October 20th, 2010

Realtalk & Sockpuppets, Little People & Worldly Worlds

makin confetti
darts not pictured

Against my own best intentions, the saga continues.

While some interesting but sprawling discussion continues to happen on the cumbia worlds post, my more recent entry, detailing an exchange with Barbès’ Olivier Conan, was derailed late Friday evening by a classic bit of trolling:

just goes to show that a musicologist, journalist, bedroom blogger, cultural critic can never really understand what someone as brave and ballsy like olivier, not to mention inspired and inevitably broke, is living. mec’s in peru following up on his passion that inevitably is positive for music while wayne constructs opinions from the interwebs and industry press releases. at least give him a minute to respond before writing.

zziiinng! jace jizzed his pants from all the internet hating and bating, now he applauds. cant wait to see his followup from the musical enterprises of soot/duttyartz.

And even though I know I’m not supposed to feed the trolls, they’re so relatively (and mercifully) rare here, that I couldn’t resist responding to what, even without knowing who the poster was, clearly was discordant with the tenor of the conversation and, in many ways, rather wrong in its assessments:

I dunno, “tom,” you seem pretty out of tune with the whole discussion to me, but maybe that’s just a result of your falsetto.

My sympathy and appreciation for what Olivier does, now that I better understand all that he does, has grown, but I still stand by my critique of the PR. & I don’t try to pretend, as you seem to want to do, that any of what we do can be extricated from internet & industry. I also find it ironic that in your own glee over what you smear as baseless snark, you present a really uncharitable and unfair profile of yours truly. I’ve got balls too, buddy, unlike an anonymous troll/sockpuppet like you. & I’ve done a lot more than push words around in my life, including a lot of things you praise Olivier for — traveling to foreign lands, meeting musicians and collaborating with them, going totally broke in the process, trying to do positive things. so check your own ignant self.

also, i blog from my living room.

But I couldn’t stop there. You see, I’m not nearly as thick-skinned as I’d like to be, despite knowingly projecting my voice (and hence inviting all manner of responses). Anonymous swipes can still sting, even when off-key and off-base. (I don’t want you to get me wrong any more than I want to be wrong in actuality.) So I did what I always do when I encounter such a comment, I clicked on the IP address to see where in the world it was coming from. To my surprise, WordPress revealed that I had received another comment from the same IP just the day before:

just goes to show

If Grant Dull, aka El G, of ZZK was actually behind this sockpuppetry, I told myself, I’m going to be pretty disappointed. This is the same guy, after all, who I had just hosted at Beat Research and at my home (where we dined on homecooked Boston Baked Beans & consumed a couple bottles of our homemade wine) — a guy that I picked up at the airport (after removing our two carseats), drove around Boston, spent social & cultural capital on to get him & his label local press coverage, & spent actual, out-of-pocket capital on to offer up a little more cash than our modest Monday stipend from the club (which was still less than we would have liked to give — to their credit, the ZZK guys knew Boston would be a loss for them and still came thru; then again, they did say we turned out maybe the vibiest, dancingest crowd all tour).

It was galling to think my generosity would be so repaid. I couldn’t resist, so I confronted him over email. As I think my last post demonstrated, I prefer to be civil and sensitive in my interactions with people — and that’s something I prize about the conversations on this blog (which gives me pause as I write this, knowing I’m fanning a flame war) — but treat me like this, and I won’t mince words. I’ll tell you exactly what I think of you. The exchange went like this

can you explain the coincidence in IP address on these two comments? (see attached)

plz tell me you wouldn’t pose as an asshole sockpuppet on my blog. i thought i did you (& knew you) better than that.

To which Grant responded, apparently with no sense of irony:

you got me! get tired of all the hating in the music circles, dudes need more support.

At this point, my so-called lack of support became a lot realer:

that’s really wack, man. i’m disappointed. i think i’ve offered you & zzk lots of support, if occasionally in the context of some criticism; same goes for barbes. that’s just what i do — that’s me trying to be honest. (no “hating” involved.) in the future, it’s gonna be a lot harder for me to support you, knowing you could pull some shit like this. the whole point of the last few posts is that we need more honesty in this biz.

i’m gonna sleep on this for now. but i’m sorely tempted to keep the call for transparency going by outing your lame ass.

