tap tap... tap tap... is this thing on?

On the internet, permanence, nostalgia, memory, and more.
A few weeks ago we discovered an AI bot was using my name to draw clicks to their computer-generated music. If you *know* what my music sounds like in any way whatsoever, you would never mistake one Vanessa Peters for the other, but if not, you might be inclined to click on the most recent release that shows up when you search for my name in Spotify or Apple Music. And this is a problem for a number of reasons, the first of which is that we’ve been sharing demos of our new music with publicists and industry folks and I don’t want this other Vanessa Peters (who doesn’t actually exist) to muddy the waters.

I had never bothered to trademark my name because, honestly, I never saw a need to do so. I’m not the only Vanessa Peters in the world, but it’s not a wildly common name, so I guess I always assumed that if by chance another musician named Vanessa Peters came along, she would change her name before hitting the record button — because it would be the logical business thing to do. Why risk losing clicks to another person with the same name? Alas, that is actually the strategy of the bots — generate some fake tunes with famous song titles (they released songs like “Jolene” and “Keep On Loving You” under my name) and hope that people click on either the artist or the song title to hear more, and in doing so, maybe they generate a play and the accompanying .0003 that play pays. Seems like a hard way to make a buck (trust me on this, bot), but there you have the scheme in a nutshell.

Turns out that the only way to fight this is to trademark “Vanessa Peters” as a brand — and I bet you can see me gagging a bit and rolling my eyes at the absurdity of the whole thing — but here we are. I’ve engaged the services of a lawyer and have embarked on this path, which leads me to the point of this post. In order to “trademark my brand,” I have to establish proof that I’m a legitimate business enterprise, that I’ve existed since X time in history, etc, all of which has led me to dive deep into my digital archives which are, um….. disorganized at best.

Like most creatives my age, I grew up with a foot firmly in the analog world, but a hand stretched towards the digital landscape, which is always changing and shifting and seems to sit just beyond my reach. My first website, www.vanessapeters.net, went live in 2002; later I was able to claim .com and have owned both for 20 years. I had a MySpace page that worked very well for me, and I was super late to Facebook; never really liked it and still don’t. I had a Blogspot page — https://vanessapeters.blogspot.com/ — that still exists, even though I haven’t updated it since 2010 (until today! more on that below). I used Tumblr for about a week, was a pretty half-hearted Twitterer except during baseball season, and have probably enjoyed Instagram most of all until the algorithms more or less rendered it ineffective for reaching my listeners. And this doesn’t even touch on Google Plus, or Sonicbids, which for a time was a must-have website for musicians looking to book gigs by themselves (something that was *way* easier in the mid-2000s and has become essentially impossible to do at scale at this point in time).

I have folder upon folder saved in my Drive cloud, and in Dropbox, and on a personal server, and on God-knows-how-many defunct jump drives and time machines. It’s all a hot mess and every time I open that digital drawer and take a peek, I get a little queasy and decide to tackle some other insurmountable task like self-employment taxes or booking a tour (see above).

My lawyer asked me for the first dates that my websites went live, and I had to call upon the Wayback Machine // Internet Archive to research myself. What a fascinating trip down memory lane that proved to be. It was both heartwarming and heartwrenching to see little VP.net morph over the years, to watch myself try to figure it out, making it up as I went along. I started making music at a time when DIY was all the rage — who needed a label, anyway? We indie artists were encouraged to do-it-all — and so I wrote press releases and booked tours and arranged recording sessions and crowdfunded my albums and helped drive the van and write and sing the songs and held down jobs and relationships and had a kickass credit score and paid off my student loans and more or less conquered the world until I was too tired to see straight. The two ends of the candle met in the middle and I was done. It’s funny (and sad) that the Wayback Machine doesn’t seem to have anything for the site from 2008-2010, because that was when we — Manuel and I, sometimes with and sometimes without ICOM — were at our busiest, playing more than 150 shows/year at one point. Running on empty, indeed.

Back then I kept a tour blog, but I stopped updating it when VP&ICOM were no more, and by the time I began to tour again, too many other social media sites had dug their claws into our collective conscious, and Blogspot seemed ancient and quaint. So it’s been interesting to see the rise of Substack, which seems like a fancier version of Blogspot or any of those original blogging platforms. Several of my favorite musicians — Neko Case, Joe Pernice, and others — have a Substack, and I have been thinking of starting one… but then I wonder if once again I’m just signing away my creative content to some other faceless service that will one day vanish, like ArtistData and Sonicbids and Myspace and GooglePlus and OneSheet and Tumblr and Flickr and LastFM and so many others more or less have (yes, I know some of them still exist but I assume you take my point). Would love to hear your collective thoughts on the relative merits of Substack over just a regular old blog, hosted right here on my own website. For now I'm updated the Blogspot page and importing it into my website, as it seems the most pratical thing to do. I'm nothing if not pratical (no doubt to a fault).

Speaking of websites: VP.com has continued to morph over the years. It’s now on its 3rd or 4th webmaster (the current one being the indefatigable and downright fantastic Rip Rowan, a man of many hats himself). It was lovely to flip through the archive and see each new version of the site that would accompany a new album release. There’s a new version up these days, as we inch ever closer to releasing new music. I know I've been saying for a long time that "new music is coming soon." If you could feel the pain that I feel, watching the record sit at 99% but not yet released into the world, you would be more forgiving of our repetitiveness. ;)

Let me know if this broadcast made it to any of you -- you can post below, or you can leave a comment on Instagram. Hope these smoke signals manage to cut through a bit of the noise. love and vermentino, vanessa

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