2/11/2018: Introduction

Before delving into this ongoing analysis of online rhetoric (regarding Do-It-Yourself cassette labels), I will provide a (hopefully) brief summary of what spawned this project:

Almost two months ago, I decided to start my own DIY cassette label (http://badcakerecords.bandcamp.com ) because I had grown tired of my music being rejected/completely ignored by countless other online cassette labels. Being that I had spent a near-inordinate amount of time studying their methods and practices, I felt I could both utilize the aspects that seemed to be working for them and cut out what I felt was hindering their success:

3 basic practices that seem to work for most DIY labels:

1. Constant online presence on as many platforms as possible (the most useful being: Bandcamp, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram)
2. Releasing albums in batches of 3-5 (as opposed to releasing one album at a time)
3. Getting reviewed by DIY music blogs ( http://tabsout.com or http://cassettegods.blogspot.com being two sites that underground musicians strive to be mentioned on)

3 basic practices that seem to work against most DIY labels

1. Automated email messages that advertise new releases (I'm not sure how this effects other people, but I delete these as soon as they appear in my mailbox--being that I check in on the labels I purchase albums from on a pretty regular basis)
2. Stringent aesthetics (meaning the label only releases a very specific sub-genre of music)
3. Incorporating personal opinions and other unnecessary information into their online presence (mainly via Twitter)

So, based on these observations, I founded Bad Cake Records--which I describe as "a misfit, non-elitist cassette label with no set aesthetic." I release albums in batches of 3 (as often as I am financially able to), maintain a constant presence on Bandcamp/Twitter/Instagram, and I reach out to DIY music blogs. Things have gotten off to pretty decent start--all things considered. I sold $144 worth of cassettes in the first month--which ended up being enough to order another round of cassettes for the next 3 releases I have planned. I have nearly 400 followers on Instagram, and well over 200 on Twitter (which for a fledgling label isn't that bad--considering it's only existed for less than two months). On average, I get about 30-40 "likes" whenever I post a picture or a link to the Bandcamp page. Once in a while, someone retweets a link. This is all fine for now, but obviously I desire a higher level of DIY success for Bad Cake Records.

In order to accomplish this, I will be devoting a good portion of my time this semester intensely studying the online rhetoric of various cassette labels that I admire or at least am aware of (there are plenty that I despise greatly and am completely baffled by how they continue to sell the amount of albums that they do). Also, I will obviously be analyzing my own rhetorical methods.

Some (but not all--being that I'm sure I will think of plenty more as time goes on) aspects of online rhetoric that I will be focusing on:

1. The ethos behind each Twitter/Instagram/Facebook post (self-congratulating/self-mocking/matter-of-fact/indifferent/etc)
2. Obvious/hidden rhetorical fallacies and other rhetorical devices (not just identifying them--but rather delving into their functionality and what responses they conjure [and how those responses ultimately become part of the rhetorical device itself])
3. The marriage of image and text

Bad Cake Records: 2/17/18

First, I will analyze a small portion my own efforts.

Primarily, my rhetorical approach to representing Bad Cake Records (as an online entity) is based around Instagram. Image and text work together in this platform to achieve a multi-level effect on addressees (who greatly vary in the Bad Cake Records Instagram--being that my 421 followers [as of 2/17/18] are not all necessarily interested in the label [as you know, 'following back' to a lot of folks is no different than tapping your foot or itching your nose or blinking).

So, as I will demonstrate with the following photos, I have tried to utilize various rhetorical devices in order to captivate addressees who may not have an interest in experimental DIY music released via cassette:

A homemade President Trump meme:

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This post does somewhat fall under the "Bandwagon" rhetorical approach (considering that it's particularly aimed at the large portion of people in America [and the world at large, really] who are dissatisfied with our current political reality). This is surface-level obvious, and doesn't necessarily need to be discussed any further.

What's more interesting about this post is that it's simultaneously self-mocking (being that memes are about the most least serious form of communication ever to have existed) and self-congratulating (being that the actual message of the meme is that Bad Cake Records is by all means a very real effort [on my part] to disseminate music that I feel is worthy of an audience). The method of rhetorical delivery and the overall rhetorical goal conflict with each other--but hopefully balance each other out in the end.

The issue presented in the post revolves around the growing reality of unrealities in media (especially Internet media). How do you know what you're reading is true? Who wrote it? Is it yet another Russian bot? What kind of veiled partisan attack is this?

