From accusal to outrage to betrayal: how a music career ended in just 48 hours
Indie pop-punk duo PWR BTTM were beloved of their LGBTQ fan base, until allegations of sexual assault emerged online
Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins from the New York band PWR BTTM
It’s probably true to say that a lot more people now know about PWR BTTM than was the case a month ago. Certainly, most people now know at least how to pronounce the queer punk duo’s vowel-adverse name.
The reason for all of this is down to a 48-hour period of activity recently when PWR BTTM received the kind of worldwide attention and exposure which no act wants to get. Two days before the release of new album Pageant, band member Ben Hopkins was accused of a number of incidents of sexual assault in a post in a private Facebook group.
Something of this ilk does not remain private for too long online and the accusations spread like wildfire. An interview in Jezebel with one of the alleged victims added another dimension to the story.
They have had dozens of upcoming shows and festival appearances cancelled and have seen their music yanked from various streaming services
By the time the album release date came along, the story about PWR BTTM was no longer about the music. The band issued various statements denying the charges and strongly contesting some of the allegations.
Most of those associated with the band moved rapidly to distance themselves from the growing story. PWR BTTM have been dropped by their management company and record label, and are no longer listed on their booking agent’s website. They have had dozens of upcoming shows and festival appearances cancelled and have seen their music yanked from various streaming services.
There are many learnings from this story, but the main one is the remarkable speed at which all of this unfolded. Within 48 hours of the initial allegation appearing online, the band’s reputation was in tatters.
The reason for such sudden and complete outrage was the band showing up the disconnect between perception and reality. PWR BTTM may have prided themselves on standing up for outsiders and the marginalised through requests for gender neutral bathrooms at their shows and public support for various LGBTQ causes.
However, the fact that a member of the band is alleged to have acted in a totally different way towards members of that same fan base was taken as a betrayal. Worse, the band did not take immediate responsibility for what happened and handled the issue in a poorly thought-out and tone-deaf fashion, with another statement last weekend merely compounding the sense of betrayal.
The pushback since has been rapid and severe. No police charges have yet been brought against Hopkins although his career and that of PWR BTTM seem to be at an end. Such is the absolute black and white nature of how this story has been framed and viewed, there appears to be no way back.
It’s a timely lesson for all acts out there who identify themselves as part of a clearly defined community like PWR BTTM did. If you are alleged to have carried on in a manner which that same group find wrong and abhorrent, there will be serious, immediate repercussions. We now know that it takes less than 48 hours for a promising band with a decent profile to become a case study in how things can go badly wrong.
You can’t ignore or mishandle a story like this and hope it goes away, especially when you identify so closely with your fan base. It’s safe to say that there will be very few PWR BTTM T-shirts sold in the coming months.