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Is Anti-Marketing Right For Your Band?

The Atlantic did a killer piece that highlighted the trend towards bands using Anti-Marketing.

Short Version: Some indie bands are purposely obscuring their names, hiding their faces, and refusing interviews as a means of image-management.

Love it.

As I mentioned previously, speed of adoption is inversely correlated with longevity. 

Buzz magnifies people’s expectations, which in small doses is beneficial for a band. But if too much buzz is laid on, the gap between a fan’s expectations and the actual music is too wide, and the fan is left with a foul taste in his/her mouth.

In the same way the US Federal Reserve will adjust inflation rates to either stimulate growth or limit inflation, smart bands need to adjust how much hype gets pushed on them. Too little and the band’s fan growth stagnates but too much and the band’s fan base deflates. It’s all about managing expectations.

From the article:

From that point on, there has to be enough substance to the group to sustain them through the post-hype phase. Look at Die Antwoord. The South African rave-rap duo baited the media for months with a lewd web art, bizarre videos, scarce information, and exotic promise. Once people learned that they were a satirical act helmed by Johannesburg performance artist Watkin Tudor Jones, who had released music under other personas in the past, excitement for the group largely vanished, right on time for their Interscope debut, $O$, to debut at 109 on the Billboard 200—a flop by major-label standards.

Anti-marketing is a valuable tactic. It’s a pressure-release valve for when you feel that the press is going a little too far in their promotion of you. How to make the call when you’re getting extravagant praise is the real challenge here. Intuition is all you’ve got here, and that’s easily clouded by the ego getting all warm-fuzzy from the attention. In all likelihood you won’t need this tactic though, since most artists don’t get explosive hype storms.

Anti-marketing, like all tactics, needs to fit within the strategy of your art. Using a tactic that doesn’t fit your strategy is not a good idea. Self-aggrandizing rappers probably don’t have much use for anti-marketing. Bedroom produced indie-electro-pop is a different story. 

Keep an eye on how much hype you get. Anti-marketing may one day be just the tool you need to keep buzz under control.

Is Anti-Marketing Right For Your Band?

Reader Comments (20)

Thanks for pointing this trend and analysis out. I would love to add a point. On a large scale, with media/hype explosions this needs to be controlled, as you said. However, I think the point should not be lost on artists that are fighting for any media coverage or hype of any kind. Here's how I would transpose this for small scale media use:

Control your image. Create a list of the types of things you post about on FB or Twitter (or Googel+ if your there yet). This list will be based on a set of guidelines that you have developed and will be made up of things that paint the picture of your image that you are wanting to convey (or that your audience is wanting to see, more importantly). This will accomplish a number of things. If you don't feel as though you have anything to say at some point than you can look to your list and choose a picture, you can keep track of the posts that are giving you the most desirable results (tracking is the secret weapon of all marketing) and you can be sure that your posts and your image is what you want it to be. This list would be clearly based on a set of guidelines that you have decided upon. Once these guidelines and this list are put in place you can use these same guidelines to determine what media coverage and hype you want out there.

Thanks for the post.

Tom Siegel

July 15 | Unregistered CommenterTom Siegel

Most bands I know are deeply invested in anti-marketing. They slap a couple tunes on their myspace page, do a quick facebook post when they have a show, and voila! Done with marketing for the year!

July 15 | Unregistered CommenterFreddy

This is a well written article on a particular method of doing things. It's refreshing to see an author point out "...needs to fit within the strategy of your art."

Personally, I don’t believe in a single, right or wrong business model that must be adhered to in order to achieve what you, as an indie musician, have defined as “success.”

Do what works (for you), not what you’re told will work!

It's not new but it is interesting - Malcolm Maclaren was using the treat em mean keep em keen thing years ago, as he explained in his biography and live show shortly before his death. He had a pit dug at the entrance to his shop in London's west end (not SEX, another one) to make it harder to get in and told his shop workers to ignore the customers. He encouraged the Sex Pistols to insult journalists and he kept things exclusive until there was momentum.

As the article states, it's hard to keep a band secret once they start playing live. But what's interesting for me is the way that, by ignoring the torrential downpour of info that is the interweb artists can force those interested in them to make an immediate financial commitment, just to find out what all the fuss is about.

July 15 | Registered CommenterTim London

Hey Tim "anti-marketing" is even older than Malcolm Maclaren's Sex Pistols, I think the idea first came to light in the early 1920s with Andre Breton's surrealist manifesto!

I don't think it worked for the Surrealists and it didn't work for the Sex Pistols. And if you are an indie band, as per usual, if you've little talent it won't work for you either ;)

Cool article. The most recent example of this I can think of is "The Weeknd".

July 15 | Unregistered Commenter13

Give it a shot if it suits your personality, and definitely don't layer on shallow bullsh*t that will eventually turn people off. But most little known artists who are afraid to "saturate" a market have no idea how obscure they really are. Anyway, the best fans are the ones who know and love you, imho, not the ones who suffer from co-dependency.

'didn't work for the Sex Pistols' ? It worked bloody well for them and for anyone else who has, over the centuries, denied access to something whilst somehow making it absolutely desirable. Isn't it the basic thinking behind Catholicism? (you too can access heaven but you've got to work for it: twenty hail marys, now!)