The word "FAKE" is capitalized--both to emphasize this issue of unreality and also to reinforce the idea that the word "fake" has become a meme in and of itself this past year. The word has been used to describe very real things that are happening in our country and our world (election interference, global warming, etc.)--which has transcended irony and entered the realm of divine jokes. No mere human could make this stuff up.

The text and hashtags that describe the post (mostly--besides "Don't listen to this dude") do not work to enhance these undertones however. More-so, they speak for Bad Cake Records and the validity of its musical content (its underlying message being: the music is good, and you should listen to it and/or buy a physical copy).

A "work" post:

text

The image by itself has absolutely nothing to do with Bad Cake Records or music in general. Instead, it's a (pretty boring) photo of a lone computer screen (security camera footage being the only image visible on the screen itself), a few typical office items (scratch paper, sticky notes, paper clip tub, coffee thermos sitting alongside a bottle of water, etc.) and a few tree tops visible in the obscured distance beyond the glass. Ultimately, what the photo depicts is a normal 9-5 American work day--stagnant, empty (notice there are no humans in the photograph--and nothing of interest visible in the security camera footage either), and soundless (I know it's a picture--but still, it doesn't look like an environment where experimental music would be playing in the background [in fact, the classic rock station is the ONLY station that is ever allowed to drone on at a very low level on a daily basis]).

This is, however, still a rhetorical situation (as almost anything is in this context): the rhetorical issue at hand being the ever-lasting march of the soul-sucking American workday and the stifling of personal enjoyment (especially when it comes to enjoying music and/or other artistic artifacts).

The other half of this rhetorical situation lies in the text that describes the photograph. The rhetor is obviously someone who works hard enough to both maintain a "day" job AND maintain a self-ran DIY record label in the evenings and on the weekends (which anyone else who runs a small label knows is more time-consuming/difficult than one might assume). So, obviously this post is meant to (in part) speak to those in that particular sub-category (DIY label owners), of which there are quite a few of (the list is endless--if you happen to search databases that procure and catalogue this type of information). However, it also speaks to a great number of addressees who find themselves in similar "normal" adult circumstances (the drudgery of work, the inability to do what you really want to do during the most productive hours of your day, the desire for personal fulfillment in the face of inescapable duty and financial necessity). The most powerful rhetorical words in the text are: "But I'd rather"--which speak for the rhetor and every possible addressee (no matter what situation they happen to find themselves in when reading the post). This speaks to the human condition, the American Dream, and most importantly the very ethos behind Bad Cake Records or ANY DIY label (major record companies release [blank] but I'd rather release [blank]).

Ultimately, The image and the text work together to unify the ethos of hard work/responsibility with the ethos of the DIY record label--which hopefully captivates the attention of anyone (be they a music enthusiast or not) who works hard and would rather be doing something else with their time.

Orange Milk Records 2/20/18*

For this post, I will be focusing on one of my favorite (and successful) DIY labels: Orange Milk Records.
http://orangemilkrecords.bandcamp.com

What's interesting about Orange Milk Records is the simplicity of their online presence (I say this is interesting because of their level of notoriety and success in the DIY realm--which I believe is largely due to the fact that the music they put out very much speaks for itself [but that's another can of worms for another time]). Posts are kept to a minimum, and the owners' personalities are largely a mystery--which makes analyzing their rhetorical approach a little more difficult.

Retweet #1

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A large benefit of online popularity is the ability to retweet praises from fans--rather than try and boast about the quality of your catalogue yourself (which, as anyone in advertising knows, is never as successful as testimonials). Orange Milk Records' rhetorical approach relies heavily on this aspect (retweets and other external means) to get their simple message (our music is good, people like it, you should too) across.

That being said, the ethos that defines Orange Milk (meaning, the two gentleman who run the label [Keith Rankin and Seth Graham]) is largely veiled. Obviously it's safe to say that Orange Milk is pleased whenever someone praises their catalogue via a tweet or Instagram post or online music review. However, what's more important to note is that the OM Twitter feed is comprised mostly of retweets--which means that a lot of the rhetorical work is already accomplished for them (minus a few clicks here and there). In this, it's not quite fair to call OM the overall rhetor (even though they ARE still the ones doing the retweeting) of the rhetorical situation. The fans/music reviewers become the collective rhetor.

