Music Business

Mystery Marketing: Musicians Who Hide Their Identity

Invisible_artistBy Knar Bedian courtesy

We all know the internet has changed the way recording artists market themselves. They have a plethora of social media outlets to choose from, when it comes to constructing an online presence. Some arguably spread themselves too thin, unable to keep a strong, defined identity on the numerous platforms for which they’ve created profiles — or, they delegate their social media personae to label interns, which sort of defeats the purpose.

A few artists even craft their identities specifically for the online world. The indie pop duo Majical Cloudz spells their name using unconventional spelling to ensure they are google-able. And when the parents of a certain young synth pop trio couldn’t find their children’s music online, CHVRCHES adopted a more SEO-friendly title to break through the religious results that prevented their act from getting noticed online.

The typical strategy is to create the largest possible web presence for the artist, but a few outlying cases suggest that perhaps there is an alternative. Unlike the SEO-friendly acts mentioned above, some artists prefer create an aura of mystery to draw listeners in, and it has worked pretty well.

Take, for example, the artist Yoann Lemoine, whose musical alter ego Woodkid became a success almost in spite of blindness to publicity. Meanwhile, other fast-rising artists are almost entirely absent on the interwebs. F y f e released a single called “Solace” that rippled through the blogosphere faster than the Kool-Aid man breaks through a wall, with a biography consisting only of “23-year-old Londoner.”

His album artwork obscured his face, and no matter where you looked, all the blogs mentioned that same single fact, with the bigger publications getting no further. Both of those artists embraced a faceless anonymity even in the face of relative success (which couldn’t last forever, because everything eventually leaks onto the internet).

Whose face was behind Woodkid’s curiously-literal album artwork? Who was responsible for the slicked-back, painted hair of f y f e? When we’re used to being able to find anything from where our favorite artists are playing next to what they had for breakfast, this cultivated air of mystery feels odd. We look for clues, trying to piece together their story, because, well, who doesn’t like to solve a good mystery?

Then there’s the Kiwi sensation Lorde. Sure, you can find out more about her now that she’s a star, but she has openly expressed her wishes to remain mysterious – and succeeded, at least for a while. By the time her Royals album made Billboard’s Alternative Chart, an obvious lack of information persisted; even two months later, there wasn’t much more for fans to find, as Lorde hasn’t been actively pursuing press coverage. Popular artist The Weeknd likewise embraced the identity of the “enigmatic recluse,” avoiding interviews and photos for as long as he could.

F y f e has garnered quite an audience since his first few singles, and gradually revealed more about himself. But he only recently created a website, which is still difficult to find and features no biography. It’s mostly just a bunch of links leading to his relatively silent social media accounts.

What’s interesting here is that f y f e wasn’t always such a man of mystery. His real name (and one under which he performed) is Paul Dixon, and, before his success as f y f e, he sported another moniker: David’s Lyre. The link between the three artists only recently surfaced; as David’s Lyre, Dixon was a much more google-able fellow, willingly offering up his real name and maintaining a presence on the usual slew of social media platforms, although he did obscure his history a bit.

But Dixon didn’t see real success until he fully stepped behind the curtains, revealing next to nothing about himself as the almost-ungoogle-able f y f e. Perhaps these artists have uncovered a new truth: In some cases, the best strategy for social media presence is, in fact, a lack of one.

This is a guest post from Knar Bedian, formerly of and now of Intrepid Pursuits.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/vaxZine

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