Most – if not all – artists strive for some form of attention whether it be adulation, respect, being remembered or being talked about. It may happen as a result of a lot of work out on the road, or as the result of sheer luck, but more often than not it is the result of the fuss.
We all have one, some are stronger than others. It’s intriguing to look at general opinion and determine the artists who are making the most impact – normally mainstream artists with huge budgets. But let’s consider those outsider artists who manage to make it into the slipstream subsidiaries of the mainstream river.
I’m talking about the bands that have developed quite large followings of loyal supporters but have also accumulated as many detractors. These are normally the marmite bands – you’ve got friends who love them and friends who hate them. The XX, Radiohead, The White Stripes, WuLyf, Odd Future for example, although the expanse is vast.
The’re normally doing something a little strange that some people can’t break through in order to get to the often very good music underneath. When we have already formed a bad opinion of an artist it’s because we could be questioning the strange sound, strange presentation, strange attitude or strange genre of music. These little strange niggling points are sometimes all that stands between liking the music and not. But these niggling points are also part of the reason why such artists have such devoted fanbases – they LOVE these niggles. They love being part of the artists’ world and find themselves fully in awe of it. Sometimes because they know they can be one of the first of their friends to call themselves a superfan, and laugh at the ones who straggle along later on.
We love to hate
It’s the basic principal of love / hate in action. Why did your girlfriend dump you for the guy she said she always used to hate? Because she loves him (or something like that). When i first got into The XX i hated them. I couldn’t stand the black outfits, the sloth-speed doom chill core and the way the bassist slimily shifted about onstage. Then i absolutely loved them. I loved the symmetry between their clothes, the creepy lust of the dual vocals and the way the bassist moved carefree in a way nobody else really does. I hated them so much at first because I couldn’t understand what they were doing, they were like nothing i was into at the time. Slowly I was exposed to the music and slowly it took a hold on me.
This hold, this emotional pull on the fan is what I call The Fuss. When an artist creates a fuss amongst a wide range of people, it doesn’t matter how many don’t like the music (and believe me there will be people who won’t), the people that really really love it will absolutely invest their time and attention to it. And if your smart, their money.
Inciting a strong opinion in people is a sure-fire way to ignite passion, the same is true for the fan. We love an artist who is a complete package, is fresh, new and something completely different;
“If you’re remarkable, then it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise — ever. The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.” Seth Godin
Striving for something completely different is a unique process for each artist. Decide what you are, why you are doing this, what you play and who you are and construct a border for yourself, set limits to what you will wear on stage, what you will play or even what you will say. You don’t need to get cheesy here – Wu Lyf are into religious iconography and art, Radiohead are into similar veils of mystery pertaining to socio-political and environmental messages and Odd Future are the young punks, the new-breed symbolising post-teen abandon in a post-noughties world.
Playing it safe. Following the rules. They seem like the best ways to avoid failure. Alas, that pattern is awfully dangerous. The current marketing “rules” will ultimately lead to failure. In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible. Seth Godin
Doing things differently is a lot harder than it sounds. Creating a fuss is not an exact art. It should naturally be a product of passionate musicians who are eager to make a mark – but it’s not. It’s not enough to say ‘we’re different’, we’re a fusion of ‘[insert here] & [here]‘. Act it, be it. Don’t care if people don’t get it but don’t act the tortured soul. Work hard. Work hard. Work hard. Don’t give in to a semi-timid rock’n’roll lifestyle, in the end it’s mostly a product of fan mythology and exaggeration.
The attention you seek will be the result of a lot of hard work.