought much more on it until Reznor decided to release a four CD “dreamscape” called Ghosts I-IV, online at different levels of commitment: $5 again for the digital release up to a $300 Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition signed by Reznor. In one week, 750,000 people purchased the album, making over $1.6 million in sales. It was the first album Trent Reznor released after finally ending his record contract with Interscope records. If that’s not a success story, I don’t know what is.

It’s not just bands more than a decade old who have success stories. It’s starting to be the story of little bands too, like OK GO, who became a YouTube sensation after going behind their label’s backs and releasing their video “Here It Goes Again” to the world versus a video treatment by the label. They released their album Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky on Capital Records, only to find themselves able to re-release it under their own label, Paracadute Recordings, touring under their own direction, getting sponsors and other organizations to help with their music videos they’re so known for. They even are taking up a new trend for merch, selling the recordings of their live shows after they’re finished on a unique usb. It will definitely be struggle but they made decisions to make themselves a household name and now under their own direction. Hopefully they will continue to profit, if only to invest back into continuing the band.

I could go on to say that even currently, the latest self released CD that gained some notoriety is Patrick Stump’s (lead singer of Fall Out Boy) Truant Wave EP. It actually ranked on the iTunes charts (the only way it was being sold) and made marginal sales with the only promotion being whatever online mention Stump himself made on the album and in giving full song previews to certain websites.

That’s the surprising trend: a lot of bands sign to a label, be it a naive move or a quick money grab only to keep the band going, and sign a five-year standard contract – only to find out they aren’t in the best situation. Yes, arguably, sometimes they gain notoriety through the label’s distribution support, but this is never the case.

In point, just because 30 Seconds To Mars signed to the overhead of the parent of the first label they signed to, the band still had to ask French fans for support in getting the This Is War released by the French branch of the record company. Digitally, Truant Wave was released globally through iTunes, with only iTunes and Stump claiming the proceeds. So it’s become a choice. Work with a label, get more promotion (if they decide your band is worth it) but run into possible limitations on the music being found globally in shops. Or get as much promotion as the band can provide (which is still limited to their time during the day) versus everyone being able to access and download the music (speaking of iTunes/Amazon and the like, legally).

The fact that there is a choice for musicians to reach their fans and to continue making a living creating and performing music is amazing. The music landscape will change dramatically in the next couple of years. Concernedly, I hope it doesn’t become the current model that the band The Bloodhound Gang has adopted. Their last two singles were released to iTunes supposedly for their so-called upcoming album, of which the date keeps getting pushed back. At this time, they have a singles-only release and are a promotion band, essentially no more albums, if it’s not a single it’s not given attention. As a music fan I find this startling because this very likely could be a new medium for the future. Music labels are already promote “360 deals” that now not only own the rights of the music, CDs, and band’s merch but also a percent of their tour proceeds all go back to the label. It would only be just to then see these 360 bands only create singles and perform them in a very restricted manner.

Either way, as a fan, you get to choose what band and what venture you want to support with your personal promotion or monetary support. Bands can’t survive without a fan, whether it be with a label or by themselves. It’s also in the fan’s power to control how the industry evolves, it would be wise to remember that.

Next week is the final column of Fandom and the Fan, which will be written by me and with some final collaboration between Lindsey and I. April resumes normal Black Witch postings.

Fandom and the Fan is a Black Witch series that will continue for the duration of March. Normal Black Witch postings will resume in April. This column is guest written by a friend of mine, Lindsey W..

Suddenly the little band you love is everywhere. It’s the new “cool band” and they’re everywhere. They’re on the tv, movie soundtrack, the radio, magazines and even gossip columns. For some, it feels like a betrayal, the band’s a “sellout”, cashing in on their music. How could they do that? Doesn’t that band treasure their music, their fans?

Step back, take a breath. Let’s look at that again. Are you just angry that you now have to share your precious band with thousands of others? Or is it truly because all the band’s decisions are made for their personal gain?

