Punchline, a band that has struggled for nearly fifteen years to reach an audience, are finally at a make-it-or-break-it point in their careers. Their newest EP So Nice To Meet You, along with bassist Chris Fafalios’ promise to quit the band if the EP doesn’t reach number one on iTunes, is proof of this. The question stirs in everyone’s minds however: is Fafalios’ little stunt merely a temper tantrum or is it an acknowledgement of a career that should be something more? I tend to lead more towards the latter opinion. Punchline should be a band on top of the world, yet instead they’re the very definition of the word “underrated.”
To me, Fafalios isn’t trying to throw a tantrum, nor is he trying to con fans into purchasing their album (although, even if he was, I have to honestly ask: who cares? It’s about time people started buying music again). Fafalios has set a goal for himself, and he intends to reach that goal. Punchline is not on a major label (they manage and run their own) or a band with millions of dollars. They simply want to survive by doing what they love: making music. I honestly don’t see the gimmick in that.
Of course, I won’t deny that Fafalios setting such a goal and then threatening to quit definitely ensured Punchline tons of publicity, but to me, if the music wasn’t satisfying to their fans, it wouldn’t be selling. He took a chance because he believed this was their best material to date and he put a lot of faith in his fans. It seems to be paying off. Bad image, good image – it doesn’t really matter. What Punchline is doing is extraordinary; they’re taking a do-it-yourself approach to music and asking their fans to help spread the word. What may have started off as an ultimatum to fans has turned into an ingenious marketing strategy.
Will some continue to question Punchline and Fafalios’ perhaps unorthodox approach to reaching fans and inspiring them to purchase music? Obviously. But they have reached people; they’ve inspired their fans to buy music again. For a band that can’t ever hope to reach as many people as, say Adele, Punchline has finally reached an audience. The momentum can’t last forever, but it’s encouraging to see a band that simply loves to make music achieve their goals. After all, if you don’t have goals, you’ll never know failure or success. Punchline has perhaps dabbled in the former waters far too often; it’s about time they’ve tasted some of the latter.
Not all publicity is good publicity, and stunts like the one Chris Fafalios pulled lands the band in publicity purgatory, awaiting the final explanation of the mindset he was in when he made such a decision. Look at the artists on the top ten chart of iTunes. Those artists got there the fair way: the way of hard work, marketing, and proper promoting. Never once did Adele claim that if people didn’t recognize her talent, that she was going to give up on her career, her passion. Yet she is number one, and deservedly so; she got to that point fair and square.
Honestly, the majority of the crowd that listens to bands like Punchline are unlikely to be purchasing that music from iTunes and are more likely to be downloading it for free online. The generation that buys music are the ones who put artists like LMFAO and Flo Rida above a band that is able to play instruments without the aid of synthetic sounds and computers at live shows. In order to rise above all these other artists who lay mainly in the rap genre, they would have to change the majority – kids who listen to bands and go to shows would have to become the 99%. How likely is it that that happens with one album, due to one disgruntled tweet? Not likely.
Not that Punchline is undeserving of recognition, but now there is a blurred line of reason – did they get this much attention because they are talented enough to earn it, or are all their fans proving a point and saving Fafalios’ bass from gathering dust in the corner of his room as he works a nine-to-five job? I’m going to go with the latter. Some say it’s a goal-setting tactic – I call it a tantrum. If someone really loves something, that is why they do it – not for money, or for chart reps. Therefore, the fact that he is so willing to call it quits if they don’t make it to the very, very unrealistic place of number one on an iTunes chart, is just a little childish.
Fafalios’ threat gives the band as a whole a bad image, when the whole thing could have been avoided by a different approach to the matter, such as a positive promoting technique, a simple “let’s see if we can get to number one!” as opposed to “I quit if I don’t get my way.” So yes, this move did get the band a lot of attention – and maybe it will work out for the best because of it – but it also landed them in a lot of hot water with fans and casual onlookers.