From indie to label: Twenty One Pilots makes music history with ‘Blurryface’

Twenty One Pilots at Press conference of Soundbox in Bangkok. (Caption and photo by Sry85)

Music history has been made by the duo known as Twenty One Pilots. Beginning as indie musicians, the band recorded two self-released albums, and then were signed by a major label. It took roughly 9 years, but perseverance paid off.

An announcement from the Recording Industry Association of America will now be part and parcel of US music history. 

What landed Twenty One Pilots Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun in the history books?

They’re the first album “in which every individual song on the album is certified Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum.”

The RIAA noted in the announcement:

“The milestone was achieved with the recent Gold certification of “Hometown.”  Now all 14 songs of the album have earned certification under the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA’s) Gold & Platinum Program.  Since the advent of digital sales and streams, and the inclusion of those formats in the Gold & Platinum Program, no other album’s individual songs have reached that collective milestone.  Additionally, the “Blurryface” album is 3X multi-Platinum – the top RIAA certified alternative album released in the last three years.”

Most bands today have a complex website full of content. Not this band. Their website is a static page containing links to all the band’s social media pages. Pretty ingenious, and impressive in its simplicity.

On the band’s Twitter page, a number of posts are spelled backwards against a plain black graphic.

The band’s genre is hard to label because they weren’t trained as musicians—they’re self-taught. In an interview by a student at the University of Wales, Joseph explained:

“You know, as a song writer, I wouldn’t ever want someone to listen to 30 seconds to one of our songs and then say “oh ok, I get it” and then just turn away. I wouldn’t want to listen and anticipate what happens next, that doesn’t sound interesting to me at all. As much as I understand how some bands and song writers like to stay in one certain genre and try to create different versions of the same music they have been creating for years, for me I would like to catch someone off guard before the song goes. So, yeah I’m influence by so much and a product of a generation of kids that have the ability to get their hands on any style of music. I know it’s hard to put us in a certain genre, but if that means we are starting a new one, then I’m on it.”

Both band members are Christian, but they do not consider themselves a Christian band. Their work is complex and loaded with symbolism.

Thus far, Twenty One Pilots seems to be a band bucking every established concept. The fact every song on “Blurryface” gained such accolades suggests creativity and composing outside the box will still cause the cream to rise to the top.

You can listen to the band’s music on YouTube and other sites listed on the official website.

(Kay B. Day/March 2, 2018)

2 thoughts on “From indie to label: Twenty One Pilots makes music history with ‘Blurryface’”

  1. I think musicians should play an active role in any decision making, especially on defining streams and how they are quantified when it comes to sales. I don’t have any answers–just questions, unfortunately. ~~KBD/editor

  2. Hi MJD! This was very informative and also very useful for future reference! Thank you for clearing this up. I always see people trying to add up individual SPS numbers from different countries but as you explained, it’s just not realistic. I’ve always wanted to ask you, what are your thoughts on equivalent track sales? According to the RIAA, 150 streams = 1 sale. Would you use this formula for global figures? I know you weight Spotify and YouTube differently, so I’m very curious about this. For example, ‘Rolling In The Deep’ has over 20 million pure sales, cumulative audio streams of 656 million, and a total of 1.882 billion video streams. What does this translate into? Pure sales 20 million Audio streams 4.3 million (using RIAA formula) Video streams ? Total ? Should we merge audio + video streams and weight them equally, like the RIAA does? The IFPI uses equivalent track sales, so I feel like it’s important to know more about this!

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