Grant’s immediate reply went like this, once again brimming with irony:

youre right, i know, i shouldnt have hit send. i wasnt attacking you but internet/journalism culture in general. this kind of post opens it up for haters, and those who love to criticize via the internet. we’ve been criticized plenty by people who have had minimal contact ie rupture with what we’re doing. and in major news publications! that’s whack.

i shouldnt have sent it but nobody stands up for anybody in these circumstances, and hiding behind anonymity keeps me directly out of the argument, where id prefer not to be. if u wanna call me out you have every right.

Twelve hours later, when I still had not replied (and though no longer “sleeping” on it was still thinking about it quite a bit), Grant sent a follow-up:

wayne im very regretful about what i did. im sorry, it was foolish of me. please dont out me, i posted under a psydenum for a reason. i know, it was dumb. i feel ashamed. i respect you and your friendship however briefly it was and feel like a big asshole for goating a situation i obvioulsy know little about. i live in my own world and should stay there. again my apologies for being such a douche. i respect rupture too, obviously. shouldnt have thought that my stirring up the pot/defending the little guy would do any good for this whole scene.

Plainly, I’ve decided not to respect Grant’s request to keep this under wraps. It does little in the way of sympathy that he can’t resist, even when appearing contrite, to position himself as a “little guy” beset by “haters” (ah, post-Diddy parlance). Having weighed it for several days, I’ve decided — against the take-the-high-road advice of my bean-baking better-half — that a proper airing-out is what is best. I hope the ensuing conversation ends up more productive than, say, like this. I sure don’t want to keep stirring the pot if all we’ve got cooking is crabs in a barrel. (And I will not necessarily be indulging sockpuppets and other trolls below.)

I’m not sure who the “little guy” is in all of this — or who’s littler than whom. Whether or not Grant’s a little guy, though, he did show himself to be somewhat small (and a bit of an internet amateur).

My decision to make all this public is not primarily vindictive. Rather, I want to take the opportunity to respond to what I think may be an underlying (incoherent but emergent) theme in Grant’s two comments: namely, that all of this music hype biz is a series of hustles, including what he does, what PR folks do, & what bloggers and journalists and academics do. In that sense, I’m part of this networked hustle too, grabbing page views by producing stuff about other people producing stuff.

I agree that we’re all imbricated. That’s why, when I began exploring the nu whirled world, my initial focus was on bloggers. (And indeed, the post preceding the cumbia critique once again scrutinized the role that blogs play in all of this.) But I have to admit I bristle a bit in calling this blog a hustle. As playful and pomo and sometimes cynical as I can get in this space, it strikes me as far too disingenuous to think of what I do here in that way. Perhaps I’m still too grounded in certain norms of academic exchange, but generally I like to think of the discourse on this blog — by myself and from commenters — as conforming to Paul Gilroy’s wonderfully succinct description, in Postcolonial Melancholia, of what makes the academy a special place insofar as

contentious and heterodox arguments will be politely heard with patience and in good faith before being refuted in a public culture for which we all assume responsibility. (9)

I try to assume that very responsibility as keeper of this blog, and I think of my posts as attempting something similar across the various, wider public spheres in which this relatively small corner of music chatter circulates. This makes my blog different from the average enthusiast “music blog,” and I can only assume — and hope — that whoever puts me on a promo list would understand all of this before pushing their wares my way.

But I am as often an enthusiast as a critic. And one of the things that makes me throw a lot more confetti than darts these days is what I’ve been conceiving as the turn to “music industry 2.0,” a world in which, thanks especially to the advent of professional-grade digital tools, bringing the costs of production and circulation down close to zero, ordinary people engage more than ever before in everyday acts of media creation and curation, assuming a certain responsibility for co-producing our public, participatory culture. (The “2.0” part, which I know is horribly trendy, not to mention creepy, is intended on the one hand to bear witness to the — often insidious and unstable — role that so-called web 2.0 platforms are playing in all of this, and on the other, to signal a new regime in the mode of production of popular music.)

