[What follows is my personal opinion and, though it attempts to be impartial, is a subjective retelling of events. I am no longer employed by BMA Magazine, nor do these opinions reflect the opinions of BMA Magazine or its affiliates, including but not limited to the author of the review in question, who is at this juncture satisfied with how matters were resolved between himself and Jake Stone.]
Last Tuesday February 11, a review of Big Day Out Sydney 2014 was uploaded to Canberra streetpress BMA Magazine’s website. There were two lines about Australian band Bluejuice in it, both unfavourable. The reviewer said they hadn’t progressed as a band, and that other bands giving better performances on the day at the same time had smaller crowds, which was a shame. Standard, if debatable, review shtick.
Jake Stone of Bluejuice decided to comment, via Facebook, on the review. His response can be briefly described as a combination of critique, hubris and personal attacks. His prerogative, of course.
The reviewer and myself, recently retired as Editor of BMA Magazine, responded to Jake Stone’s comments, addressing what we saw as flaws both in his tone and in his critique. Our prerogative, just the same.
Jake Stone proceeded, over several responses, to misconstrue what both myself and the reviewer had said, as you can read for yourself in the comments. But this is where it began to merit exposure: Stone called our reviewer a “moron” in a comment he has since deleted, and has told other people on the stream to “fuck off”. Moreover, at the same time as he was publicly levelling personal insults at the reviewer, it is my understanding that Stone began privately threatening to sue him for defamation if he did not remove portions of his responses. The reviewer, an unpaid volunteer for this small Canberra streetpress, edited his comments at this threat. (You can see where he has self-censored; he has marked the comments, “EDITED.”) In communication with myself, the reviewer explained that it was not fear of liability that made him self-censor, but the potential costs associated with defending himself in court and the professional ramifications of such a legal battle to his full-time employment, regardless of the outcome.
You can find screenshots of the comment stream, taken after the reviewer’s decision to edit but before Stone removed some of his own comments, here: http://imgur.com/a/HNpaj. On Wednesday February 19, Stone deleted the post and all the ensuing commentary from his personal Facebook page, but the post remains online at BMA Magazine’s website.
I’d encourage music media to take note of Stone’s behaviour. It’s one thing to take issue with bad press. It’s another to level personal insults at journalists doing their jobs. It’s another thing again to threaten privately to sue them for defamation while you insult them and deride their comments in public, not least when they’re voluntarily employed by a small-scale streetpress, have been nothing but measured and decent, and the fight is one you yourself started on a Facebook comment thread.
As Editor of BMA Magazine for just under two years, I never encountered this kind or combination of bullying, ego, misconstruance and generally poor behaviour in either a grown adult or a musician — and that’s saying something, in streetpress.
You can find the original review, along with all the edited and ongoing commentary, here: http://bmamag.com/articles/gig-reviews/20140211-big-day-out-sydney-2014/.