Rammstein are masters of provocation. Now, the most successful German band finds itself in a perfect storm it didn't anticipate.
What happened? On May 25, Irish woman Shelby Lynn accused the band and its entourage.
As she claims on social media, she was chosen by a woman to stand in a separate area in front of the stage at Rammstein's concert in Vilnius, Lithuania, with other young women. They were taken photos of and promised access to parties around the show.
On Instagram, Shelby Lynn described how she was led backstage during a concert break, where she says she was supposed to have sex with 60-year-old frontman Till Lindemann. When she didn't want to, the singer reacted aggressively, Lynn claimed.
Reports Suggest An Exploitative System
Since then, more women have come forward and told similar stories. While these severe allegations remain just that, investigative reports by established newspapers like the Süddeutsche Zeitung paint a picture of an elaborate system that lures young women into the so-called «Row Zero» and to pre- and after-show-parties where allegedly unconsenting sexual acts and drugs were in order.
Rammstein themselves, who should be used to crisis communication, handled the situation poorly so far. The band's first statement read: «With regard to the allegations circulating on the internet about Vilnius, we can rule out the possibility that what is being claimed took place in our environment. We are not aware of any official investigations into this matter.»
Later, they posted on Instagram: «The publications of the last few days have caused irritation and questions among the public and especially among our fans. The accusations have hit us all very hard and we take them extremely seriously.»
Furthermore, the band states: «We condemn any kind of assault and ask you: Do not engage in public pre-judgements of any kind against those who have made allegations. They have a right to their point of view.» The final sentence of the statement reads: «But we, the band, also have a right—namely not to be pre-judged either.»
Recent reports say that Rammstein banned Alena M., the woman responsible for casting the girls, and engaged a PR agency for crisis communication and lawyers.
A law firm representing Till Lindemann on Thursday categorically denied the allegations. «Various women have made serious accusations against our client,» law firm Schertz Bergmann said in a statement. «These allegations are without exception untrue,» the statement reads further. The law firm said, adding that legal action would be taken against the women.
Hard Questions Have To Be Asked
As we can tell by these many reports, the system's existence seems likely. Whether something illegal happened needs to be determined by justice.
However, any system that exploits fans through admiration, dependency created by different power levels, and shame raises moral questions.
And as the concept of «Row Zero» at Rammstein's concerts was reportedly an «open secret» and around for years, many people in the music business might also find themselves in the storm. Nobody spoke up—for years.
Toxic Behaviour Followed
But the recent accusations also raise again the issue of unhealthy fandom. It's a well-worn fact that the term «fan» originates in «fanatic». And in the case of Rammstein, it again manifested itself in a way that is unfortunately all too familiar around allegations of (sexual abuse). Mostly male Rammstein fans question, deny, and belittle the allegations. Or worse: They engage in outright victim-blaming, shaming, and insults.
Hardened by previous controversies, Rammstein's huge international fanbase is used to defend the band—probably more than other artists' following. And it's by no means a majority of Rammstein fans that demonstrate toxic behaviour.
But the thing with fandom is: It's a fine line between rational fandom and unreflected support.
The Harsh Breakup
Rammstein's music, as I've written in an article, their music fascinated me when I first heard it.
I saw the band live once and was impressed by their showmanship, like anyone attending their concerts. Nevertheless, I wouldn't describe myself as a huge fan—they're not even heavily featured in my private playlists.
But I can understand that Rammstein's music can be more profound to many people. They love it because it speaks to them emotionally. If you're not one of them, you might not understand, but you don't have to either.
I think we can at least all agree that music's ability to create emotional bonds is one of its most beautiful aspects.
Since I started writing about music in 2010, I've met many artists personally and found myself disappointed—and experiencing sudden breakup-like feelings rising.
So I can empathize with the dilemma that casual, non-toxic Rammstein fans face right now. Because despite what the polarized discourse might suggest: I hope that most people who listen to Rammstein aren't in favour of an abusive, creepy system as it was presented to us in the last couple of weeks. However, they still have an emotional bond with the music (and maybe even the artist) and losing that from one day to another is distressing.
And if you're already typing an angry comment about how I dare to empathize with Rammstein fans, how easy it is just to stop listening to the music, ask yourself: How would you feel if such news broke about your favourite artist?
It's a fight between emotional connection and personal values—and it's hard.
Don't Let Fandom Define You
It's easier said than done: Don't make your appreciation of a particular band or artist an essential part of your personality. It is challenging because the music we like is an expression of identity. And the longer an artist accompanies us through our lives, highs and lows, the deeper and more meaningful that connection becomes.
Once more, the current news around Rammstein, especially the disgusting comments by some hardcore fans, makes a compelling argument against unwavering, uncritical fandom and the glorification of famous people.