Among other effects, the global diffusion of such technologies and practices, and the networking of it all, may also be producing something akin to “world music 2.0,” a peer-leveled planet of musical interplay which finally lives up to the name — even as it undermines any coherence such a term could have. This is a world in which neither Chicago nor Paris nor Luanda nor Lima are more obviously (or unmarkedly) central or peripheral than anywhere else. A world where difference need not disappear, so much as appear a little more mundane. A worldly world! A world in which, to quote Gilroy again, one

finds civic and ethical value in the process of exposure to otherness … in the ordinary virtues and ironies — listening, looking, discretion, friendship — that can be cultivated when mundane encounters with difference become rewarding. (67)

Notably, as we consider this brave new world of music industry with so many possibilities and so little money, the one thing that’s not nearly as cost-free as production and distribution, and thus not yet so democratized, is promotion — guaranteed placement in the hype machine. Access to promo dough is, hence, what still separates the (relative) big wigs from the little people.

Is it really any surprise, then, that I would turn my attention to PR? Especially to PR which seems to address itself to, if not issue from, a world — in other words, a public culture — so different from the one in which I would like to live?


  • 1. Gavin  |  October 20th, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Production isn’t cost-free, that is the most insidious part of web 2.0 ideology… you can pirate software but you can’t pirate labor time! Though now that worldwide youth unemployment is higher than ever perhaps we can look forward to plenty of good music. I get that in 2.0, or in “participatory culture” more generally, creative work increasingly looks like discourse in the way it gets shared, remixed, fanficced, etc. And you want to make it easier for people to do that. But people still gotta eat, and in capitalism that means you gotta sell your labor! Listening to music made for free by people on their day off from their underpaid service sector job is ok, but, you know, not the public culture in which I would like to live.

    And I don’t have any problem with seeing people that make very little money off their work as “little guys,” which would include you and everyone you blogged about in the original post. Who are the big guys, really? Black Eyed Peas? It’s not just PR (which I don’t see as separate from distribution mechanisms — digital access and advertising merge in all sorts of weird ways in 2.0, for example, unpaid blogwork). There are qualitative differences in the music that BEP makes vs. a chicha comp or ZZK Vol. 1 — it’s deliberately global vs. conspicuously local aesthetically, even if parts of distribution look increasingly similar. Turns out this conspicuous localism, this exotic hybridity, is much less appealing than dance-pop with its edges rubbed off. As comments in previous posts pointed out, local sounds signify chaotically in different milieus, whereas I’m pretty sure people “get” what BEP is about in Paris, Luanda, Lima, etc. No doubt why more U.S. hip hop is sounding trancey these days — works better in foreign markets. That’s the sound of globalization as much as digi-cumbia.

    And to temper the world-is-flattism: Chicago, Paris, Luanda, and Lima, even if they were on level playing fields “in the discourse” they are all huge cities… the center are the globalizing metropoles, where you have high concentration of international financial flows, transportation, technology, people. Even though I’m on the tail end of the same NE Megalopolis as you and jace, Washington D.C. still feels very provincial, if not peripheral, when it comes to this stuff (meaning culture)… still waiting for hipster go-go, and may I continue to do so… So don’t forget clubs! This is essential to any political economy of this stuff, since the way a lot of these people eat (even if it’s beans — gotta recipe btw?) is by playing clubs. Not to mention a prime place where BEP is distributed.

    Keep the darts & confetti coming…

  • 2. bent  |  October 20th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    thanks for this wayne. have been meaning to read the recent pieces but haven’t had a chance yet. been thinking a lot lately about the relation between criticizing and “hating” and as much as it sucks to be called a hater or perceived (wrongly) as such it seems so important to keep criticizing. on the flip side i sometimes ask myself, “am i actually a hater? am i critiquing b/c they have something i don’t?” i also think about what a fellow underground lady dj in dc said to me once “sometimes i worry all the hating keeps us from moving forward” (which i think she meant hating as critique, sorry if i miss understood friend). i don’t know the answers, but do appreciate hearing thoughtful reflections from others including yourself, jace, etc. keep it up!

