I often say that when I was in college, the bands I liked were the ones that seemed to know something I didn’t. The cool ones who referenced art, obscure film, and philosophy created sounds in a way that didn’t seem possible. This hidden knowledge — clues that there were things out there that I was not privy to, waiting for discovery — was a constant tension. The tension not only brought me to these bands, but, in a way, I remained in this tension as a ”fan.” The tension was a thrill, a tingle, a feeling of being a part of something even though I didn’t fully understand.
I relate this experience to bands and musicians that I’m working with today. Social media and the pressure to be unapologetically accessible to fans has removed some of the tension. All the cards are on the table, and the fans know exactly how the magic gets performed. But there’s still a place for mystique and intrigue. And for drawing in new fans who delight in the tension of an enigma.
We can extend this tension across other art forms – movies, painting, even literature. David Lynch’s third season of Twin Peaks is a great example. Left unexplained by both the medium and Lynch himself, the latest run of Twin Peaks wasn’t for everyone. Even some OG Twin Peaks fans I know gave up on it. But the show and art like it still attract die-hard viewers that revel in the tension of the impenetrable. It’s the same tingle I mentioned above – the feeling that these people know something you don’t, and the key to unlocking the secret is hidden deep within the work. Searching for that key is the tension, and it’s a tension that connects fans and tribes. It’s a tension that keeps us coming back.
QBAM Fan says
Thoughtful insight and perspective Michael. I dig it.
M Donaldson says
Thanks! Here are some additional thoughts that I posted to LinkedIn about this piece: “I’m addressing the pressure to overshare and overexplain, which I see in the artists I work with and how they approach social media. This pressure is especially tough on the introverted artists. I’m positing that mystery is okay and acceptable, and can often brand just as mightily as posting ‘what I’m up to’ photos throughout the day. But what it boils down to is the artist and how they want to project themselves — and if total transparency doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.”