Sometimes a “sellout” really is just a band that “made it”. They started out fully grassroots (created itself from scratch) before the industry took noticed and wanted to market them. Marketing is not evil, it helps the band with their finances (and yes, most of the time they need help). Let’s dispel some rumors and look at how artists make decisions in regards to money and their fans.

The biggest misconception is surely if you’re in a band, touring and signed to a label you have money. Furthermore, since you have money from the band/touring/label you can focus on the fans and the shows (if you’re actively touring).

Lets take for example, Jonny Craig of Dance Gavin Dance and Emarosa. He’s the lead singer of more than one band and has his own album. Surely he has money or would at least be able to recoup and make some with his music and touring. Fans believed and embraced that idea full hook, line and sinker. So when Craig said he was selling his macbook for some quick cash, fans responded, thinking they would get a computer deal – from a musician they respected no less. He got some three thousand plus into the scam before the fans figured it out, there wasn’t a macbook. Craig had already sold the laptop to a bandmate and pretended he had one, even put up pictures showing him with it in hand. Sadly, the money Craig got was spent on drugs and bills, thousands of dollars worth combined. As a remedy to potential nasty backlash and lawsuits, Craig’s label, Rise Records offered to pay back the fans and put Craig in detox before sending him back out on the road.

But what does a fan do in that situation? They could take the side of the artist and say, “It was the drugs or whatever.” Or they could write off the bands and the artist that he arguably is. There wasn’t a specific way of dealing with the situation but it deals specifically with the issues of a “sellout”: money and the trust of fans.

Craig obviously didn’t have money even if he does have multiple music outlets and was on the Alternative Press Magazine Tour only last year, but he’s used fans as a gullible income source. The thing is, he should be equal to a sellout, not nationally, but at least in the alternative music scene. But this is not the case, and the poor musician is much more common than that of a sellout. In the end, the label has the money and Craig’s commitment to them. (More on the label/artist interaction next week).

So a scene singer with multiple bands isn’t a sellout. What about a band that has three albums on a major label? Multiple singles/music videos? Sell out arenas? Has merchandise found in Hot Topic? Surely they have to be sellouts in every possible way.

Hear this pitch: “You’re a band that has a large goth fanbase, we have a movie that not only appeals to that base, but also the general public. If you give us a song for this movie, you will have a larger fanbase and, if you’re lucky, a good percentage on your royalty money and we might even pay you well because of it,” only to later hear, “Come on, you know you want some of that Vampire Money…”

This is an imagining of how the conversation went for My Chemical Romance concerning the Twilight soundtrack. Cause that’s it: Fans = Money. Royalties = Money. Payola = Money. Could you guess what  My Chemical Romance – a well-known band that packs arenas, has plenty of radio play, backed by a large record company, Warner Brothers/ Reprise Records – had responded to the deal? They said no. They said, the very band that has been called “sellouts” before, they didn’t want their song on the soundtrack.

The reason behind it? Could it be there already sold out to the point they didn’t need the money? Maybe. Or was it because they wanted to control how they were seen? Possibly. Was it because they are comic book fans that expect their vampires to be scary? After all, they wrote a whole song about vampires “tear the skin right off our bones” and that “razor sharp white teeth rip out our necks” (“Vampires Will Never Hurt You”). Hm, perhaps.

For whatever reason MCR declined, the lingering tag line of “Vampire Money” stuck to them so much that they wrote a song by that name on their latest album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. They ridicule Twilight in “Vampire Money”, talking about “sparkling like Bowie” and “wanting to be a movie star”. So, they did end up making a song for the soundtrack, but on their terms and for their fans. Even without ever knowing this backstory, you can hear the joke in the song.

So even “sellouts” can make decisions that are best for the fan and themselves, forsaking money. Doesn’t that mean… they’re not a sellout?

[I could go further, cataloging My Chemical Romance’s full history from small NJ band signed to Eyeball Records (Gerard at the time singing on label-mate Murder By Death’s album because Murder By Death was as small as they were) to their fourth neon-dance-pop album that was a second shot at an album, one of which the label was hesitant of getting behind (but generally the fans embraced). Their rise to fame mostly consisted of a lot of lucky breaks and label marketing support.]

