A new spin on protest music

Here is a profoundly weird little blip on the pop culture radar: Stop Peter Bjorn and John

Peter Bjorn and John, if you don’t know, are an indie Swedish pop band who are having a bit of US success right now with their whistle-happy single Young Folks. The song is from their 3rd record, Writer’s Block, which made a lot of Top 10 lists last year (it made mine too, although I prefer their second record, Falling Out). So anyhow, as the band prepared to come to Austin for SXSW in hopes of breaking the US, or whatever it is one hopes for in times such as that, someone started the Stop Peter Bjorn and John blog. In the first post the anonymous author wrote:

The goal of this blog is simple: to stop the band Peter Bjorn and John from getting any more popular than they already are. Just to be clear, I accept that Peter Bjorn and John are already somewhat popular, and that there can be no undoing this. I merely want for the indie-rock community to take matters into its own hands to ensure that this popularity, at least here in the United States, goes no further.

Why this band in particular? A later post offers an explanation:

Do we want Peter Bjorn and John to be hailed as the standard bearers for a whole genre of music? And the answer is: NO WAY. As I acknowledged in the previous post, “Young Folks” was catchy and harmless, but this band is not a significant band. Peter Bjorn and John must be stopped.

And we can do it. As admittedly cheesy as this may sound, if there’s one thing that blogs (and consumer-generated media more generally) have taught us in the last few years, it’s that those of us who try hard enough really can affect the culture, even if we never get some big cultural institution to back us up. This has been especially true with indie rock.

We make these bands ourselves, online, though our posts, listens, downloads, and links. If we want to take them down, we can. In the case of Peter Bjorn and John, we must.

This week, the blogger admits personal failure and posts a farewell:

To those of you who are turning up right now to protest: I am sorry. This whole campaign against Peter Bjorn and John has pushed me to what I now realize is a total mental and emotional breakdown. I haven’t eaten in forty-eight hours, and the friends I am staying with have basically asked me to get out. I simply can’t carry this burden any longer. I have packed up my car and am leaving town.

I started this blog to take the fight to Peter Bjorn and John. Obviously I can’t claim to have won that fight, but I hope that the fight will continue without me today. Maybe someone reading this right now will decide to make the fight their own. As for those of you who like Peter Bjorn and John, who are raising them up to some sort of demigod status even as we speak — well, you can go ahead and pile on me if you like. Call me names. Gloat. I expect nothing less from you smug indie jackals. Mark my words, though: history will smile on our side, not yours. It’s cold comfort, but it’s all I’ve got right now.

So what is this? People in the comments seem divided: is it a pathetic loser who has picked the oddest of objects to act out against? or is it a viral marketing campaign on their behalf?

Anti-fans are nothing new, though for there to be an activist antifan trying to organize protests against a little Swedish band is certainly a weird one. But viral marketing campaigns in disguise as antifan movements may be something new. Whether intended as a marketing ploy or not, it seems to have gone further toward increasing PB&J’s allure than toward limiting it.

Comments (5) to “A new spin on protest music”

  1. Definitely a viral marketing campaign, and not a clever one either…

  2. Who do you think is behind it? US label? them?

  3. Oh, god, it’s a really sad state of affairs when you can read something like this, have a quick look at the site that’s been mentioned, and then pose yourself the question: “Hmm, so is this a viral marketing campaign, or is the guy mentally ill?” I mean, there’s part of me that feels annoyed that people would instantly write it off as a viral.

    And then I read it…and quickly start thinking the same. Due largely to this entry:http://stoppeterbjornandjohn.blogspot.com/2007/03/stolen-bass.html

    …where a blog that’s been set up to stop Peter Bjorn and John from playing in America is now asking people to help return a Bass one of the band has had stolen, so they can continue playing in America!

    I’d need to read more of it to come to a firm decision, really. As I say, I just think it’s a shame that people can now write something like that off as viral marketing instantly, but it’s understandable, due to the very *existence* of viral marketing. As the marketers get cleverer, so do some of the people who are being marketed to…but perhaps too clever for their own good at times.

  4. I don´t know, it was just the first impression, I guess. I think used the term “viral campaign” because it was mentioned in the post. I could also have written “a band bored on tour, don´t have to strength to spam every mySpace-guestbook on the planet(because it´s useless anyway), hey – ALL PUBLICITY IS GOOD PUBLICITY, or whaddya say Bjorn (or John or Peter)?”

    Also, me being Swedish, there was something “Swedish” about the blog too, can´t put my finger on what though. :)

  5. Peter Bjorn & John are mtvU’s House Band this week and they’re up for the Breaking Woodie award too.

    Check it out at http://www.mtvu.com and vote for them here, http://www.woodies.mtvu.com