I’m currently in a fantasy football league with a bunch of music industry people I know from the internet. It’s been a wonderfully absurd ride of cross-cultural references and mild Asperger’s. There’s a special kind of rock-bottom geekiness required to post reasoned comparisons between Grimes and Arian Foster in a venue mostly known for its masculinity, and I am honored to be a part of such a profoundly stupid community.
So that got me thinking, what if there was a fantasy football league that took full advantage of the inherent dorkiness of being an indie rock fan? What if there was a music industry fantasy football league where instead of drafting players, we drafted bands? What if all the wasted time we spend obsessing over buzz, trends, and records actually factored into a competitive, persistent scoring system? The more I thought about this the more it sounded stupid in the best way possible, and because I’m feeling extra ‘spergsy today, I decided to draft a rulebook, my own rough interpretation of what a Fantasy Music Industry League would/should look like.
So, each player in the league would manage their own fantasy record label, and they’d have to fill it according to 10 “positions,” which would break down into these categories.
— 3 Major Label Artists
— 4 Indie Label Artists
— 2 Unsigned Artists
In the draft, I might pick up Modest Mouse for one of my major label slots, No Age for my indie label, and The Weeknd as my main unsigned guy. These restrictions are important because it will stop assholes from just drafting the entire G.O.O.D. Music roster and calling it a day. It’s just a lot more entertaining when you’re forced to take risks in a fantasy league. I would know; I’m starting Tony Romo.
SCORING AND MATCHUPS
Essentially, all of the scoring would be based around hype and acclaim. You could earn points from a Pitchfork 8.3, or a Noisey interview, and lose points after significant PR destroying moves (imagine if you were starting Wavves during the Primavera thing—oof). Because the music business moves a lot slower than a football season, our tentative Fantasy Music Industry would probably have our “games” on a much longer timeline—think around one to two months. So let’s say I’m faced up against fellow Noisey contributor Drew Millard for the month of January and February, and let’s say I’m starting James Blake. Imagine we’re in the third week of January, and James Blake announces a new EP. Right there, I’d score something like 3 points. Then a couple weeks later, Drew’s draftee Action Bronson is featured on a Rick Ross mixtape, he would score something like 5 points. At the end of the two-month period, whoever earned the most points would notch a win and be one step closer to the playoffs.
Obviously, pop music is filled with more wide-open drama than the regulated chaos of a football field, so the commissioner of the Fantasy Music Industry would need a sliding, interpretive perspective on the scoring. For instance, how many points would Kanye’s twitter feed be? Or the “Yonkers” video? Or Frank Ocean’s coming-out letter? How many points did Girls give up when they announced their break up? These are events that aren’t flatly definable like a touchdown, and should be handled accordingly.
Every year, a few chosen artists get a little momentum behind them. Some of them (Tapes ‘n Tapes) fade back into complete anonymity, but some of them (Danny Brown, Lana Del Rey) totally catch fire, put the whole world on notice, and end up on the cover of GQ. As the owner of your own Fantasy Record Label, you’ll be the person to take a gamble on these prospects. To do this, you’d have to drop one of the artists currently on your roster, which would probably be the source of all the shit-talk in the entire league. “LOL YOU DROPPED TV ON THE RADIO FOR SALEM YOU’RE SUCH A PROLE” or alternatively “YEAH I DROPPED TV ON THE RADIO FOR AZEALIA BANKS, I CALLED THAT SHIT.”
OTHER MISCELLANEOUS IDEAS
These are just thoughts I’ve had in relation to a Fantasy Music Industry that currently aren’t quite fitting in.
— In addition to your starting 10 artists, you also have the ability to draft one trend or genre-term. Stuff like "chillwave" or "seapunk." Points are generally assigned by how many think-pieces you earn.
— The ability to draft long broken-up bands in hopes for reissue buzz. Would’ve been really good last year with the Beach Boys. Considering this whole decade is the 50th anniversary of everything that happened in the ‘60s, it might be a fun variable.
— You can have one “defense” on your roster. This could range from Pitchfork to Noel Gallagher. If your defense says something explicitly negative about one of your matchup’s artists, some of their points are canceled out.
Okay, you’re probably thinking a Fantasy Music Industry is a really dumb idea, and it should never be taken seriously. And I admit that parts of this feel like a sabermetric Hipster Runoff, but that’s kind of the point. We love talking about this stuff so much, we love assessing buzz, review scores, and crossover appeal—we write and read 8 billion “most anticipated albums” lists every year. You already feel like you’re scoring points when you predicted Frank Ocean’s takeover, so why not turn that into an actual game? Sure it would require an incredibly specific group of people who are all willing to embrace the sheer magnitude of their nerdiness, but in my experience, embracing the sheer magnitude of your nerdiness always leads to a good time.