  • 3. wayneandwax.com » S&hellip  |  October 20th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    […] dimension of the underlying critique in Grant’s comments seeks to draw lines of value and authenticity between what he wants to position as a kind of […]

  • 4. Joshua Cook  |  October 20th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    As an outsider, it seems like y’all are just picking apart each other apart, who’s a hater, who’s real, etc. etc. At the end of the day, with regard to the music of the global south, new or old, no american or brit is “real” no matter how much time they spend in country. As mediators between interested ears in the north and producers in the South, both of your roles are just that … media. Whether one is producing original tracks in traditional styles or not, they are still just medium.

    I like Gavin’s comment connecting the trancification of American hip-hop to the broader neo-liberal agenda because it provides context to all of this. The context is …we’re the weak, and they are the tyranny of evil men. The bottom line is that the issue of “realness” and the blogger v. DJ debate is moot. Without the hard work being put in on both sides, we are in danger of BEP rolling into all corners of the world creating a lingua franca of pop crap and squelching/silencing musics with serious history. Put another way, it is absolutely essential that both bloggers and DJs continue to do what they do. Infighting only hastens the disappearance of cultural diversity.

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  October 20th, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for the comments.

    You’re right, Gavin, to be vigilant about the all too invisible and uncompensated labor that undergirds all these sectors of music industry. I didn’t mean to neglect that, and I’m sorry to have said so little about work — though I’m glad it invited your response. My point was more historical, seeking to draw a line of sorts — if a big, clunky, and in some ways obfuscating one — between today’s relatively low costs of, and therefore low barriers to, (pro-grade) production and (global) circulation — which I’d argue are newly accessible to those outside trad commercial industry, hence offering some grounds for optimism/celebration — and the still relatively high bar of PR (given the enduringly powerful effects, despite the rise of blogs and status-update-convos and “viral” media, of established media channels). Sorry that that sentence is so tortuous, or that my own concerns about the way all this activity gets exploited — which I mean to underscore with the use of “2.0,” which rings cynically to me — get lost in the mix here. This can all still very easily be lumped into a culture industry critique. Your BEP example brings things into perspective nicely.

    That was basically my point, Joshua. I recognize that we’re all relatively likkle middlemen peers here, more or less in the same boat (and an imperial-lookin-ass-vessel at that). That’s the undercurrent of the whole world music 2.0 critique I’ve been working to develop. But my central point in this post, which I’d also hate to think gets lost, is not about relative realness (authenticity is a moving target; I’m only interested in its uses and effects), it’s about the way that we conduct ourselves, especially in this very space: that is, in good faith. I know it’s hard not to sound defensive in this context, but I am really NOT concerned about justifying any of my various endeavors. I just want to feel free to think aloud and to give others that freedom — to create a space where thoughtful, sometimes contentious, but generally open and respectful conversations about music can happen.

  • 6. g  |  October 20th, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    no hard feelings guys 99 percent of what i do is out of love and i think that shows; every now and then i get overly sensitive and do sometin stupid like critique the critics doods i actually respect and then hit send simultanously saying fuck it; kids dont hit send if you have to say fuck it; youll regret it; no beef here; just hurt feelings and immature tendencies, dont judge my artists on a dumb ass move like this: thanks wayne for a great blog for blowing whistles and keepin it interesting; for future reference lets do some harder journalism and harder hustlin cuz shit getting boring out here

    q sigue el baile

    love and happiness

  • 7. Toy Selectah aka Antonio Hernández  |  October 20th, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Respect and Love for the real Insiders and Outsiders!

    Wayne yes is me, IP from Monterrey, Mexico !!!

