May 11, 2023

Is This The Death Of Mystique?

Why fans are more time sensitive to mystery

Mayuyuka Kaunda

With The Weeknd announcing the closing of a chapter and retiring of his persona, we ask: is there still room for mystery in today’s industry climate or are we witnessing the death of mystique?

In a previous post, we commented how The Weeknd constructed his brand across his separate eras: "Seemingly orbiting several universes; The Weeknd crafts an alter-ego for every release. In keeping with the cinematic feel of his sound and in the guise of a method actor; his characters tell a story matching his sonic direction. The singer commits to his roles fully and keeps his audience engaged by extending the boundaries of the worlds his art lives in." Before these character constructions though, The Weeknd was faceless:

The Weeknd’s choice to remain anonymous and follow the route of mystery marketing played two key roles in generating online buzz; it allowed for differentiation whilst also helping develop an authentic image. - brandbase

Several other artists - including H.E.R, Lagbaja, Daft Punk and Marshmello - have gone this route to varying degrees and with varying degrees of success; providing case studies for balancing overt audience engagement and maintaining an enigmatic aura. This year’s Coachella main stage proved to be a great test case too, as it saw the convergence of two artists whose approach to the limelight and resultant mythologies played a great role in the reception of their art: Frank Ocean and Jai Paul. While Ocean sought to maintain his air of mystery by not streaming his set on YouTube, Jai Paul’s return after a decade long absence embraced the removal of the cloak - giving fans access to an experience they’d long been craving.

Performances aside, the distiction between these decisions seems to boil down to either servicing the brand or serving the fans.The ultimate differnce was the expression of gratefulness by Jai Paul fans & an outpour of disappointment for Frank Ocean's.

Mystery (and the extension of its use in music marketing) may only be effective if it centers audience connection and appreciates factors such as brand positioning, exclusivity, access and fan loyalty.

We’ll continue to see artists cultivate, utilize and relinquish their mystique and some like Dide - a masked artist who’s allegedly a professional English Premier League footballer - are at that first stage. We’ll wait and see how this newest ‘secret’ act’s strategy plays out and, meanwhile, ask the question ‘has the role of mystery marketing in the music industry reached a peak with a conversely reduced shelf life to the strategy?’

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