by Nadya Kelly
Why is it that Frank Ocean has become so successful as a solo artist when he is seemingly so reserved in terms of interacting with his audience and releasing new music? Does adhering from the overflow of social media information impact the success of one’s career and connection to one’s fans? Frank Ocean is an interesting example of how adhering to peer or record label pressure to constantly post content is not necessarily the only way of sustaining a successful career.
When looking back at this fall, it seems that singer and rapper Frank Ocean has had quite a busy season, proven by the release of his two latest singles, ‘DHL’ and ‘In My Room,’ a new episode of his radio show, Blonded Radio, and even the opening of a new nightclub in New York City called PrEP+, which is dedicated to creating a safe space for queer people to enjoy the city’s nightlife.
However this is a contrast to previous periods in his career. Fans and followers of Frank Ocean are used to long periods of radio silence, with him taking years to release the next studio album and, at times, staying away from social media entirely. Despite this, Frank Ocean is generally known to have one of the strongest followings out of all of the artists currently releasing music today. When Frank drops a record, both fans and critics alike pay attention. His two studio albums, channel ORANGE and Blonde alone were enough to garner critical acclaim and cement Frank as one of the more influential figures within the R&B and pop genres.
Social media has made it easier than ever for artists to directly promote their music to fans and to engage with them - especially in keeping fans interested when the artist is not releasing new music. Artists today recognize that social media interaction can be similarly used to simulate personal communication with their followers, such as retweeting a fan’s tweet on Twitter or replying to a fan’s comment on an Instagram post. Assumedly, always keeping an open line of communication between the artist and the fan is key to maintaining fan engagement, otherwise the people who follow you will lose interest, especially when there is an endless amount of other artists to listen to.
However, as discussed before, Frank does not use social media in this way to connect with his fans. Instead of relying on social media to promote his work, he typically keeps public online interactions very personal, meaningful, and authentic, such as when he chose to give free merchandise to fans who voted in the 2018 midterm elections. Or when he posted his now infamous letter to Tumblr that detailed an account of a romantic relationship he had with another man, being the first time Frank had ever publicly spoken about his sexuality.
It is interactions like these that draws Frank’s audience in and keeps them interested in himself and his art. Because Frank does not choose or feel obligated to constantly post or release new music, fans and critics alike know that whenever Frank does release any sort of life update, that he does so with a purpose and with intention.
Creating art with intention is what sets Frank apart from other artists, and learning how to be intentional with what you choose to release into the world is a behaviour that many artists would definitely benefit from adopting. It may seem counterintuitive to choose to hold back on dropping new music when there are artists out there who are supplying new content to the public all the time, and therefore seem to be “getting ahead” and progressing their own career, but this is not always the case.
I believe that being intentional with your art over time lets your audience know that you are proud of whatever you choose to release out into the world. It shows your fans that you took the time necessary to create a song or an album that is truly representative of the sum of your hard work. Also, being intentional with your art rather than creating art to keep up with all of the artists who are creating art causes you to be careful about where you place your time and energy, and are, thus, much less likely to avoid burning yourself out physically and creatively.
This is not to say that artists should not put out new content regularly and consistently if this is their ultimate goal. However, I strongly believe an artist should never feel pressured to create something and release it just to satisfy their fans’ demands, their label’s demands, or any other societal expectations. Yes, these are important factors to consider when releasing new music, but your art should first and foremost make you happy, and if you are pleased with what you have created, then people will be sure to recognize and appreciate this when they listen to your next single or album. These are some lessons I have learnt from observing Frank Ocean’s actions.
With this being said, I am looking forward to what Frank Ocean has to offer to the music industry in the future, and he has certainly inspired me to be more deliberate with what I choose to create and share with my audience. I hope we can encourage each other to recognize that great art takes time, and that we, as music listeners and fellow creative people, should be more understanding of this and be more patient when waiting for content, allowing our favorite musicians to breathe before embarking on their next project.
Follow Frank HERE