    I hate to say i told you, and when im sayin that, i mean that I TOLD A BUNCH OF THE GUYS THAT READ THIS BLOG AND KNOW PERSONALLY that this Gringo (El G ) is a MONSTER! it was just feeling i got the first day that i met him in Buenos Aires Argentina in September 2007. I never felt disrespect from nobody in this scene than i felt from him. … So im not happy about this… im really really really angry that somebody is been using some truly and respected people work to be on top of them, travelling the world under their work, tellin lies to every one who dont know about what was going on with South America Music in the last ten years. I take this battle personal, since a while ago, i exposed my point of view to some of the key elements of this TRULY music scene, and i get different responses from some of the players, the most experimented ones, felt and get my point, other just take me as a hater! i never disrespect Villadiamante, Chancha Via Circuito, Fauna, Tremor, Frikstailers (ask them btw )… but the true is that i never ever RT, support or enjoy a ZZK related item because of the vibe of this VATO! that connects to the non legit way to spread peripheral ( south american ) culture to the rest of the world!!! New Cumbia, Digi Cumbia or any way you want to call it, will be by today the same with or with out zzk and EL G, because it was there before the trend of being Hip been Periphereal and before somebody branded.

    I tweet some time ago something like WE DONT SPEAK ( TU GRAN EGO ) AMERICANO… That is what i think, this guy is fulll of EGO and that is why i barely say hi when we get to the same place! I always thought that my no flixibility and my blocked attitude will make something to change the bad attitude i been feeling from him since day one,

    it makes me feel really bad finding out today that aside of been a MONSTER is a TROLL and a Bad freind too and somebody that if you open the door of your house and give him bed or food from your table he will shit on your back!!!

    Very very Sad but at least everybody else know the truth now!

    And as i tweet a day before yesterday, BBC lie but now we know that BBC lies are becasue this guy told them to Lie!

    I respect a lot the way that this BLOG take, place and share information from the musicologist Academia and street crossculture diversity, Wayne lets keep goin and get rid of the bad friendships!


    Arriba y Adelante!!!


    PS a song that reflects this matter!

    Como dice Blades this song express Our Dislike for Intervention

  • 8. RRSalceda  |  October 20th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Para Grant, digo Tom, digo el G, una frase popular española, de patio de colegio, muy apropiada para la ocasion: “Rebota Rebota y en tu culo explota!”

  • 9. becca (the bean baker)  |  October 20th, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Let’s give Grant a break. He has apologized. We all have better things to think about.

  • 10. Francisco  |  October 20th, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    You fucked up Grant. I do not know what I am more mad about the Comments he left or the fact that he betrayed someone who helped him.

  • 11. wayneandwax  |  October 20th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    I appreciate Grant getting into the scrum here and taking the high road. His comment would have been a good one to close on, but so it goes. There’s a phrase in Spanish that I’m quite sure is unpopular and, indeed, is probably only the sort of thing that would be said by a gringo like me, which is nonetheless perhaps also appropriate for the occasion: “karma es puto.”

    PS a song that reflects this matter!

  • 12. planet claire  |  October 20th, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    hello gentlemen. i’m a bit late to the party, and wanted to catch up with all the comments and additional blog posts before posting my thoughts. first of all, i just want to say i have enormous respect for all the different voices and opinions expressed in this forum here over the past few days and in general, but second of all, SHAME ON YOU! ALL OF YOU!

    what started out as a great and exciting dialogue about cumbia and the proliferation and presentation of “world”/”whirled” music has warped into a full fledged middle school-style bully-fest, and i’m seriously shocked and disturbed that you all would devote so much time to this silly (albeit hurtful, and also personal–and hence, should NOT be resolved in this very public sphere) matter. so, it was super-dumb of grant to post that comment, but it’s just as, if not more, dumb for this to have evolved into what it has.

