Note from the author: “I would personally like to thank Twenty-One Pilots for their music and how it has helped my daughter to continue to fight her depression. Your music has helped her through some dark times. This article is dedicated to The Clique. Never give-up, and always fight! There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Twenty One Pilots: The Clique, The Hiatus, and The Return

By Teri C. Cooper

If you are a fan of Twenty-One Pilots, or have a teenager in the home who thinks they are the cat’s meow, then you know of their album, “Trench”, released in October 2018. On July 20th tickets were released for their Bandito Tour and stalled fans were likely kicking themselves as most U.S. venues were posting ‘sold out’ status within a week. Suddenly, Twenty-One Pilots announced in November, the addition of limited seating at some venues. The move is in line with Twenty-One Pilots’ other marketing efforts – mystery, intrigue and the use of continued themes in their albums – to keep their fans, The Clique, engaged and always guessing.

To understand their marketing strategy, you first need to understand the nature of their fan-base, specifically-The Clique. For this, I asked my 16-year-old daughter, Jeniffer, to explain The Clique in reference to Twenty-One Pilots. “The Clique symbolizes the band’s fan-base, it’s what we are altogether.” The fan-base has embraced one another as one huge support group, identifying with each other’s struggles and those that are conveyed by the lyrics of Twenty-One Pilots.  Some attribute their success at battling depression and anxiety to the band’s music and the openness in their lyrics. Essentially, a Clique member understands the deeper and hidden meanings behind a Twenty-One Pilots song. Ask a Clique member, and they may sit down and take the time to break down these deeper, hidden meanings to you – more specifically, their personal interpretation of the song. In some cases, the experience can be profound.

From “Vessel” to “Blurryface,” their music continued a theme. These themes are recognized among The Clique as a representation of the duality of Tyler Joseph, the duo’s lead singer. Fans who connect with this theme appreciate, that as humans, we all have two sides. They connected to several songs because they understand the duality some of us go through when we fight our inner demons. Those inner demons were the catalyst some fans identified as the source of their depression or anxiety. One song, titled “Guns for Hands,” from their first label-released album “Vessel,” offered a solution to fight those inner demons. I personally witnessed the significance of this song at their Emotional Roadshow concert in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2017. As Tyler sang, “The solution is, I see a whole room of these mutant kids, fused at the wrist, I simply tell them they should shoot at this, simply suggest my chest and this confused music, it’s obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist.” The crowd went wild with these words as they understood Tyler’s true message – that suicide is not the answer to their problem. Turning their fingers from a symbolic gun to a fist represents their courage to continue to fight through whatever inner demons that cause their struggles. The Clique feels supported by the music of Twenty-One Pilots, and in turn supports them.  According to an article the fan-base is so supportive of Twenty-One Pilots, they won the 2017 Alternative Press Music Award for Most Dedicated Fan-base presented by Fearless Records. This level of connection not only paved the way to the band’s success in the industry, it also led to the success of the mystery and intrigue-based communication their fans anticipate.

With five songs from “Blurryface” hitting the Billboard Hot 100, Twenty-One Pilots began preparing their fans for a hiatus. On July 6, 2017, the band tweeted their last tweet of the year.  A simple picture of an eye slowly closing throughout the day. Some fans worried that “Blurryface” would be their last album; a dull panic ensued.

Toward the end of their hiatus, Twenty-One Pilots started leaving hints that something was coming. The “Blurryface” era had ended, but was a new era about to begin? Some Clique members began analyzing those hints, trying to figure out the mysterious clues – Was another album coming? If another album launched, how would the story-line play out? The Clique stalked Twitter and Instagram feeds for clues daily. Then the band’s drummer, Josh Dun, stated during his Most Dedicated Fans acceptance speech, “Tyler wishes he could be here, he’s actually out severing ties with Dema.”  This small comment sparked The Clique into another firestorm of intrigue and analysis filled with questions – Who is Dema? What does this mean? How does it apply to the theme of a possible new album?

Following this speech, similar hints on the official Twenty-One Pilots website sparked many Clique investigations. Fans posted YouTube videos analyzing the mysterious information, taking the smallest clues, theorizing on release dates and the new album. With every tidbit of information, fans were engaged more than ever.  Throughout their hiatus, the strategy of mystery and intrigue kept the band safe from ever losing the limelight.

Exactly 368 days after their last Twitter post, on July 9th, 2018, a post of a half open eye with a hint of a video in the middle was posted. The Clique watched their Twitter feeds intently. The following day, the eye opened slightly more, revealing more of the video in the center; this is what The Clique member lives for. On July 11th, the band posted a video link on Twitter for two of their new songs, “Jumpsuit” and “Nico and the Niners” – their return was official!

According to the band’s label, Fueled by Ramen, the “Jumpsuit” video received 5.2 million YouTube views within the first 24 hours. The releases of “Levitate” on August 8th, and “My Blood” on August 27th, had similar YouTube hits. Fueled by Ramen released the album “Trench” on October 5, 2018 and three of the songs, “Jumpsuit,” “Nico and the Niners” and “My Blood,” had already peaked in the Billboard Top 100. The band broke their own record for views on YouTube in the shortest time-span and succeeded in having hits before the launch of the album was official.

Clearly, when a band or artist has talent, a supportive fan-base, and a creative marketing strategy – success is sure to follow. Twenty-One Pilots is a clear example of this concept. Furthermore, they show what happens when you keep your fans engaged and enlightened. The Clique has bided time in pensive, reflective thought – Welcome back Twenty-One Pilots! Your return has been much anticipated and now, The Clique awaits you.

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