As for indie bands with 'little talent', I've yet to meet anyone who can explain what 'talent' is beyond 'I quite like that, I do'

So: it WILL work for you, if your talent is bullshit and hype (after knowing the basic three chords and not to tuck your vest inside your underpants, bullshit & hype are completely necessary for any aspiring pop musician)

July 15 | Registered CommenterTim London

omg. You have reached such silly conclusions. The ONLY reason they obscure their identities is because they are behind on their student loans.

July 16 | Unregistered Commenterrat a tat tat

It's simple supply and demand dynamics. Really.

July 16 | Unregistered CommenterKiwan

Here is an example here :)

July 16 | Unregistered CommenterMe

Tim, I used to walk past McLaren and Westwood's shop (No. 430 it's now called World's End) twelve times a week on my way to and from work on the King's Road Chelsea from 1973-1978, occasionally popping in on a Saturday afternoon for a letch around! The shop had a number of guises and names, I'm sure you must be talking about when it was called Seditionaries - I bought myself a Christmas ('76) present of a very expensive Vivienne Westwood T-shirt. Nazi bondage sex war upside down images of bombed out London and faux threats, but quite frankly, very welcoming people who wanted to help, I can't ever remember having any difficulty getting in, the only difficulty I had was having enough cash to spend - the shop wasn't busy!

There was no reverse psychology (I don't think), just cheap risqué shock tactics and gimmicks that worked well in an era of Habitat, Margaret Thatcher and Pink Floyd - BDSM, Nazi bondage and sticking two fingers up at HRH just thirty years after the WW2 was Very subversive, provocative, anarchistic, anti-establishment and anti-christian; sure they were sticking two fingers up at the journalists as well, because they could hardly print a word!

A band who uses secret branding as a marketing strategy may just as well try to go viral!

Anyway, up yours and you're not welcome on my website ;)

Oh! by-the-way, I really enjoyed, "For Indie Bands, the New Publicity Is No Publicity" - thanks for that, and your interesting article Derek :)

Hey, Mr Unsigned etc, the shop was Nostalgia of Mud, can't remember exactly where but somewhere round the back of Oxford St - hold on, I'll have a look, St Christopher's Place, there you go.

Maclaren was a famous reviser so who knows if he fell into it all by accident, but it's a good story, whichever and as worthwhile a plan as all the other sign-up-to-every-socialmedia-bollox being presented on the hinternet.

And what makes you think i want to be on your poxy website, anyway? I'm a bit exclusive, me!

July 16 | Registered CommenterTim London

Tim, Thanks for that, what a ride you've given me down memory lane thinking about my life down the king's Road (and George Street) when I was in my late teens and early twenties - I'd totally forgotten about Nostalgia of Mud - I'd never associated Nostalgia with the Sex Pistols though! Maybe because 'things' had moved on towards the New Romantics (a period I didn't like much - Spandau Ballet were OK!). 1978-82ish I was working more in Paris and I felt McLaren was 'old hat'!! Christ!

I think an accessible and worthwhile promotion/marketing strategy for bands, is to collaborate with a fashion house; that is what McLaren and Westwood did so well with the various artists they worked with. Teaming-up and collaborating with a number local bands who share your lifestyle and genre and a 'local' fashion house (a fashion company: designer, shop selling off-the-peg, custom-made and/or haute couture clothing. Also include: hairdresser, make-up artist, photographer, fashion stylist, lifestyle magazine and website) is the way to go, especially for the do-it-yourself, noobie band. New bands who can't attract the attention of professionals, are usually at an age where they can collaborate with students, assistants and the like! Put that together with Tom Siegel's thoughts on branding (above) and a band would have a better chance of succeeding than, as you say Tim, "signing-up-to-every-socialmedia-bollox" :)

So exclusive noone has ever heard of you ;)

Careful, Ian, you'll have a new generation in cummerbunds if you're not careful.

Re: Timothy London not being heard of - you're obviously still flying your London scene flag high (presumably made of mohair with a skull and cross bones!). Perhaps I'm an extreme anti-marketeer rather than an abject failure. It's all the same to me...

July 17 | Registered CommenterTim London

Thanks for an outstanding article Derek – ‘bout time someone countered the “communicate ‘til they puke” approach espoused so often now that there’s little mystique left in the game.

@Unsigned Band Promotion
The fashion company concept is truly extraordinary – few artists would go to that much effort so any that did would have a serious edge. Creative collabo to the max – nice!

July 19 | Registered CommenterDG Gutekunst

Ummmm...yeah...mysterioso artistes have done it from time immemorial...Ever heard of limp wankers called Led Zeppelin? Jimmy and the boys went "exclusive/elusive" for years fomenting the Majick. Ho hum...nuthin' new here...Now where's my bloody telly? Piss off m!n

I have no words to tell you thanks for sharing this amazing article about marketing and discuss very important information in this article.

July 21 | Unregistered Commenterdallmeier

Anti Marketing to me works if you truely have a music product that is different and engaging. I think an artist like Jason Mmrazz can put up great songs without much hype and only remind when he tours....But a Hip hop group...Image is everything which is the reason for exposure. If you are a group like 30h3! that embody the frat house lifestyle, you need to show your demographic that you live the life you write about.

See this post very Inspirational St Georges day

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

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