Trial by social media has become a common occurrence and the Jeremy Undeground controversy is a complex one that deserves a closer look.
Another week another social media storm in a tea cup. So far in our list of ‘break the dance music internet’ controversies we’ve had homophobia, sexism, and suspicions of alt right sympathising. All valid subjects to arouse a storm of keyboard pounding of course.
This week’s is a little different.
If you haven’t already seen the post, it concerns the DJ Jeremy Underground, his agent Lionel Marciano, and a club in Edinburgh called Abstrakt. The club cancelled a show with the DJ after they claimed they were being bullied and “held to ransom over ridiculous demands.”
A post detailing their grievances with the DJ, and also including screenshots from his agent involving threatening language, clocked up 16,000 likes at the time of writing. As is to be now expected from these sorts of controversies, the Internet descended on the issue like a pack of hounds baying for blood.
Furious posts lambasting Jeremy for being a diva and demanding he be dropped from lineups multiplied in their thousands across social media. Their vitriol, many threats were of a physical nature, were almost reminiscent of Game Of Thrones’ infamous Walk Of Atonement scene, where the fallen queen endures the rage of the public who take their opportunity to scream and abuse their former ruler.
Perhaps that’s an extreme comparison to make. Jeremy is hardly Queen of dance music. But there are alarming similarities in the way the public responded so viciously. And it is similarly alarming that they believed the statement without question and before hearing the other side of the story.
Trial by social media: Ten Walls homophobic rant in 2015
The theme of ‘Diva DJ Found Out’ obviously struck a very deep chord. And there are of course details to the situation that have inevitably made this all the more ripe for the public to get in a pickle about. The fact he requested a hotel with a sauna. The fact that the second word of his artist name is Underground (many of those hurling offences clearly didn’t know he was label boss of the Parisian label My Love Is Underground).
But where the Ten Walls situation was a very clear cut case of homophobia which deserved to be addressed and debated, Jeremy’s situation is a complex one that serves to illustrate the dangers that these Trials By Social Media can pose.
Let’s first consider the dangers involved in slamming an artist in this way so heavily. A social media furore like this is enough to finish anyone’s career.
Is it right that the general public should take it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and executioner with only a statement from the club to serve as evidence?
The disgraceful response from his agent Lionel Marciano is an obvious red herring in the situation. Replying to a cancellation with threats of physical violence is about as thuggish and unprofessional as it gets in the bookings industry, and his comments are in our opinion completely indefensible. The agent and DJ have since apologised for them and it must be stated the club has today posted an update to say that: “Jeremy Underground has reached out to us and apologised for the actions of his agent and what seems to have been a mix up on behalf of the agency with regards to the hotel bookings. We have also received an apology from the RT Agency.”
Jeremy refunded the artist fee, agency fee, and offered to refund the Apex hotel. He has agreed to reschedule a show with Abstrakt and play for free, donating all proceeds to charity.
All sorted? Not quite. Jeremy is now left with irrevocable damage to his career. The club will inadvertently gain from the huge publicity the situation has aroused, and his agent’s reputation is similarly in tatters. While his agent’s actions are indefensible, what was Jeremy really at fault for?
What the public failed to grasp on reading the club’s initial statement was that the situation wasn’t as clear cut as it was initially portrayed.
Jeremy’s contractual demand was to stay in a four or five star hotel. A four star hotel is an industry wide accepted norm for a DJ of his stature. Any DJs who have turned up to play in a city only to find themselves in a squalid hotel that was advertised on a hotel booking site as three star can agree: if you’re touring week in, week out, it is only reasonable to expect to be put in an appropriately comfortable hotel.
Jeremy had asked to change hotels, from a four star hotel in the city to a five star Sheraton. He’d previously stayed at the Sheraton in Amsterdam Airport, and requested the Sheraton in Edinburgh not realising the latter was significantly more expensive and clocking in at £614 a night according to the club. On a check of Hotels.com, we found rooms at the Sheraton Amsterdam Airport for £125 a night.
At the time of writing, a room at the Sheraton in Edinburgh for a Saturday in two weeks time is £225. It’s of course plausible that the £614 a night applied to a busy night at the hotel, but still, Jeremy may not have been aware of this difference in price.
Jeremy also requested three nights and offered to pay for two himself. The club claimed in their first post to be “£937 out of pocket in wasted hotel rooms.” But today say “the hotel have already kindly given us a refund outside of the cancellation period for the initial booking.
The problem with this incident for us, is that there are plenty of bookings industry nuances at work, that the general public are unaware of. And plenty of circumstances that it is impossible for any of us watching from across the social media fence to be certain of.
Was Jeremy really being a diva in requesting to stay in the Sheraton because he’d previously stayed in a cheaper one before? Was he aware of the gulf in prices for the particular night he was due to stay?
It seems plenty has been lost in translation. His agent’s response and handling of the situation was completely over the top. But was the club right to name and shame given that the artist was liable to take the lion’s share of the internet’s collective abuse?
And how are we to know if there are other issues at play? In a statement of apology, Jeremy's agent stated: "we offered to amend these issues with the hotel and move forward, but it seemed they had another agenda in canceling. This is in fact a breach in agreement – they left us with no ‘real’ reason as to cancelation.”
There are plenty of nooks and crannies to this story that we just can’t say for certain without knowing all of the details. The club, as they announced on their Facebook, are happy to draw a line.
But how happy must Jeremy be at having his career potentially thrown under the bus by what appears to be a gross misunderstanding?
We are the first to argue that DJ fees and riders should not be abused. But it seems this controversy is not as clear cut as it may appear to a bystander on Facebook. And what’s certain is the Internet’s reaction; the hate messages, the threats of physical violence are much like Lionel Marciano’s threats, grossly inappropriate.
Abstrakt's initial post: