Dear Rolling Stone,
Here I sit, behind my computer on Sunday, January 29, 2012. It’s one week before the Super Bowl will take place here in Indianapolis, the city I call home. I’m not terribly excited for the game (ask anyone who knows me at all and they’ll confirm my hatred for sports), but I am proud of all that The Super Bowl Host Committee has done to make this a welcoming city to the 150,000 guests they estimate we’ll be having (despite the Super Bowl Shuffle blunder and that horribly ugly poster). Among the most popular attractions in downtown Indianapolis right now are the 100 foot tall zip line, the “NFL Experience”, the giant XLVI letters on the circle, Indy Cars parked at various sites throughout downtown, and- of course- lots of musical performances.
These concerts are the highlight of the Indianapolis Super Bowl Experience for a music enthusiast like myself. Once the reality set in that The Big Game would be held right here in our very own city, the local music community went berserk with anticipation and delight. Even more exciting than headliners like LMFAO, Railroad Earth, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and Umphrey’s McGee is the exposure that our own local, deserving talent stands to gain in the next week.
Between the Indianapolis-bred bands that are found on the pages of http://www.indianapolissuperbowl.com and locally produced events like Sun King Brewery’s Local Underground Tent Party, it seemed that there was a pleasing amount of love and attention given to those bands who’ve put in the time and hard work to build a reputation around town. Consideration had been given to nearly every genre Indianapolis has to offer: bluesy rock from the Max Allen Band, Jennie DeVoe’s folksy Americana, power pop with Stereo Deluxe, soulful R&B by Whitney Coleman, and everyone’s favorite face-melting funk band, The Twin Cats. These are the bands that write original music, that perform in and around Indianapolis on the regular, and actually deserve to be recognized during a time such as their hometown hosting the Super Bowl.
And then the Rolling Stone “Open for Jane’s Addiction and The Roots” voting contest was announced.
I think the thing that bothers me most about these popularity contests is the lack of merit involved with winning. There’s never a chance for the competing bands (or their fans) to talk about what they have accomplished that proves they deserve this award more than the other eleventy-billion groups vying for the same grand prize. It’s just, vote for me! Vote for me! Vote for me!
Shame on you, Rolling Stone (a supposed authority on what’s good in music) for letting the opportunity for a local band to play in front of hundreds of thousands of people be overshadowed by a spirit of competition, rivalry and spam.
You’ve placed a small glimmer of hope in the eyes of more than 200 bands from across the state of Indiana that they might actually be able to out-vote all of the other bands and win the opportunity of a lifetime.
You’ve asked these bands to cash-in on the relationships they’ve built with their fans and supporters by having them bug their admirers every day for seven days. The rules of the contest even state, “Is your favorite band in first place? If not, maybe you should spread the word a little better. Share your contest link on Facebook/Twitter and encourage your fans, friends, and family members to vote often.”
Equally as bad as soliciting votes from genuine fans, you’ve also created animosity between bands that wouldn’t otherwise exist. I once competed in a voting contest to be the next Local Little Monster Blogger and I remember how much I despised my biggest competitors- people I’d never met in cities miles away from my own. I can’t imagine how contests with high stakes such as yours, Rolling Stone, will affect the feelings a band has towards the group who somehow, miraculously, won six times as many votes as they did themselves… when they had previously perceived their skill levels to be on even playing fields.
Let’s not even go into detail on ballot-stuffing, bots, and straight-up cheating. But just know that it happened. And that it’s shameful.
I’m not a musician. I’m not in a band. I don’t know what it’s like to hope for the chance to perform in front of a group I’ve admired all my life. But I am a supporter and observer of the local music scene. I can see ruffled feathers when there’s been a fox in the chicken coop. The proverbial fox, in this case, is the ridiculous contest you’ve unleashed.
My hope is that since this Social Media spam-fest is finally over, the winners can be announced, we can all discuss (with shock and awe) how the band that won did it, and then soon forget about all the anxiety it created and bad feelings it produced in our local music scene for an entire week.
Happy Super Bowl, everybody.