The basic concept of transmedia storytelling implies an ever presence across a multitude of spaces. This can appear daunting, especially to musicians who solely want to compose music or wish to maintain a low profile. Using social media or asserting oneself on other platforms is the antithesis of the private, elusive musician’s existence.
Yet at the very core of transmedia storytelling—or storytelling of any kind—is the need for narrative, content, and characters. Does this mean musicians who lack story are at a loss? No. The lack of narrative is a narrative. Crafting mythology through the controlled lack of information (or infusion of misinformation) is absolutely a storytelling method, and musicians are an excellent fit for it.
There are a number of artists who have leveraged this style to excite fans, drum up anticipation around their releases, and carry them through lulls in their careers. I believe the following musicians did this with varying degrees of conscious action, but I will operate under the assumption that each put some level of thought into this.
One method of fostering myth is by using evasion. Musicians agree to interviews or publicity, but end up turning questions around on the reporter, giving non sequitur answers, and going off on tangents or long-winded stories. Tom Waits is perhaps the most classic and long-running master of elusion. His early interviews are full of dodging, either avoiding the questions outright or giving outrageous, nonsensical replies.
Later in his career, interviews became more intermittent, yet still mystifying and intriguing. His public performances have also become sparse, and mere rumors of concerts spark heavy anticipation. An e-mail sent in July from Epitaph Records titled “Tom Waits: Permission to Come Aboard?” consisted solely of a photo of Waits wearing an eye patch and wielding a cutlass, with “Coming August 7” written across it. It whipped press and his fanbase into a frenzy: is it a new album? A tour announcement? (It was a music video.) Few artists command that kind of power that is born of sparsity. Continue Reading →