In 2005, musician Burial entered the electronic music scene. He released two albums in two years, both of which received critical acclaim. What really set him apart, though, was his reclusivity. He didn’t reveal his identity, which in turn sparked a conspiracy about who he really was.
Here’s how Burial used secrecy to jumpstart his career.
1. He was the first artist on a new label.
Joining up with a brand new label is a risky move. There’s no guarantee for the label or the artist that they will make any sales. Burial’s first smart move was releasing the album anonymously. This paired with the fact that the label had yet to sign anyone else had critics curious about the young artist’s actual identity.
2. His career was parallel to another famous artist’s career.
Aphex Twin, an uber-popular electronic producer from the same region of England, was known for releasing things anonymously. It’s almost as if he had to prove that his reputation wasn’t necessary for his success.
It had been a little while since Aphex Twin had released anything, and Burial’s sound was undeniably on the same trajectory as his. It made sense that Aphex Twin would pair up with a new label to help them start off with a new identity and new genre.
Of course, this wasn’t the case. The evidence was all there, though, and people bought into the conspiracy and began worshipping Burial’s music as if it were true.
3. He let someone else handle the big reveal.
In 2008, British newspaper The Independent revealed Burial’s identity. Up until this point, people still believed that Burial was actually Aphex Twin, despite his denial of this theory.
The reveal itself was anticlimactic, but it didn’t need to be anything special. Burial had already found success as an underground enigma. This move was more important for Aphex Twin’s career than Burial’s. It was likely done out of respect.
William Beven wasn’t any extraordinary person without his career as Burial. He was given the opportunity to make music anonymously and create mystery and intrigue. In the internet age, any musician can do the same.
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Gabriel Dufurrena is a mathematician, writer, and educator living in Oakland, CA. When he’s not watching YouTube videos or teaching math, he’s getting into shenanigans with his other writer friends.