Human curiosity is a feral beast. If we know something exists, it’s often difficult to restrain our urge to satiate our curiosity about it. This is the model upon which the internet is largely based: Websites garner traffic because they offer information or content we’re looking for. Is this why a site like Is Anyone Up?—a blog that collects naked photographs of musicians and others loosely affiliated with the scene—can flourish in only a few short months of existence?
Nudity on the internet is far from a new trend. In a study conducted during the first quarter of 2010, global IT security company Optenet found that 37 percent of all content on the internet is pornographic in nature. It’s not really surprising that a site like Is Anyone Up? exists. What is interesting is that it found a niche in the emo/pop-punk scene and features leaked nude photos of members of groups ranging from Emarosa to A Day To Remember.
Is Anyone Up? is the brainchild of HUNTER MOORE, who describes himself on his Twitter page as a “professional life ruiner.” Although the site has only been around three months, it’s already a household name around the scene. When Moore posted photos of ALL TIME LOW bassist ZACK MERRICK, it received so much attention that Merrick became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. But where are these photos coming from? Is this site legal? And, most importantly, is it fair to post private photos of someone just because they happen to make music?
Merrick, who was on tour in Brazil when photos of him first surfaced on the site, says his pictures are the result of a previous long-distance relationship and are more than three years old. While he’s fairly certain he knows who submitted them to the site, he’s decided to refrain from calling her out. He says that sexting is almost a necessity in his line of work. “It sucks because I’m never home,” says Merrick. “I have to do that when I’m hanging out with a girl or whatever. The funny thing is [that the suspected girl] thinks I don’t still have her pictures. [But] I’m not going to retaliate. I’m not going to sink to her level.”
Moore tells Altpress he started the site because it’s “some sort of high for me to see someone I know naked and to point and laugh or get turned on.” Ex-girlfriends or flings from the past generally submit band member photos, but other posts—mostly of young, tattooed girls—appear to often be self-submitted. “I started the site and added a submission form and within days had 20 to 30 e-mails,” says Moore. “The band pictures are almost too easy. They seem to hand them out to anyone who asks. The fans love it when we post their favorite artists’ pictures. The bands usually hate it or love it. I think their penis is positive for the band. No press is bad press—especially if it’s about your penis.”
From those submissions, Moore selects his favorites, although he also posts non-nudes of musicians and others in a recurring section called “Who Would You Rather?” Recently, one of those posts pitted former AP Tour mates JESS BOWEN (drummer for THE SUMMER SET) and Cassadee Pope (frontwoman of Hey Monday) against each other. Although Moore posted photos of both ladies fully clothed, Bowen says the post didn’t really upset her because “we weren’t naked and we didn’t do anything wrong.” But it also made her question the relationships fans have with bands these days. “The fans—on a personal level—want to know and almost be best friends with musicians,” says Bowen. “They want to know everything about their personal lives, and that’s why they have these outlets like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook where everyone’s just trying to become your best friend. I think fans are trying to get to know you on that level and they almost want to experience whatever you’re experiencing. Personally, I don’t get it because I was never like that when I was younger with any of the bands I listened to. These days, it just seems like the internet has become a place where fans try to hang on to the personal lives of musicians.”
Of course, the look fans are getting at their favorite artists on sites like Is Anyone Up? isn’t even the sort of glance most people offer their closest friends. One of the major differences between that site and a typical porn site like Burning Angel—also rooted in the emo/punk scene—is that the people featured on Is Anyone Up? are often unwilling participants. When nude photos of Pete Wentz leaked online five years ago, it caused a huge stir and forced Wentz to address both the existence of the photos and what they said about him as a person. This isn’t all that different.
Moore says he will willingly remove any photo if a person uses the removal form on the site, but Merrick says ATL’s management has repeatedly asked for his images to be taken down, to no avail. While the bassist has tried to put his best face forward and handle the situation with self-respect and maturity, the entire thing has affected him greatly. “I tried not to make it seem like it was a big deal, but it sucks,” he says. “Everyone was trying to cheer me up by saying, ‘Dude, it’s actually a good picture. At least you’re not doing anything weird!’ It’s just funny how people are. All I can say is it just sucked for a while. I was in Brazil—this beautiful country—and I’m just thinking, ‘What do I tell my parents if they find out? What do I tell all my friends?’ When you’re in a band and you get popular, people think you don’t have feelings and don’t think you’re a real person. They think nothing can break you.”
DESTROY REBUILD UNTIL GOD SHOWS frontman CRAIG OWENS agrees. “A kid on the internet will say in a second, ‘You signed up for this. You signed up to have people pay attention.’ But that isn’t necessarily true. We just signed up to play music, and the rest comes with it.”
Owens has a unique relationship with Is Anyone Up?. In hopes of helping fans get their focus back to the music, Owens and his management recently staged a stunt in which they faked a sex tape and, in conjunction with In Anyone Up?, leaked stills of it online. Fans freaked out over this reported Craig Owens sex tape, posting comments online decrying Owens’ actions and criticizing his behavior. But then the stunt was linked to the release of a video for a new song called “Sex Life,” which Owens says is a metaphor for his personal life. Once the video emerged, Owens came forward with a lengthy Tumblr post about how and why he’d faked this sex tape. “For some reason, it is embedded into our nature as humans to be interested in the lives of others,” he wrote on his Tumblr page. “Good, bad or indifferent, this is simply how we are wired. Each and every day, we read the gossip in blogs and magazines, see it on the internet and the news and discuss it in the halls and at the dinner table; being interested in others is just a part of the way we operate. Whether it is celebrities, your friends or your neighbors, we have this odd and utter fascination with something beyond our own selves (we’re all guilty, myself included). And unfortunately, nowadays in music, it seems to be more and more about the scandals and the gossip rather than the message and, most importantly, the music. We’re quick to tear others down based upon what we want to believe is true in our own minds, not what is actual truth and the music becomes pushed into the background.”
He added, “In doing this I simply wanted to convey, in a creative way, the human knee-jerk reaction to be so interested in someone else’s personal life. I really hope that no one has taken this the wrong way. I can only hope that maybe our little stunt here may cause some of us to stop and think about why it exactly is that we even enjoy music in the first place.”
Did it work? To a degree, Owens thinks it did. He received numerous apologies from friends and fans once it became clear what had really gone down. It was also the first time a band had used Is Anyone Up? in a promotional way. While it may not be exactly right for Moore to post leaked photos, no one can deny the attention it offers musicians. Although Merrick is not happy that several photos of him grace the site, he does concede the promotion isn’t a bad thing in the long run—especially since All Time Low are preparing to release their new album, Dirty Work. “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s probably better for me since we have a new record coming out next month. Look at that Kanye West/Taylor Swift [MTV VMAs incident]. Her album sales went up, like, 25 percent the next week. We’ve been gone for a while. We haven’t put a new record out in a while. It’s been awhile since we toured in the United States. Granted, the record’s not on [the minds of viewers of Is Anyone Up?], but being that I’m part of the band, it probably puts it on their mind a little bit.”
It’s difficult to know if most of the other musicians on the site feel the same as Merrick. Numerous featured artists were unwilling to discuss their experiences for this story, and a large number of publicists, managers and record label employees also wouldn’t discuss it with Altpress. So is it better to ignore leaked photos or to address the issue and determine why fans seem so interested in them?