In the retweet posted above, the kairos of the rhetorical situation is palpable. "angel marcloid" has fit a lot of important information into one sentence:

1. Orange Milk Records will be releasing a new batch of music tomorrow.
2. Orange Milk Records releases music on Bandcamp.
3. Orange Milk Records is an Internet label with a heavy focus on electronic Internet music (hence the image included with the post--which anyone with knowledge of keyboard shortcuts knows is a tongue-in-cheek troll [alt, f4 closes the current window in most Windows operating systems]).
4. "angel marcloid" is so much of a fan that they do not rely on OM to remind them to check their website for new releases (which, as I mentioned before, means that "angel marcloid" is not an addressee but instead a part of the collective rhetor).

In Internet culture, the ability to convey immediacy/urgency is the only way to maintain relevancy. With one simple retweet of a one-sentence post, OM is able to amplify the exigence of the rhetorical situation effortlessly. The bulk of the OM Twitter feed is a continuous example of this simple but effective rhetorical approach.

2/24/18: In Regards To "New" Rhetoric Found In Microblogging

Instead of focusing on a Twitter or Instagram feed operated by an online DIY label, I'm going to briefly respond to a Master's Thesis written by Jeffery C. Swift of Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) entitled: "Twitter Rhetoric: From Kinetic to Potential"--and apply his basic ideas to my own explorations of social media rhetoric.
https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=3532&context=etd

The bottom line of Swift's thesis is that the use of Twitter as a rhetorical platform has spawned a new form of rhetoric altogether, which he terms "potential" rhetoric (and the traditional form of rhetoric we are all well-acquainted with he refers to as "kinetic"). He uses electricity as a metaphor for the distinction between these two forms. He writes, "Traditional rhetoric is akin to focused electrical transmission: one-time strategic transfer of energy in a particular moment...The new kind of rhetoric, on the other hand, is more comparable to preparation for a future transfer of electricity through the construction of an electrical power grid..." (Swift, 2). He goes on to suppose that traditional rhetoric's mission is to change an addressee's mind the very moment the rhetorical message is delivered, whereas new "potential" rhetoric's mission is to merely construct a rhetorical message and basically leave it to be found by addressees whenever they happen to stumble upon it (hence the electrical power grid metaphor). So, in Swift's mind, the kairos of any given rhetorical situation--within the Twitter realm--can potentially stretch on infinitely.

Partly, I agree with Swift. As opposed to a State of the Union address or a meeting at the workplace (or anything that would occur in a designated time or place in the physical world), a rhetorical situation in the digital plane exists (to begin with, at least) in the same way that the hypothetical tree that fell in the woods with no one to hear it exists. It starts without a set audience. It's alone to begin with (and may end up being alone forever if its overall message fails to captivate addressees--which is often the case on the Twitter platform). Once the Tweet button is pressed, the responsibility to disseminate the rhetorical message is largely shifted to potential addressees. It's up to to followers or non-followers to happen upon it, to receive electricity from the power grid, to be captivated.

The problem I see, though, with Swift's metaphor is that rhetorical situations on Twitter are pretty "kinetic" (rather than "potential") if you have a good number of followers (especially followers who actually follow you out of genuine interest). And though the kairos of a rhetorical situation may still technically be nearly infinite (being that you can scroll back weeks or months or even years in your Twitter feed if you're really that bored), the immediate still takes precedence (due to both the high frequency of tweets any Twitter user is subjected to [that number being incredibly high the more people the user follows] and the very nature of a Twitter user in general [it's called micro-blogging for a reason--each tweet, for the most part, being nothing more than a drop in the river in the end]). Unless you're the POTUS or Taylor Swift or Elon Musk, your tweets will rely on "kinetic" potential rather than "potential" potential.

In regards to DIY online music labels though, there seems to exist a sort of symbiotic co-existence between the "kinetic" and the "potential". When you take into account the overall rhetorical message that all online labels share ("We sell good music you've never heard of and you should most definitely purchase it--either digitally or physically"), both forms of rhetoric work together to help the labels grow (or at least survive). When a label releases a new album or multiple albums at a time, an online label will undoubtedly rely on "kinetic" rhetoric to reach as many potential customers as possible. It's time-sensitive (at least to begin with)--being that most self-sustaining labels (or even major labels, really) rely on album sales to finance future albums. And unless you only plan on releasing one album a year, "kinetic" rhetoric is paramount to selling copies within the time-span of a few weeks to a month. However, "potential" rhetoric plays a seminal role in the overall vibrancy of an online DIY label--meaning, it works to maintain the identity of the label as a whole rather than sing the praises of a particular album. Tweets are never deleted by the platform itself (but can of course be removed by admins or the Tweeter if the situation calls for it), so they build up over time and ultimately bind with each other and become part of one singular historical document--an artifact with character (and yes, a heavily reinforced rhetorical message).