I can’t end the article before mentioning the biggest “sellout” argument in the news recently. Steve Stoute, an ex-record industry rep, commented on the Grammy’s, his beliefs were simple: Justin Beiber should have won Best New Artist and Arcade Fire shouldn’t have won Best Album. His main argument? “Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist … his cultural impact and success are even more quantifiable if you factor in his YouTube and Vevo viewership … he was a talent born entirely of the digital age whose story was crafted….”

Although Arcade Fire didn’t need to respond, their manager did: “Arcade Fire are now one of the biggest live acts in the world. It’s not all about record sales. It’s about making great records and it’s about building a loyal fan base. The band make great albums, they’re not a radio-driven singles band. On top of that, they own their own masters and copyrights and are in complete control of their own destiny. Things couldn’t be better.”

That’s what caps things off. Arcade Fire summed up what it really means to be a modern artist. They made it and found recognition for it and didn’t sellout to get there. They fully control their decisions regarding the band, and their fans either respect their decisions or not. Yes, you did hear their song in the trailer for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” but did you know they also matched up to $1 million to Haiti Relief Donations and toured with part of their ticket price going to the charity of Partners In Health?

You really have to look at what the artist is doing before saying they’re a “sellout”. Personally, using venom against an artist because there no longer your personal favorite small band is inconsequential.

Next week: Bands’ want out of their contracts – but they can’t tell you… Some signs and shot’s in the dark of what’s coming next for the band/fan/label ecosystem.

Questions, comments or want to ask about something in the article? Feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to respond.

About the Author: Lindsey W. has been going to to concerts since she was able to stand. To date, she has gone to more than 100 shows. Music is her passion and technology is another, and thus why the music industry is so interesting to her. Her favorite music genres are generally rock and alternative, while trying to be eclectic. Former local radio host, she hopes to make a dent in the larger market in the coming year.

Hey everyone! Black Witch here! I just wanted to announce the winner for the Travelin’ Light: Lasers Giveaway! As promised, I picked the winner for the giveaway on March 8th, the day that Lasers would come out for that lucky person who would win a free copy of Lupe Fiasco’s latest (and hardest fought for) album. The winner was Janae W.! She will be receiving her copy soon!

This is a first-ever Black Witch series that will continue throughout the duration of March. The normal Black Witch posts will resume in April. If there are any issues, please don’t hesitate to bring them to my attention.

I’ve had a lot of luck meeting various people in my life. The thing that attracts my attention the most is the fan.

Fame, I think, is a double-edged sword. There’s lots of people who would like to be famous (and for no particular reason at all) but not many who would truly want the famous life: Their lives (or lies about them) splayed all across America – or even the world – on the cover of countless gossip magazines, hounding websites dedicated to scrutinizing their every failure, flub or faux pas, all provided for the consumption of a necessary evil for fame or even decent success: the fan.

Whether they’re haters or lovers (mostly lovers), the fan has a voracious appetite. The fan that we all know and identify are the lovers. Fandom is adoration and idolization at its most immense form. Nothing is wrong with being a fan – I am of many things – but it’s how you go about it.

Meeting and getting to hang with promotion crew heads, security, set-up crews, bands, and moderators of official forums, I’ve gotten to see a very unique view of the music business and from different sides. The fans are what interests me most because you can determine a band or a performer’s virility, popularity, message (or lack thereof) and who they are. For example: AFI is going to attract a different fan than Slipknot and Linkin Park might get a fan that overlaps the two, depending how they were pitched to the fan. A rabid fan is a rabid fan though, they will do just about anything to meet their favorites (or favorite member, usually the vocalist for he is the most visual and incredibly audible front-man of the group). They’ll camp out, bear gifts, barter with the security or viciously argue with them, anything to be closer and closer to the one they adore.

Fans can be represented in a variety of ways. They can be like families, everyone bonding together over music, or like the usual fanbase, everyone talking and interacting on a message board or band chatroom. Being part of the P.O.D. Promotion crew since the early ’00s, part of the Linkin Park/Fort Minor fanbase including the Linkin Park Underground/Fort Minor Militia and side sites, I have definitely witnessed my fair share of the fan. There are different demonstrations of fandom, the “fanboy/girl”, “seasoned fan”, “seasonal fan”, “too cool fan”, and the “crazy fan” .

