With so many gifted new artists coming into play each day, being successful in the music industry has become reliant on more than just being talented. For the duo Twenty One Pilots, formed by singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, that could not be truer. After years of playing in small venues and not having much success, the band blew up and has become one of the greatest of its generation after one simple change: investing in a marketing strategy.
The first step was establishing a strong brand. The music played by the duo has always been well-thought and deep in meaning, but something had to be different if the goal was standing out. The solution was to make it about more than just the music. Everything, from the symbol used – which has a meaning only known to Tyler – to the name given to their fandom (the “skeleton clique”, or simply “clique”) was thought through by the band.
The clique itself plays a great part in everything they do – which is attested by the phrase they use to wrap up every concert: “We are Twenty One Pilots and so are you”. Making connections with fans is one of the most important steps to take and the way Tyler and Josh do that is different than most.
The reason for that is not only the vulnerability shown through the songs, but also how they allow their fans to genuinely communicate with them, whether it is by creating a direct way of doing so or through fan art gallery events and games played during concerts. Their latest accomplishment in that sense was an interactive “never-ending music video” for their single Level of Concern, to which fans could send their own clips and appear alongside Tyler, Josh and both their immediate families. The video lasted from June to December 2020, giving them a Guinness World Record for the longest music video ever made.
Something that helps to keep up with the public is having accounts on all kinds of social media, where updates are posted, and more interactions can be made – including some bickering that could sound alarming to whoever is not part of the fanbase but really entertains the ones who are. The Twenty One Pilots YouTube channel, for example, is used not only for posting music, but also shows clips from backstage, what they do on tours and what the behind-the-scenes of their music videos look like.
Speaking of social media, someone who was also present in it was Blurryface, a character who follows Tyler wherever he goes and who was so important that ended up having an entire album named after him. That goes to show one of the most important strategies the band uses: creating their own storylines. And even though they are usually elaborate, the clique can handle it. Puzzles, riddles, and hidden meanings are present in everything Twenty One Pilots does and their fans are invested in finding every bit of it.
One example was what preceded their fifth album, Trench. Along with continuing the previous narrative of Blurryface, the band transformed the plot into a game for their fans, sharing a series of cryptical messages through social media posts and secret websites created by them. That introduced fans to a new character named Clancy, a backdrop called Dema and began creating hype for the band’s new music. Newcomers could join in on the search for the new album and storylines, or just listen to the songs without comprehending the meaning behind them, but the devoted fanbase will always be bonded by the memories and knowledge of what is behind every lyric.
Another game-changer was developing a color scheme and signature wardrobe to connect with every album. Ski masks and skeletons were used at first, then Blurryface brought in the black and red aesthetic. That was substituted by camouflage green hoodies and yellow duct tape once the Trench era came along. This division between each cycle has also been essential not only to make what they are doing clear, but also to give the clique a sense of belonging every time they find themselves in a crowd and spot someone who they do not know and also shares that same interest.
And if we are talking about crowds, the unpredictability of Twenty One Pilots concerts needs to be pointed out, since it has certainly become one of their biggest appeals. From the start, Tyler and Josh were always prone to doing unusual things on stage, such as jumping over Tyler’s piano and doing backflips, which was already quite curious.
With time, they were able to step their game up and start doing even more astonishing things, such as climbing on top of the crowd to sing certain songs, crowd surfing inside big hamster balls, bringing out drums to play while standing on their fans and even having a burning car on stage as a set for their latest tours.
With a new album on the way, – Scaled and Icy, to be released on May 21st – it is hard to guess where the duo is headed, but the recipe they have been following so far has only led to success. In the music industry, it is important to keep in mind that there is no strategy as effective as using your own creativity to highlight what makes you unique, a mentality that has certainly worked for Twenty One Pilots.
The article above was edited by Isabella Gomes.
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