So, with that in mind, every Tweet/Instagram post that may have served as a "kinetic" rhetorical message to begin with ultimately becomes a "potential" rhetorical message after a certain amount of time has passed. The kairos exists in multiple planes, as do the rhetorical messages that inhabit its realms. A good album may have came out five years ago--which you had no idea existed until yesterday. You would never have heard about it had you not been scrolling through Twitter/Instagram and happened upon the original release post from five years before. The timeliness aspect may not mean what it did originally (especially since the cassettes have more than likely sold out by now--being that most small releases consist of no more than fifty to one-hundred copies)--but the underlying rhetorical message still remains (this is a good album and you should buy it).

3/5/2018 -- A brief return to Bad Cake Records

It's been bothering me as of late--so I'm going to touch on this particular post I made on February 6th 2018:

text

Obviously, I had two motives with this post (which any dimwit could fathom):
1.) Pure honesty--I really do love ordering cassettes from DIY labels and I really do believe that more people should spend their money on music rather than commercial bullshit.
2.) I want more people to know about Bad Cake Records and order more tapes from me.

Rhetorically though, I feel this post is pretty strong--despite my fairly obvious scheme. Who says rhetorical attacks need to be veiled?
Like any Instagram post, the image and text work together to deliver the rhetorical message. The image is simple--four cassettes lined up next to each other (the cassettes coming from 3 different DIY labels total) with nothing else in the background to distract the addressee (for some addressees, the image alone would be enough to convince them to hit the heart button and check out the associated Instagram bios and click on the links to the labels' Bandcamp pages). The text is where the bulk of the rhetorical attack resides though:

1. I establish a complicated kairos with the first few sentences--where I express my hope that people don't stop producing cassettes anytime soon AND that it's very possible it may happen due to the fact that nothing is sacred anymore these days (which everyone is whole-heartedly aware of). This both creates a dull urgency (which hopefully beckons folks to order cassettes while they're still around) and a general emotional camaraderie between the Bad Cake Records ethos and any Instagram user who takes the time to read the rather lengthy post and realize that he/she DOES exist in a very fickle (fad-speaking) reality.

2. I utilize the "tree that fell in the woods" scenario and compare it (metaphorically) to owning a cassette that less than 30 people in the entire world own--which speaks to the collective ethos behind rare music collectors (a good number of whom are people who tend to search sites like Bandcamp and Discogs and what-have-you to find just the kind of stuff I've been releasing via Bad Cake Records).

3. I use three examples of commercial excess (franchise coffee shops, Hobby Lobby, and Target) to jokingly (only sort of) shame people who are complacent and willfully ignorant of anything that can be considered honest, true art. These things, in any other non-rhetorical circumstance, would seem relatively normal to almost anyone. However, when they are presented in this context (under a photo of 4 cassettes [so outdated it's hilarious--to the typical person who doesn't buy physical copies of music anymore, at least] that pretty much NO ONE knows much about at all), these examples become frivolous and tacky (hopefully).

4. I tag the related labels in both the image and text below--so as to draw their attention (and hopefully a number of their fans' attention) to my post.

5. Most importantly, I group all 4 cassettes together--into one image. Although they are from different labels, they work together now to project the heart of my rhetorical message: All of us hopeless, music-obsessed nerds are in this losing game together--so let's support each other.

Ultimately, the post garnered the usual amount of likes/shares. Two of the labels I tagged commented and shared the post via Twitter and their own Instagram feeds--but it didn't have much of an effect. So it goes.

Field Hymn Records 3/15/2018

For this post, I will be examining one of my favorite cassette labels: Field Hymn Records--who are based out of Iowa. They release a variety of experimental music ranging from noise rock to bedroom electronic stuff. Why they're worth mentioning in this ongoing study of online DIY label rhetoric, though, is not the variety of the sub-genres in their catalogue but rather the variety of identifiable ethoses in their Twitter posts (which ultimately renders their online presence both complicated and effective).