The fan I would most often encounter would be the fanboy/girl. They’re rather feverish in their undying support, treating their band as if they were God’s gift to music and vociferous to any whom disagrees. They’re young (or young at heart), perky and hyper. Their band can do no wrong, especially their favorite member. The band could wipe their derrière’s with the love of these fans and that fan would never mind it for a moment. They possibly would even respond, “[My favorite] spoke to me! He said…’Get lost.’ How amazing!” To this type of fan, just to meet their band or especially their favorite would make their day or even their life (in their eyes). These kids are really nice and don’t mean much harm but they can be obnoxious and troublesome.

When I was friends with the Fort Minor and Linkin Park message board and chatroom moderators, they would tell me stories of how difficult it is to herd fanboys and fangirls because they want that one special moment with their most adored so terribly. They would be rude to the mods, ask or say what was considered inappropriate such as questions about the band member’s personal life, sexual life, children, so on and so forth. The mods tried very hard to keep every discussion with the band purely about the music. Though I did not – and still do not – agree with having such heavy-handed moderation such as screening comments or questions for the band to read during what are supposed to be live chats, I do admit, fanboys and girls can get pretty crazy. There were countless times some fans would say that they would kill themselves if the band member wouldn’t come back or if they wouldn’t tour to their country. (As a sidenote, bands find the constantly repeated question “When are you coming to my country?” very annoying. It isn’t up to them) I thought the  issuw would only reside in Linkin Park fans but it is rather everywhere, it just shows more prominently in younger fans.

I remember being at a P.O.D. chat a couple years ago. It was a video/text chat so the band would stream live and the fans could chat alongside the stream. A “moderator,” my friend and longtime supporter of the band Moni, would read the screen and pick out the best comments and questions. I have been a big fan of P.O.D. (A “Warrior” as we’re called) since 2002 and part of the P.O.D. Promotion Crew since 2004/2003 – I’ve attended concerts, spent valuable downtime with the band and made very good friends that are much like extended family to me. Being part of the chat gave me time reconnect with those friends and with the band. Indeed, it was fun but what bothered me was how some of the fans, especially the newer – not necessarily younger -ones, were fussy that they couldn’t talk with the lead vocalist, Sonny Sandoval. The other band members were there but not Sonny. Moni tried to quell the upset fans by saying that they’re getting an amazing opportunity to chat with P.O.D. but I remember one remarking, “Not Sonny. I want Sonny.” I personally was very disparaged by that because they were willing to be haughty and picky. It wasn’t Sonny’s day to chat, the person should have waited but they must have thought that Sonny would possibly make a surprise appearance or something and were disappointed.

Usually fanboys and girls don’t mean much harm but when they do, it can prove the stereotype that they’re shortsighted and narrow-minded. Overseas fans have told me that they would give anything to simply live in the same nation, continent or even hemisphere as their beloved band. Fans all around have claimed that they have fallen into a great depression that only a meet from their band can remove them from. The fanboy/girl is quite unusual in nature but very common and whether anyone likes it or not, they’re apart of the backbone fan base, next to the seasoned fan. They’re useful as free press because they’ll do just about anything for their band, just dangle a chance of spending any time with the band in the form of concert tickets or a meet & greet in front of them. Once snagged, they’ll tell anyone whatever the band is doing: friends, family, anyone who does and doesn’t want to hear. They’re the newbs of promotion crews and just about every diehard/seasoned fan started out as one.

Being a fanboy or girl can go in any direction, either positive or negative. It depends on the person and how prone they are to idolization as well as their own personality. When I hang about on band chatrooms or even twitter, I find a plethora of people. I know that people can hide their true identity online but as they say: “character glows in the dark.”

