Music Marketing

The Weeknd Emerges From Anonymity Thanks To Social Media & A Little Help From Drake

image from Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, is one of a growing group of musicians, like iamamiwhoami, who have leveraged web to build buzz while initially maintaining anonymity.  Now he's coping with trendy media frenzies, attempts to label him a hipster and continuing confusion over whether or not he's an individual or a perhaps an entire group.

The Weeknd is an interesting phenomenon whose elusiveness has created some confusion that doesn't seem to be going away. He's said to have started releasing music late last year without identifying himself as Abel Tesfaye and has gotten quite a bit of media attention since then. Yet a variety of media outlets still think of him as a group and some shift back and forth between "he" and "they" in what may be a form of trendster cheekiness.


Being a phenomenon is weird as the above tweet regarding The Fader's response to the release of the "Thursday" mixtape from his website reveals.

Drake's tweeted cosign helped The Weeknd's mixtape House of Balloons, released in March, get a great deal of trendy press attention. It has since been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize.

Other highpoints include his debut performance in Toronto that drew industry reps plus whoever could get their frenzied hands on a ticket and having a song featured in a promo for Entourage.

Hype, trend, frenzy – was it all driven by such social media outlets as:


Plus a website?

Certainly the existence of social media allowed for a new artist to be launched without having to reveal his identity. But did that also allow Drake to participate from the beginning without revealing his part in the game?

I'm in no way implying that The Weeknd is a creation of Drake's but I am wondering if The Weeknd could have gotten situated so strongly without that support. Whatever the real backstory, The Weeknd's emergence is yet another strong example of the potential power of social media tools to introduce and to continue to maintain the "true" identity of an artist who continues to speak through such tools after leaving anonymity behind.

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. He is currently relaunching Flux Research to pursue his long-standing obsession with web business models. To suggest music services and related topics for review at Hypebot, please contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Clyde, I’m skeptical the Weeknd could’ve taken off as quickly without Drake.
    I believe Pitchfork had a big hand in breaking the Weeknd, too. In March, the blog mentioned his music in 3 posts.
    Drake’s name is mentioned in 2 of the 3 write-ups.
    Consider this cycle of events:
    Drake tweets about the Weeknd, which gives the Weeknd a big boost throughout his networks (Tumblr, YouTube, Soundcloud, and so on).
    Then later, the Weeknd drops a Tumblr post about Lana Del Rey. Consequently, her Facebook page enjoyed a considerable jump in traffic and likes. Link:
    And later, we come full circle with a Lana Del Rey write up in Pitchfork.
    I think this speaks to the power of artists as curators. These events also highlight the power blogs and media outlets have to amplify an artist’s reach.
    I wish I had more details; I think the Drake – Weeknd – Lana Del Rey connection would be an interesting study of our current musical ecosystem.

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