It was a big day yesterday on my blog and I saw the huge power of social media first hand.
Around lunchtime whilst talking in the office, I really thought that we had uncovered the fact that the RATM Christmas number one was a scam that had been funded by Sony to get sales for all their artists up. I didn’t like the manipulation it implied, so I started digging.
I put two and two together and made twelve.
There are so many coincidences that point towards it being a set up, I thought I would run with it and see what came out.
The most amazing thing was quite how fast the truth did come out.
I put the post up at 2pm and by late afternoon there were those who believed the story and those who violently opposed it. There were RATM fans who went to such lengths to defend their band that I was genuinely shocked.
And then the lady at the centre of the whole conspiracy theory came on to the site and put her side of the story. Later that day we spoke at length on the phone and I was reminded very simply of the human side to this. What started as a laugh for Jon and Tracy Morter became a beast that they simply couldn’t control.
There were hundreds and maybe thousands of people who just didn’t believe they could have done it for nothing (me included) and that is because social media channels and conspiracy theorists started to paint them as orchestrating gurus, pulling the strings for big business.
Social media has immense power. It has the power for social change and social good as well as massive media manipulation. But it also has the power to get things wrong and escalate things out of control.
Not all of the information on the Internet is correct, we all know that. Many coincidences are just that, coincidences.
For me, Jon and Tracy Morter are a slightly geeky, Internet obsessed couple who have been caught in the middle of a prank that grew beyond anything they could have imagined.
I’m sorry that I added to their woes, but very pleased with the fact that they have been able to come on here and have a voice that clears their name so conclusively.
I have to put this first as it’s the most important part of the story. I was convinced that I had found something that proved a conspiracy was afoot with Sony funding the viral campaign to get RATM to the coveted UK Christmas number one position.
But I was wrong.
It was never my intention to cause offence to Jon, Tracy and their family, it was to uncover a story that I thought was very interesting.
So I want to say sorry to Tracy and Jon Morter unreservedly.
I saw the response below here from Tracy and it got me (very) worried that my facts may be a bit out of line, so I mailed her and asked her to give me a call, which she did. We have just had a good chat with her kids running around in he background shouting for their tea.
Which she followed up a few minutes later with this
I offered to remove the entire post, but Tracy asked that I leave most of it in place as others will surely uncover the same series of coincidences and we agreed that this was a better plan to put my apology and her answers first.
Tracy assures me that all those coincidences are just that, coincidences.
They picked that song because it had rude words in it and they thought it would be funny on the Christmas Top of the Pops. I agree.
The Essex sites were done as a ‘swap’ to allow Jon to hold the real ‘World Cup’ and they didn’t even get paid for it.
The sites that link to the song on play.com are not connected to them and they are not earning commission from them.
They didn’t announce that they would be working to get Three Lions to number one for the World Cup. They refused an interview with the Evening Standard and the newspaper sort of made the potential connections themselves.
Tracy herself acknowledges that the coincidences are painting a picture against them, but they are just that. Coincidences.
Incidentally, Simon Cowell hasn’t been in touch and they haven’t been offered a job by his company.
And they’re not planning to run a similar campaign next year.
I’ve tried to be as open as possible here and published all the responses apart from the ones that are just offensive to the Morters or myself and don’t make any relevant points.
The story itself
Okay, I appreciate this isn’t going to be a very popular blogpost with some, but I said I was going to use this platform for my thoughts and these are my personal thoughts..
We’ve been talking about this a lot in the office and are now completely convinced that the RATM is no viral backlash, it’s a very clever piece of viral placement that is funded by Sony themselves.
So lets look at the evidence.
1. Simon Cowell wins both ways up, he is a director of Sony BMG who look after RATM. He has been since 2005 according to Wikipedia.
Rage Against the Machine’s album is on Epic Records. This single Cowell released on his own label is actually owned by Sony Music UK. Like Sony Music UK, Epic Records is owned by Sony Music Entertainment.
2. The strategy he employed is the same as that he used within the X Factor format itself. He is a bright fella and knows that the UK public either love him or hate him. He is the archetypal Mr Nasty – A pantomime baddy of the modern age. So, when he says he hates Jedward (and who could blame him for that) the whole of the voting public come out in their defence and vote for them to stay in the show. This has the effect of pushing the viewing figures to the highest they have ever been.
3. The guys behind the Facebook campaign don’t appear to have other jobs. Jon Morter has a linkedIn page that just lists him as professional. Perhaps he is a professional viral marketer?
4. There are press releases that have been placed on PR Log that have been written by an unnamed third party, but link back to a French Concierge Service that has in itself got links through to the UK music industry. I’m not sure this is a coincidence.
5. All the money is being given away to Shelter. Again, maybe I’m being overly cynical but I don’t believe that RATM have made Soooo much cash from their music that they can afford to ignore a casual £1/4 m of unexpected income? It sounds a bit premeditated to ward off the bad press in case they got caught. Which they have been.
6. The campaign’s Facebook page went down on December 13th. How convenient, just as the big push for sales was about to start that they should be front page news. They made it look like the establishment was even trying to take down two little individuals’ campaign to stop Simon Cowell dominating the charts, when all they were doing was actually helping him.
It’s just all a bit too convenient isn’t it?
7. Sony Have a track record of Viral deceit
In 2006, they placed stories as real customer feedback using an agency called Zipatoni and got caught. Again, I would say they are on the verge of being fully exposed again
8. RATM aren’t really anti establishment anymore. They are the establishment, they just swear for a living now. How is that anti? If all they do is the same stuff over and over again, are they continuing to actually rage against the machine or just capitalise on others desire to be seen doing so.
9. The Couple Who ran the campaign are called Jon and Tracy Morter. They ran a campaign last year to get Rick Astley to Christmas Number One against the X Factor Single. And yes, guess what record label our friend Rick is on? yes, Sony BMG.
10. They also announced yesterday that they were going to try and get the song Three Lions to be the Number one for the World Cup. This was written by The Lightning Seeds and featured Frank Skinner and David Baddiel. Guess what label they are on? Yes, it’s Epic, owned by Sony BMG again.
11. And perhaps the most damning evidence of all – from some great detective work by Hannah Pearce
Iris digital are on record as working on a project called Kiss The Cup (KTC). They have a facebook group for it, Which you can see here. And they have another one here. By some strange quirk of fate, the two administrators behind these sites are Jon and Tracey Morter.
Iris Digital are a part of Iris Group – an integrated services agency – and guess what they specialise in digital communications and campaigns. AND Sony is one of their biggest clients!
So that’s it. I know it’s not conclusive, but I’m convinced that this is a scam that is going to be exposed some time soon, as soon as someone can find who was really paying the bills behind the whole campaign.
What does this mean for the brand of Sony?
I would say that it will be in a little trouble if they get found out for this, but it shows the power of very cleverly manipulated social media and viral marketing campaigns and it also still shows that people do want to fight back against the dominance of this crap TV and crap music that is being produced by Simon Cowell and his pals.
You may also like to read Jane Love at Purple Circle’s take on it here.