Arts & Entertainment

Rockers, fully exposed on Is Anyone Up?

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Josh Grabelle did what any responsible label head would when he found out one of the artists on his roster at Bullet Tooth Records was pictured naked online. Grabelle warned the young drummer, then sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hunter Moore, the owner of the amateur nudity site, Is Anyone Up? "These are good, wholesome Christian kids," Grabelle said. "[The drummer] was freaked out. I was freaked out. The kid is 19."

Grabelle finally got the photos removed and was prepared to do the same for the two other Bullet Tooth acts that appeared on the site, but to Grabelle's surprise, his artists said don't bother.

One of those bands that declined was Deception of a Ghost. "I think it can only help," said group guitarist Buddy Dameron. His bandmate appears nude on the site, and Dameron said it's been nothing but positive exposure for the act. "People who haven't heard of us have seen that. If you were talking about Taylor Swift, then yes, it would be a problem. But for a rock 'n' roll band? I don't see it being an issue."

Far from being an issue, some artists are viewing Is Anyone Up? as a way to get their bands heard — and seen. The 1-year-old site generates more than 1.6 million unique visitors per month, according to Google Analytics stats provided by its proprietor, and has posted hundreds of nude photos of band members from the middle and lower echelons of hard rock. The photos are often paired with promotional images from Facebook or the band's own websites.

The online museum of indie nakedness is aimed directly at the type of punk and hard rock favored by the Warped Tour. For many of these bands, 15,000 albums sold would be a success, and with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter flooded with unknown artists, a nude photo is instant-awareness.

And it's not just artists who are seeing the site as a valuable source of promotion.

Grabelle, whose independent Bullet Tooth is based in Tinton Falls, N.J., has bought ad space on Is Anyone Up? (as have other small labels like his). "Would I like a site like this to not exist? Yes," he said. "But it does exist, and this is the world we live in. I'm marketing to kids aged 16 to 30, and that's the site they're going to. I know that because I cannot go anywhere — anywhere — without this site being brought up."

Rock publicist Rey Roldan has seen a significant portion of his roster appear on Is Anyone Up? and said "there have been a few times" in which he was able to turn leaked nude photos of an unknown band into a story. Long-term ramifications? They'll worry about those later, if at all.

Any hard rock artists who have ever "sexted" photos of themselves to girlfriends or groupies (sexting is the sending of a lewd message or photograph via a mobile device) could quite easily find themselves featured on the site. The photos are submitted anonymously by users.

The pictures are organized under general categories such as "girls," "guys" and "band." The presentation is crude, and includes pin-up shots as well as full-frontals and strategic close-ups. There's little, if any, editorial, but plenty of room for users to comment, most of it unkind. Example? Followers have referred to those they deem unattractive as "gnargoyles."

Sexting is part of life on the road, according to numerous musicians. "On Warped Tour, when you're in a band and you drink, you show these [photos] to your friends as a joke," said the Millionaires' 22-year-old singer Melissa Marie Green, who's in a band with her sister, Allison. The Huntington Beach electro-pop duo specializes in sexually suggestive lyrics. "When you're in a band, you understand why these pictures are up. To the general public, it might be extreme, but to people in the industry, it's not uncommon."

Green is not nude on Is Anyone Up? but said it's "likely just a matter of time" before someone submits her. "I'm not going to complain about that. Our fans are on this site. This is as big as it can be without being on television, but it's just good for our band. Sex and nudity is becoming a lot more relaxed. In 10 years everyone will be naked."

In the meantime, there are still bands who'd like to avoid Moore and the type of exposure his site generates.

"People I know are afraid that they might have a picture out, and scared of what he will do if he gets hold of it," said Dante Phoenix, the Long Beach-bred guitarist of Picture Me Broken. "Yes, it's exposure, but is it the right exposure?"

"I honestly think a lot of bands are getting a lot more attention than they deserve because of this site," said Joe Letz, a New York-based drummer whose biggest claim to fame beside appearing naked on Is Anyone Up? is working with Tim Sköld of Marilyn Manson.

