Screenshot: “Identity” by Threatin (YouTube)

As anyone who grew up in the internet age will tell you, there is a big difference between being internet-famous and being real-world-famous. Take, for example, the LA band Threatin. You’ve likely never heard of them and yet they have tens of thousands of likes on their Facebook page, thousands of views on their YouTube videos, and the makings of what appears to be a strong internet following. Despite all this, NME reports that Threatin is currently in the midst of a UK tour, playing exclusively to empty venues. But, this isn’t just a case of a foolhardy young band overestimating their own popularity. This story is much more bizarre than that.

As it turns out, every one of those thousands of Facebook likes and YouTube comments have been bought and paid for by the band. That might explain why, last weekend, when Threatin was scheduled to play a show at The Exchange in Bristol to a crowd of at least 180 people, nobody showed up. The venue was rightfully furious that the promoter had lied to them about the ticket sales, and they demanded that Threatin pay for the staff costs before playing their set to a nearly empty room.

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Recently, Twitter user @buzzingbugs shared a post explaining that this bizarre bait-and-switch was not a one-time thing for the band. A club in Camden, London called The Underworld commented on Threatin’s Facebook page asking, “What happened to the 291 advanced ticket sales your agent said you’d sold? THREE PEOPLE turned up.”

What’s more, all existing “live” videos the band online are either shot from the audience so that the band is out of frame, or are framed so poorly that only the long-haired sole band member is visible.

The music video is equally ... weird.

Earlier today, NME attempted to shed some light on what the fuck is happening here and spoke with Billy Bingham of the band Ghost Of Machines who had the pleasure of opening for Threatin at their show at The Exchange. Bingham says he and his bandmates were initially stunned by the whole experience and were uncertain if they’d even be asked to play to an audience-less house.

I believed, from what I had heard that evening, that it was the promoter who had duped Threatin and I did feel sorry for him (hence why we watched his set). It wasn’t until the hours and days after that I realized everything about his online presence is a lie and that he probably knew about everything beforehand – even before booking the tour. I feel angry that acts like this exist – who buy likes, comments and YouTube plays and then book reputable venues and lie about ticket sales.

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What’s still not clear about this whole ruse is who exactly benefits from it. Threatin pretends to have fans and then books shows where they are forced to pay venue fees and perform to an empty room. The whole thing sounds expensive and emotionally taxing. With that said, if Threatin is playing a venue near you, definitely get a ticket. This circus might well be worth seeing in person.

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