How Twitter Got My Band Signed

Karl Kuehn (Museum Mouth) makes a case for everyone’s favorite chaotic evil: social media.

In the spring of 2014 I committed a Joanne the Scammer level of con: I somehow convinced Max Bemis (of the band Say Anything) that I don’t totally suck at writing songs through a hilarious mix up involving — one that resulted in him signing my band Museum Mouth last year, and releasing our latest LP, Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig, back in May on his Equal Vision Records imprint Rory Records. That’s a real thing that happened. I know. It’s ridiculous.

But to get to this point, we have to go back a little bit. In December of 2011, I was introduced to the world of autocorrect by way of my first smartphone. Within a month of having it, countless everyday words I’d type — or attempt to type — were defaulted to ridiculous misspellings or capitalizations (Sh*t, GOD, fuxk, and, a recent favorite, RHUBARB. Just to name a few). But the funniest, to me, was one that came preprogrammed on the phone: Internet. With a capital “I.”

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I’d always viewed the Internet as less of a proper noun and more of a… well, a regular noun. It was a tool for me, and my inherent logic was as simple as this: in high school I didn’t build the sketchy skate ramps in my backyard with a Hammer, but I did outgrow my short-lived skater boi phase by uploading music to the Internet — two concepts I still don’t think are all that different, despite their capitalization or lack thereof.

As I type this in October of 2016, I feel beyond comfortable saying I’m not alone in viewing the Internet, and specifically social media, as more of a tool than ever before. Like a vast number of people, I spend most of my day online, whether it’s pricing or packaging records at either of my part-time jobs (record store and record label respectively — both of which I landed via social media), recreationally reminding everyone what my face looks like on Instagram or tweeting my every thought to the world at intervals of five seconds. I’m literally always logged in.

I’m gonna get REALLY real with y’all for a second — Twitter even got my cell phone bill reduced…TWICE! But, honestly, the fact that a couple of 140 character tweets managed to pull my band of seven years out of relative obscurity — from playing in rural North Carolina to touring the entire United States — is pretty fuxking cool. I think that’s reason enough for every band to use social media. But like any other unquantifiable, sometimes good, sometimes bad thing, I’ve found that social media has to be used with tact and in moderation — and as ridiculous as it sounds, there’s DEFINITELY a right and a wrong way to do it.

Music is hard. In December of 2011, not only was I getting adjusted to the world of mobile apps, I was also in the middle of trying to find a home for a record we had just finished called Sexy But Not Happy. Although not an immediately obvious theme, a lot of the album has to do with me coming to terms with my sexuality and my identity as queer. I repeat — music is hard! And at the time, we had just gone through a pretty drastic lineup change. I couldn’t have imagined anyone wanting to put out an album of material by a small, queer, not quite pop, not quite punk band from rural North Carolina. A record that had very obviously been recorded in their drummer’s dad’s basement… So I uploaded it to Bandcamp and made it free to download. Not name your price, not even $1, just free.

Luckily, we did find an audience for our songs, and with each new release I think I’ve become more comfortable with who I am both as a person — and as a songwriter. The fan base — many of whom are also queer — has continued to grow, too. Unsurprisingly though, almost none of the people buying our records live in or have ever heard of our original hometown of Southport, North Carolina, or our current home of Wilmington, North Carolina. This is where the inner beauty of social media really shines, because it truly doesn’t matter where we live!

Sure, I could be spending $1,500 per month to rent a bedroom in an A Market city, but at this junction in my life, I’m more than happy spending a fraction of that money renting a house with a few roommates, touring when we can and using social media to remind people of my band’s existence when we’re not playing directly in front of them. Plus, I already told you about my two jobs! And I’m one of those people who treats my band like a job (cuz it is one), which makes three! AND I’m currently tweeting about ice cream and my underwear (two separate topics, I swear) — very on brand work — so that’s four. I’m busy! Too busy to be distracted and stressed out by life in the city! Also, where can you lay down in New York City if you’re not in a park or ON A BILLBOARD? And why do they lock all the public restrooms in southern California!?

It’s probably pretty obvious that I prefer Twitter over Facebook when it comes to promoting Your Brand. Facebook has made and continues to make engaging with your audience harder and harder (we’ve all seen the occasional promoted post from a new band that gets four likes; it’s not a good look) whereas Twitter keeps everything brief and in real-time. Also, I don’t trust anyone who says they don’t use social media to promote themselves. Like, what else are you using it for? To keep in touch with your old roommate from freshman year? To look at pictures of beautiful dogs and learn beauty secrets? Actually, me too.

But not all social media interaction is good interaction, and adjusting to a life of transparency online definitely isn’t for everyone. “Don’t read the comments” has become the unofficial motto for the Internet in 2016, but in a lot of ways Twitter IS the comments section. I’ve been lucky enough to only endure a handful of mean reviews or “Hot Takes” on my creative output, but I have had people attack my physical appearance and sexual orientation on multiple occasions. Regardless, it’s nowhere near some of the unwarranted hate I’ve seen a number of my female, trans, and non-binary friends get. What is it about the anonymity of being vile from behind the safety of a phone or computer screen that can bring out the worst in people?

Sometimes, I can’t decide if I’d prefer to have strangers criticizing something I could change, like my songs, rather than something I can’t like, umm… the shape of my HEAD! Or who I think is hot. But for every one person talking shit, there’s a minimum of ten being encouraging and supportive across platforms. Not to mention, there’s always Cher’s Twitter if you need inspiration for dealing with the haters. And this:

I guess what I’m trying to say is if online hate is bringing you down, at least you’re already making the conscious and smart choice of being online. And obviously a lot of good can come from utilizing the Internet — just look at me! I’m hotter than I was two months ago because I’ve gotten really into facemasks and skincare through Instagram. My band is playing shows with a guitarist friend I made via Facebook. And I’m literally writing this now because I was a fan of the Talkhouse and followed them on Twitter. Life is great when you’re logged in.

Karl Kuehn is the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist behind Gay Meat, and NC based band Museum Mouth. He loves 311, HGTV, and is allergic to penicillin. If you’re really brave, you can follow him on Twitter here.