You don't want to be Todd Martens

Writes some stuff for the LAT. Seeks board game partners. Cubs fan. Beer geek. Adores Chicago. In favor of dilly-dallying. Some personal stories may be exaggerated. I exaggerate. This isn't work.

toddmartens AT gmail dot com.


Three chords and the nudes

Back in April, I met three friends of mine who work at a local independent label for dinner. I was late, and when I arrived there was already a somewhat heated discussion taking place. “I cannot believe we bought ads on that site,” said the person essentially in charge of that label’s touring department. 

The natural follow-up was to ask what site and why. “You don’t even want to know — it’s disgusting,” was the response. Of course I wanted to know, and I definitely wanted to know now. The indie label touring person sighed, and said, “It’s called Is Anyone Up?” 

That was the first I had heard of Is Anyone Up?. Of the group of four, another was also ignorant of the site. We asked, more or less in unison, “What makes it so offensive to you?”

The response: “OK, pretty much every single one of our bands has emailed a nude photo to someone, and that photo will probably end up on Is Anyone Up? And now we’re buying ads on the site.” 

It was at that point I let my label friends talk among themselves. I made a note in my cell phone that read, “Three chords and the nudes.” That was essentially when I began, more or less, working on this story. I wish the headline was still “Three chords and the nudes,” but journalism is not a solo-endeavor, and there are bigger battles.

Nearly six months after I began reporting on a story about Is Anyone Up?, the piece is running this Sunday. Part of that, I believe, is due to modern entertainment journalism, and our insistence on being beholden to “events” (album releases, live shows, etc). Part of that is also my fault. I turned in my first draft in August, much of it written at Spuyten Duvyl in Brooklyn. It was 12,000 words. The piece on Sunday is closer to 1,600 words, which in itself is pushing the max of what we can run in the Los Angeles Times. 

Of the 10,000+ words cut are numerous interviews — I spoke to about 50 people for this story (many refused to be quoted). Yet it wasn’t the massive cuts that stung, such as the 4,000 words deleted about Internet law. Instead, there are plenty of tiny details axed I was partial to. The site, for instance, is run by a 25 year-old named Hunter Moore, and he lives 90 minutes from his mailing address. It’s safe to say that’s not because he likes to take road trips. It’s little details like that one that I miss.

Nevertheless, I believe what interested me about Is Anyone Up? in the first place still comes through. I was struck by its scene-specific focus, how it dialed-down into a rock ‘n’ roll subculture. I was curious, sure, as to why dudes in bands would think it remotely OK and/or safe to send a nude picture to someone, but I was more interested in how the music industry itself was slowly legitimizing such a potentially offensive site. 

Since April, there has been plenty written about Is Anyone Up?. Hunter was even on Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show. Yet so much of the recent press, no matter how well written or how well reported, has gone the ‘did you know normal people are naked online’ angle, which I kinda feel is pretty common and not all that exciting. It’s sort of like saying so-and-so is ‘big in Japan.’ Of course, they are. The internet is full of nudes. 

Before I started working on this story, Emily Zemler wrote a fine piece on the site for Alternative Press, and she touched on some similar subjects. It was her in-depth story, in fact, that persuaded me there was still more to explore on the topic, and ways to tackle the story that would be of interest to a daily newspaper.

So…the story: Rockers, fully exposed on Is Anyone Up?

  1. toddmartens posted this