While social media can be one of the most powerful tools available to independent musicians, it’s also extremely easy for artists to get lost among the shuffle of everything else on the social networks demanding attention of everyone all the time.
But what happens when an indie artist bucks the trend? What happens when a musician returns to trends of the old days when musicians were more likely to be enigmas rather your “friend” on Facebook? Well, if that artist is The Weeknd, that enigmatic approach lands you at number two on the Billboard 200 albums chart. That equates to about 95,000 copies sold of the group’s debut major label album, Kiss Land, trailing Keith Urban for the top spot by only 3,000 or so copies during its debut week. It’s interesting to point out that all of this was achieved with little mainstream radio play, one major television appearance and one magazine interview.
Of course, those that have been following the Weeknd’s music for the past few years are likely little surprised about the lack of self-promotion – or the high number of sales.
When The Weeknd issued its first album, House of Balloons, for free on its website about two-and-a-half years ago, the R&B artist took pains to not only avoid social media and the press, but didn’t even reveal his real name (Abel Tesfaye) for quite some time. For someone working purely in the digital realm, he was going against everything we’re told to do when it comes to social media PR and promotion.
But it worked.
Kiss Land was released in partnership with Republic Records and Tesfaye’s own XO Records, and his co-managers spoke to Billboard about the rise of the obscure act.
“The music industry seems to run a lot on hype,” the managers said in an email to the music trade publication. “Abel wanted to see where things would go with his songs living on their own merits.”
And letting things succeed (or fail) on their own merits is what Tesfaye has always seemed to do. Though he is now signed to Republic, he eschewed major label offers immediately after the success of his debut and instead offered two more free records online.
But even now that he’s signed to a major label, the approach to promotion is based on the idea of less-is-more. Case in point: though he’s only made one major television appearance (performing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”), he’s already released five videos from Kiss Land online.
Though certainly Tesfaye’s approach won’t work for everyone, it is interesting to see a star make a name for himself online without taking the approach that the best thing to do is flood the digital sphere with not only your music but also your public “face” on social media. Instead, Tesfaye went the (relatively) silent route and let his music speak for itself.