That trepidation has made Moore, 25, a feared character among even the most burly, crass and tattooed rockers. "I'm not an evil guy," said Moore, who runs the site out of his Marin County home. He argued that those who appear naked on his site have only themselves to blame. The music connection was natural for Moore, who had briefly worked as a tour manager for the Millionaires. As for the triple-X connection, Moore said he was a hairstylist for online pornography shoots when he decided to launch the site. He also collected pictures of naked women, many of whom he dated or knew. After a falling out with one of them, he took to the Web and exposed her to the world. "I just put it up there, and it got 14,000 hits," he said.

Seeing an opportunity, he borrowed his mother's credit card to buy server space. After announcing the site via Twitter, nudes from strangers started hitting his in-box. Today, he receives enough nudes for at least 10 posts a day and claims his site brings in on average $8,000 per month, half of which covers server costs.

Lawyer Reza Sina, who represents Moore, said his client largely steers clear of legal trouble with his site because it consists of all user-submitted content. "When it comes to the pictures, users send them to be posted," Sina said. "That protects Is Anyone Up?"

The site also goes to great lengths to prevent underage content from appearing, Moore said. When photographs are submitted, they are sent to a cloud server where a post is automatically generated and must await approval from Moore or one of his two volunteers. Only digital images are allowed, as Moore uses multiple software programs to confirm when the photo was taken and if it is real and undoctored.

Moore then performs a quick background check on the subject — those submitting must provide a person's full name and city — and if anything is questionable or unverifiable, Moore said he contacts the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In the vast and untamed world of amateur erotica, Is Anyone Up? most broadly fits into the category of what the media have deemed "revenge porn." Many of its photos are taken with a cellphone and are believed to be submitted from a jilted ex or anonymous enemy. A recent episode of Anderson's Cooper's daytime talk show "Anderson" featured Moore as a guest, as well as a young woman who admitted submitting her friend's photo to the site out of what Cooper deemed "revenge."

Getting a photo removed from Is Anyone Up? is possible, but there are hurdles. First, sending a takedown request risks calling more attention to the picture, and, as Internet law attorney Colette Vogel said, "The practical problem is that it's out there. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube."

The Times contacted 30 non-musicians who appeared naked on Is Anyone Up? but received no responses. Most artists and labels contacted for this story declined to discuss the site on the record, including advertisers Century Media and Razor & Tie.

"Sometimes just letting it be and not doing anything online to draw attention to it is the best thing," said Vogel, who helps oversee nonprofit Without My Consent, which is dedicated to educating those who have had their privacy breached online.

Though Moore seems like the least likely character to preach self-restraint, when it comes to avoiding an embarrassing post on his site, abstinence may be the best defense. "My site is just a big campaign against technology and what you do with yourself," Moore said. If someone wants a photo removed, Moore said the subject needs to fill out the takedown form on his site. Emailing him directly, he said, won't accelerate the procedure. "I understand it can hurt your reputation and your job and yadda yadda yadda, but you have to go through a process," Moore said. "It's like the DMV. Pull a number and get in line."

Moore knows the site hasn't exactly made him popular. He once posted a story online in which he claimed to have been stabbed with a pen by an angry victim, but he declined to comment on the supposed incident.

And judging by the healthy turnout for a late summer party for Is Anyone Up? at West Hollywood's Key Club, which included several label representatives, those in the music world aren't avoiding Moore as much as one might imagine. During an interview outside the venue, Moore was interrupted numerous times by fans approaching him as if he were a rock star.

"My ex just sent you nudes the other day," said one college-aged boy who wanted to shake Moore's hand. A 17-year-old girl, who said she wanted to be a photographer, made the trip simply to greet Moore.

Moore has big plans to further legitimize the site. First, and perhaps within a few months, is to launch a mobile phone app. He envisions Is Anyone Up? becoming a social network dedicated to sex and rock 'n' roll. "I don't see this declining," Moore said. "You know how many girls send their own photos? It's odd. Why would you send me anything?"

todd.martens@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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