Neal Unger, a 61-year-old skateboarder, does a trick off a picnic bench in the video for "Young & Unafraid" by The Moth & the Flame.

The Moth & the Flame Goes Viral: Did Reddit Save the Day, or Fall for a Marketing Stunt?

Edit: After everything in this post happened, The Moth & the Flame held an AMA on Reddit. When I saw how vicious the redditors got I regretted writing this. Like I say at the conclusion of this post, I like the band. I like them as people, from the times I’ve met them, and I like them as musicians. They don’t deserve the level of acrimony that they’re getting on Reddit. But I’m leaving this post up because I wrote it, and I’ll own that. And because if the whole thing was planned by Elektra or WMG, or by anyone, then hopefully this story can be a lesson to others later.

You might have heard The Moth & the Flame‘s debut single, “Young & Unafraid”, here on the blog a couple weeks ago. Last week the band released the song’s video featuring 61-year-old skateboarder Neal Unger. (It’s delightful, and you can watch it below — but first keep reading, trust me.)

Well, this weekend things got weird for The Moth & the Flame, with the video going viral and the band getting no credit for it. I found what I’m about to tell you thanks to an anonymous Reddit user.

What do you think happened here? Read through it, and leave me a comment to tell me your take:

1) The video was released on May 4.

2) Sometime this weekend, maybe Saturday, a British skateboarding publication called Sidewalk Magazine posted the video on their Facebook, with the opening credit missing and no mention of the band. That meant The Moth & the Flame had no way to get discovered via the Facebook post. In fact, it appears that the magazine linked to an unrelated band for some reason. (Since then, that post has been deleted.)

3) The no-credit video went viral because Internet.

4) Sunday, Reddit user Kontiki1947 — presumably a member of the band — asked for help on the Music subreddit. Since then the Reddit post has gotten over 2200 comments and a whole mess of upvotes.

5) A mob of people took to Sidewalk’s Facebook, demanding that the band receive credit for their video and their song.

6) Apparently, the comment barrage came during a period of time that was overnight in Britain, and Sidewalk’s staff logged in to Facebook Monday morning to find a big surprise.

7) As mentioned above, the original Facebook post was deleted. Sidewalk posted an apology around midday (that’s British time — it was this morning in the US) including a link to the original TM&TF video.

8) Here’s where it gets weird and a little conspiracy-y. At some point, someone on Reddit starts saying “Hey, these guys are signed to a Warner Music Group label. Did someone in corporate decide to make this happen?” Like did WMG pay Sidewalk to post a hacked version of the video, then take to a community like Reddit to get the band’s name out there?

9) It turns out the hacked music video was also posted on Facebook by some entity called “Wild Bunch Project”. Who uses the Warner Brothers logo. Which is super insane if it’s only a coincidence. I don’t know if WBP posted it first, or Sidewalk.

10) Now that this whole thing has gone down, the original video on YouTube has a half-million views, and thousands of people are talking about the band who wouldn’t have known them otherwise. At least one Reddit commenter said that they bought all of The Moth & the Flame’s music that they could find on iTunes.

11) The story even got picked up by The Telegraph (and then retweeted by The Moth & the Flame):

So that’s what I’ve got. I really, really like the guys in The Moth & the Flame, and I don’t get the feeling that this kind of thing would be the brainchild of any of them. But were they complicit? Did they go along with a plan by WMG to leverage Reddit and reap the publicity?

Well, in the end, what if they did? Maybe this is just how marketing is done now. It’s a risk a lot of people are willing to take to get noticed and make a living in an ever more crowded, competitive music market. I’d like to think I wouldn’t do the same, but I can’t judge anyone for doing so. I mean, the whole ordeal got you to read this far.

Here’s the video (don’t forget to leave me a comment and let me know what you think about this whole thing!):