    EVERYONE comes off as the little guy, and so many personal grudges and irrelevant character judgments have been drawn into the conversation and it just seems …tacky.

    i hate to be the “can’t we all just get along?” girl, but can’t we? wayne commented in his buzz that most of us ladies were staying out of the blog convo and posting our thoughts within the comforts of the buzz, but seriously, this is some hostile, childish shit. i at least hope it was somehow therapeutic or something, and that you can laugh about it in the near future, or at least look each other in the eye when you inevitably bump into each other at conferences/gigs/whatever. there are bigger things out there to get worked up about.

    let’s get back to talking about fair trade music and real #realtalk.

  • 13. Gregzinho  |  October 21st, 2010 at 12:07 am

    @Gavin: Is Wale close enough? I think he’s a damn fine rapper, but he did do a mixtape about Seinfeld (err about nothing) and Catchdubs produced. The go-go signifiers dropped conspicuously on his full-length though. As a DC (‘burb) native, I’ve always been curious about go-go not going a go-go on the hype tip. Maybe because it’s too acoustic? Live music not so easily remixed?

  • 14. vince  |  October 21st, 2010 at 9:01 am

    “this is some hostile, childish shit” +1

  • 15. KG  |  October 21st, 2010 at 10:12 am

    I completely understand your response, and I don’t know what I would do if I were in your shoes. As a lady ethnomusiblogtwitterbuzzer, I’m less inclined to throw punches when I get angry or feed trolls (although I have been known to get involved in a buzz fight when necessary). It’s just not in my nature. In this situation, however, I think a little academic & ethical simpatico might be helpful.

    Wayne, you have just reminded me that I am way overdue for a blog post about an undercurrent I’m noticing in “music industry 2.0” research (and that your last 3 blog posts address). Most of us ethno/musicologists working on music industry & PR concerns of nu-whirled music are close to the people whose very industrial function we have an imperative to critique. It’s probably the toughest ethical quandary we face on a daily basis. It’s the reason why I often delay getting in touch with PR and marketing types of recordings and compilations I really enjoy and appreciate. And it’s also at the root of most of the writing blocks I have. Often it comes down to really fundamental human social needs: many of these people have given me food, a place to stay, and company or vice versa. In those situations when I’m far away from my friends and family, my ethnographic contacts become a second family. It’s the part of doing research and academic work that slips between the realm of objectivity and subjectivity into something much more personal. It’s a messy business, but we do it because we care about the music and are invested in it. This is why we spend so much time with it. We throw confetti when we can, but we are duty bound to highlight obvious areas when the power-dynamics involved do more damage than good.

    My bigger point here is that music scholars are pretty darn lucky to do what we do (that is if we are employed…), but those of us dealing with people who are alive often face some really nasty ethical quandaries on a regular basis. We all go through “human subjects” training, but the IRB (institutional review board) forms and our ethnographic methods discussions often neglect to account for musicians that aren’t quite famous, but aren’t completely poor either. They don’t fit, and as a result, we always walk a difficult line in everything we publish. It’s tough, and I think it’s helpful (even if painful) to see how some of this works itself out in a public venue.

    As always, I deeply respect your commitment to keeping things honest. A lot of us have your back but don’t necessarily jump in the fray.

  • 16. caleb  |  October 21st, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    i think it’s crazy how much of a drama magnet you are! thanks for hot beats and funny jokes on posts and comments

  • 17. RRSalceda  |  October 21st, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    No es el caso para morales de pan con mantequilla. Ignorar lo que pasa aqui es ignorar lo que pasa en la musica. Pero es comprensible que se mezclen y enturbien las cosas dado lo aparentemente absurdo del asunto. No me siento en primera fila en los conciertos pero tengo a los artistas a mi alrededor. Sus carreras y sus vidas me importan. Sin ellos no hay musica, ni blogs ni cojones.

    Disculpen mi ingles tan malo.

  • 18. wayneandwax  |  October 21st, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Pues, quizás todavía cojones, pero…

    Tu inglés es perfecto, gracias!

  • 19. Toy Selectah aka Antonio Hernández  |  October 22nd, 2010 at 4:49 am

    Savvy Words from KG…

    quoting it here again ” It’s a messy business, but we do it because we care about the music and are invested in it “


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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