Aside from fanboys and girls comes the “too cool fan”. They pretend to display maturity by acting emotionally aloof, as if they don’t truly care for what the band is doing. The mots de jour is “Meh, whatever.” However, if a band member has even graced the chatrooms, message boards or even sauntered past them casually in a concert behind the gate barricade, the “too cool fan” shows their inner fanboy/girl: they breathe laboriously, they panic from surprise and they’re gleeful. In translation, they were me when I met Saul Williams.

Short story: I saw Saul Williams in concert last year (which actually introduced me to AfroPunk, who I write for). I was very cool, calm and collected during the concert, even when it turned out I was standing next to his mother. I wasn’t acting crazy though I was up front row only inches away from the poet, just not my personality. But when it came time to meeting him, I was rather dumbfounded. It was his poem “Om Nia ‘Merican” that revolutionized my own poetry back when I was a teen. It changed how I perceived lyricism and spoken word. Also, it’s was an awesome poem read back when I was stuck in 9th grade summer school (for failing English. Yes, the irony for this columnist).

Saul Williams is an amazing poet and very riveting at that so meeting the person who basically turned my poetic world on its ear, even convincing me to do spoken word myself, would make me a bit, erm, stupid. I’ve met many important people to the point I’m nearly unfazed but when it’s someone I look up to, my vocabulary and linguistics skills go out the window completely. I can speak four to five languages but put me next to my own favorites or a legendary African-American and I can barely speak a fair sentence of simple English. I become completely awestruck and talk like I have a stroke. I become very shy and nervous, in short.

At the end of the show, Saul Williams was crowded by other admirers who were getting autographs and chatting with him as I was dwelling in my own little world. While I was inching up to talk to him like a kid ready to hand their letter over to Santa, I was thinking of what to say. I always make flubs around influential Blacks, I thought panicked. I never can talk right. I was just stupid when I met Dexter King, stared blankly at Cornel West and I don’t even remember what I said to Amiri Baraka. I gotta say something, uh, nifty – but not too long! I ramble! I don’t wanna ramble to Saul Williams, he won’t like me after that. Who likes a rambler? – I’m rambling, stop it! Okay! Don’t ramble! Try to keep a cleeeeeeear head when talking to him. He’s a person, just like everyone else. Just a person, like me – no not like me, he’s totally awesome and I’m a nobody. He’s like, important and totally influenced my poetry and – I’m about to talk to him! Don’t say anything stupid!

I think all I uttered was a hello and a “I enjoy your work. I really like ‘Om Nia Merican’. It really has influenced my own poetry,” as he signed the back of my divination book. I would have said more but I feared of running out of luck and saying something incredibly stupid so I scattered away. If I went any faster, I worry Saul Williams would have thought I nicked his wallet.

Even acting as a “too cool fan”, they’re still a big fan nonetheless. The aloofness is merely a façade to reduce the chance of acting or saying something stupid. I really do like Saul Williams and he’s really a big deal to my poetry (Omigosh! I was gleeful when he was on Janelle Monae’s album The ArchAndroid for “Dance or Die”! Squee! [/fangirl]) but usually I don’t act like I lost my mind when discussing him or his work. That wouldn’t look too well and even rather childish, a look I would like to avoid. That’s what the “too cool fan” shoots for mainly, to avoid looking like the fanboy or girl that they actually are. 

The “seasoned fan” is a fan that has grown out of their fanboy/girl stage but is still a fan. They’re what the fanboy/girl becomes after some years of following the music, meeting the band a couple times, possibly worked with the band in promotion or other ascensions. The seasoned fan love the band dearly but they’re not going to act incredibly psycho should any of the members step into the room. Unlike the “Too cool” fan, the seasoned fan really is mature. They’ve been there and done that, got the fidget out of their system. 

There’s the “seasoned fan” who’s supported the band for a very long time but there’s also the “seasonal fan,” they’re not really much of a fan as they are a supporter. Very “out of sight, out of mind” for them and they’re only raving fans when the band has hopped out of the woodwork again with a new album for them to purchase or download blindly. Usually the band in question is very popular and this fan likes pretending that they’re the biggest fan but can’t even remember how many people are in the band. They wouldn’t be so bad as the fanboy/girl if they didn’t pretend they haven’t really been following up and act like the active supporter that they’re not. Their love fades quicker than a picture sitting in the sun, they’re off to love the next biggest band.

