Earlier this week I ran across a post on social media by a local band that caught my attention, it was regarding their experience opening for a national touring band (in this case OTEP). The poster, a member of the band Fate of Misery, Shaun Pillen was hoping to get the attention of OTEP’s people, Otep Shamaya herself, as well as the promoter of the show for many reasons but the one that stood out to me was the requirement that the supporting bands take down their merch tables during OTEP’s set.
I’m not going to lie, I was completely confused by the situation….why would anyone make the opening bands take down their merch tables? As many of us know, local bands that open for a touring band, like OTEP, are required to sell tickets. Sometimes, if the show happens to fall on a holiday or is mid-week, the bands may have to pay for the tickets themselves. I understand how and why this happens and to be fair this isn’t OTEP (or any of the headliners) requiring the band(s) to sell tickets, it is the promoter of the show. The promoter doesn’t have to promote the show if he/she depends on the local band to draw the crowd. So the promoter makes the cash to pay the headliner’s guarantee and of course line their pockets as well, meanwhile the local bands are not paid at all or are paid so little that it doesn’t even cover for their gas money to get to the venue.
Sorry for the slight tangent, but this is why I was so confused by the requirement that the supporting bands take their merch tables down while OTEP was playing…….merch is how most bands make money (if you didn’t know that, now you do….so buy merch at every show you attend). Pillen was rightfully pissed off in his initial post because OTEP’s merch table remains open during their set but everyone else, even the bands touring with them, must tear theirs down. The latter part is what really chapped my ass, to be honest. In the following days OTEP kicked The Convalescence off their tour for selling merch during their (OTEP’s) set. So this isn’t an isolated incident with OTEP. The Convalescence referred to Otep Shamaya as a ‘nightmare to tour with’, indicating unless she was belittling them, they weren’t even allowed in the same room as her. What the hell? An activist of equality is treating other human beings as lesser human beings? Hypocritical much?
I’m not going to lie, I have been an OTEP fan for many, many years. While, I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist necessarily, I am always happy to see women kick ass and break into a genre that is dominated by men (i.e. metal). I have followed Otep Shamaya on social media for years, I would say she is on the extreme side of activism, but there is nothing wrong with being passionate about what you believe it….and she is obviously passionate.
I’m getting off topic again……Otep Shamaya is all about the little guy, the minority, and the underdog. That is what her activism for LGBT, women’s, and animal rights is all about….EQUALITY and what is right and just. So the fact that she requires the little guy (ie local or supporting bands) to take down their means of income, so she is the only one that benefits is completely mind boggling. Especially when the little guy (ie local and supporting bands) are the ones that are contributing to her lifestyle….it is why she is making money to tour; these bands are busting their asses to pay her band’s guarantee. To say that I am disappointed in her behavior, not only as an entertainer but an equality activist and ultimately a women, is an understatement.
I wish I could say that OTEP is the only band guilty of having a high opinion of themselves that they shit on those they feel are not on their level, unfortunately that is not the case. A couple of years ago Bloodrock was contacted by the PR firm for Trapt, they asked us to interview vocalist Chris Brown (“Headstrong” not woman beater). The show was at The Machine Shop about 1.5 hours away and it was a weeknight, so we both had to leave our day jobs early but we agreed to the interview. We arrived at the venue and I sent Brown a text, as instructed, and asked where we should meet for the interview. Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes……an hour goes by…..still no response to my message. So I send another message asking if we were still going to meet, Brown responded this time saying he needed a few minutes because he wanted to grab something to eat. I responded that it wasn’t a problem and I would message him in 20 minutes. Twenty minutes later I send him a message, again an hour goes by and no response. I send another message, thirty minutes go by without a response.
By this time the venue is opening up, I send a message telling him we are going inside. We get into the venue and guess what? Our names are not on the guest list. Awesome. So I email his PR person, who immediately responds and takes care of us getting into the venue by sending Trapt guitarist Ty Fury. I ask Fury if Brown plans on doing the interview, he said he would go check and come back. Fury comes back and says he can’t find Brown. At this point I am completely pissed off with Brown….I’m not even a fan of Trapt so the fact that we drove all of this way to interview him and he wasted our time is absolutely infuriating. I message his PR person and tell her that he stood us up, she again immediately responds that she will have a talk with him and explain that what he did is unacceptable (obviously I know that isn’t going to happen, he pays them). Since we are there, we decided to still photograph the show. While I’m waiting for Mark to shoot the opening band, I check my Facebook…..the first thing I see is an extremely long post from the Trapt Facebook page, signed by Brown, about the Kardashians and how much Brown dislikes them. It was posted when we arrived at the venue and I had initially messaged him….he went on to respond to nearly every comment for the next two hours. So instead of doing the interview with us, he posted a Facebook rant about the Kardashians…..
Now I realize we are not the big fish in the metal/rock webzine pond, we are mere minnows (growing but still small) but that doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. Just like Otep Shamaya and Chris Brown, we are putting our hearts and souls into this business because we love it and our time is worth something. The local and supporting bands that are paying out of pocket to play along side the likes of OTEP or any other headliner that treats them like a lesser class, deserve more, they deserve respect. Just because your band is signed to a fancy label or you have a brand new tour bus doesn’t make you any better than us or them, in an instant your castle can come crumbling down. Reality of the situation is that you have that shiny bus because hard working people, including the local and supporting bands you are treating like shit, gave you their money so you could afford it.
OTEP and Otep Shamaya, remember you were once one of us lesser people. I know it was a long time ago but just think back to your early days of playing shitty venues, earning little to no money as an opener for bigger bands….what was that like? What if the headliner cut your means of income off because they wanted to be the only ones selling anything? And it can’t be about respect, if it was, your merch table would not be operational during all of the other band’s sets, but it is. And maybe that $10 shirt that one of your opening bands sells during your set is what puts almond milk in the fridge the next morning for their children or it is gas money back home from the venue because every penny they had in their pockets got them there to support you. I read a comment from you (Otep Shamaya) in response to someone saying that fans are burning their OTEP shirts because of your behavior towards The Convalescence, to which you responded “oh plz post the videos of fans burning my shirts while I laugh at them and count their money”, that is truly enlightening actually….read what you yourself wrote, ‘count their money’. All it takes is ‘their money’ to stop coming in for the joke to be on you. Remember this when you shit on people in the future, the money in your pocket is THEIRS and soon as THEY stop giving it to you, your pockets are empty.
I’m almost certain that if you were touring with a larger band, like a Metallica (for example) and they treated you this way, you would take to social media and demand change. And unfortunately, in a similar situation I think you would turn it into something like you are being discriminated against for being gay or a woman, which these mostly male bands can’t pull that card…..and it is a card (unless you are truly discriminated against for those reasons, not you assuming it is for those reasons).
I am a long time fan of your music and have a deep amount of respect for your passion for fighting for those that do not have a voice; but the music can stop being purchased and your ‘fight’ for those being treated unfairly is no longer valid if you are also a perpetrator of injustice or you have the opinion that you are on some different level than any other human being. I realize I am but one person, but one person can change the world, so maybe one person can change your mind.
Written by April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on June 23, 2017