As you can see from prior posts, labels usually tend to stick to one ethos (or at least one attitude--for lack of a better term). Field Hymns, however, dances around various attitudes without care (but still with charm and conscious restraint). From what I can tell by studying their extensive Twitter feed, this calculated carelessness has not really had a negative effect on album sales or general online presence. It goes without saying that anyone who falls within the 1,000-10,000 range of followers does not really need to worry about upsetting THAT many people with polarizing posts (a couple hundred people may seem like a lot in person--but when translated to Internet numbers, this is nothing more than a few drops in the digital river).

text

With this post, the Field Hymns ethos can be perceived as self-satisfied, confident (nearly cocky), all-knowing, friendly (hence the "Good Morning" added in at the end). Below this surface level sales pitch is the all-familiar urgency that works so well in the marketing world. "We can't wait any longer" they say. This excitement that apparently cannot be contained really does wonders for their overall rhetorical message though (that message being the usual: this album is great and you should buy it). By admitting that they are unable to control their own excitement about the impending release, they are insinuating that the quality of the record truly is out of their hands (meaning it truly is a great record, and they aren't merely blowing steam up everyone's ass). I feel like the "Good Morning" added on at the end of the tweet really ties it all together too. I imagine that scene in a movie when the main character achieves a small (but important) victory and sets off into the streets to project their happiness onto passing strangers (maybe they'll dance with an old woman for a moment or stop and pet someone's poodle or something of that nature). Authenticity. The raw power of a great record. The truth of it all contained in between the lines of a minimal tweet.

text

This tweet (or retweet actually) does not require analysis when considered alone. However, in context with the rest of Field Hymns' tweets, it does serve a rhetorical purpose beyond the obvious (the obvious being the fairly popular "Trump is a hypocritical moron" message) and therefore DOES require analysis.

1. It has nothing to do with Field Hymns really--nothing to do with the music, nothing to do with the overall image of the label (from what I can tell from their releases and album artwork and general aesthetic, I don't really see anything blatantly politically charged), nothing to do with art at all.

2. The contrasting images (one being a Trump tweet from February regarding the Parkland school shooting, the other being a headline regarding Trump's decision to remove the Obama-era restrictions on firearm purchases) do most of the rhetorical work. The text written by Field Hymns only reinforces the contradiction pointed out by the conflicting images.

3. What does it say about Field Hymns? It DOES show which way they lean politically. It also merely shows that they are people who stay tuned in to current events.

Ultimately what a seemingly irrelevant tweet like this does when presented in such a way (sandwiched between other posts that pertain only to music released by the label) is create a sense of worldliness, a sort of authenticity that speaks to the label's place in reality. A lot of labels seem to focus on offering listeners the opportunity to escape from the crushing realities of the real world. In a lot of instances, this is the general mission of labels and artists alike. However, when a label like Field Hymns throws something like this into the mix, something positive and effective is achieved, I think. For most who follow them, it is a welcome reminder that he or she is not alone in their feelings of disgust and hatred for the current state of the country--and this warm feeling can translate into a great number of emotions. And many of those emotions may lead to the purchasing of one or more cassettes.

3/31/2018 -- Midway (perhaps a little past the midpoint) Project Report

Yes, it's been a little too long since my last post. Believe it or not, I do keep my eye out on a daily basis for interesting/viable rhetorical situations that deserve to be discussed on this wiki. However:

This project has proven to be more difficult than I initially assumed it would be in the beginning. This is mostly due to the fact that a great number of the online DIY labels I follow or have stumbled upon in the process of working on this project use similar rhetorical tactics when advertising their catalogues on social media--and they are so similar that it's hard to differentiate between them. There are some subtle differences, yes, and I have been doing my best trying to point those out. A little too often though, I feel like I'm stretching things too far. It comes with the territory, I suppose.

All that aside though, I do believe this project has (so far) ultimately been a success. Though my frequency of posts has been less than what I initially planned for, the posts themselves contain enough information/analysis to make up for that.

My plan for going forward is to both continue on with my current format (providing visual examples of different rhetorical situations on social media platforms and analyzing them as we have done before in previous rhetoric classes) and push further into the academic research realm of things (which I, for the most part, ignored thus far--minus my post on 2/24/18 regarding microblogging). Hopefully I will be able to find more articles that pertain to this type of study of online rhetoric. Including other perspectives on this subject will (I assume) provide me with more wiggle room, open up some doors that I haven't been able to see thus far.
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