As fans are definitely a blessing for it’s always wonderful to have supporters, the fan that any act watches out for and basically sets the tone of the security or overall privacy of the band is the “crazy fan.” Obsessive and mental to a fine point. They’re head over heels in love with the band and will stop at nothing to show it, even to the point of endangering their beloved members. The music industry is no stranger to this fan and neither is history. Everyday there’s countless stories of the one that flew pretty far over the cuckoo’s nest. John Lennon and Jodie Foster for example, their fans were nuts. Even today the fans of Twilight and Justin Beiber have fairly psycho fans. These fans act out of what they think is love but looks easily like delusion and inner disturbance to everyone else. They’re the fanboy/girl gone mad, basically.

The creation of this extreme fan is understandable however. They want to  meet their favorite performers, to chat with them, to spend time with them, to pretty much forge a friendship with them or even date them because this fan loves them so much and relates to them so thus it would be such a fine pairing. However, threatening to commit suicide because they won’t come to their country, won’t acknowledge their question in a chat or on Twitter or even threatening to cause harm to their families or themselves is not acceptable. As far as love goes, that’s not love at all, that’s being completely deranged and controlling. It’s creepy in the dating world and it’s creepy in the music world. No act ever wants to meet a fan that wants to rip out their hair or their clothes or even harm them because they simply can’t control themselves.

A good example of a crazy fan: I remember chatting with my friends who were mods on P.O.D. sites and always would the subject of this one special fan Miss Bity. MB was a nice girl who had a burning passion for the band. I never saw her as a problem but I’m not the one checking message board posts. Apparently MI had posted a couple of times some dreams she had of P.O.D.. As a dream interpreter, I thought they were simple teen fan dreams but at length of what I was told, I discovered that many of the dreams were very sexually explicit. That can’t be good. She became under watch, especially if the band went to her country because they were worried of what she would do. I’ve even met fans on the Linkin Park boards that have worried me plenty of their emotional stability because if their favorite member didn’t arrive, off went their temper.

Fans big and small, they’re the legs and spine of any act’s success. If no one cared about the musicians, they would never get off the ground. Fans are also part of the fame which can appear intoxicating at first. All these strangers love you regardless of who you are, everyone knows your name, you’re a somebody.

I’m a big fan myself of many people as you could see. People who could make me stutter and freeze or become all giddy and stupid. Nothing is wrong with being a fan but I call it a necessary evil because not everyone who is famous would like to be idolized like mortal gods. That and if these people weren’t famous, they were just normal people like you and me, would you still treat them the same? If Lady Gaga was just the weird dressed girl in your neighborhood instead of the big popstar that she is, would you feel the same way you do now? If Janelle Monae was just the random girl rocking in your college dorm room talking about androids and futuristic pasts, would you still like her or tip back slowly? What about Beyonce simply being your next door neighbor, Lupe Fiasco just another Black kid in a comic book shop perusing the manga section? Probably not the same. Fame is an amazing thing of illusions and magic and being a fan can be such a wonderful experience but no matter what, it’s still an image that we’re most likely liking. The image, whether fresh and clean or down and dirty, has to be an amiable enough image at best to garner and keep fans (or at least keep dredging in new ones to manage turnover – insert teen sensations here). Even if there’s no big budget PR team that a major company could provide, still a band has to sell themselves as a sound that you can stand behind. There’s a difference between a fan and a friend.  

Fandom and the fan it is. So, what fan are you?

Speaking of fandom and fans, if you’re a fan of Lupe Fiasco, please do partake in the current Lasers giveaway by looking here or simply emailing me with the subject line “Travelin’ Light: Lasers Giveaway” with your email and name.

Next week will be a column written by my radio host friend Lindsey W.! She has a lot of experience in regard to the music scene and fans, I am very excited to hear her take on this subject! Also, as this is my very first series for the column, that means there’s gonna be glitches. If anything seems off or you have a suggestion, you know how to reach me (hint, look on the “contact me” page).

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