During the production cycle, bands promote records weeks if not months in advance. Notice how the records first single comes with the album announcement 3-4 months before release? This is all planned by the band’s marketing and promotions department. For the bands who really want attention, they want to do more than just release a single and announce it to social media.
Bands want to make sure they can bring the most earholes to their records as possible. They do this through crafting marketing campaigns around their records. While the artists presented in this blog are not necessarily oldies artists, they work they put into marketing albums allow for a memorable experience. Listeners remember these records for the better (in one’s case, for worse) because of the hard work that went into marketing them.
The late Swedish DJ Avicii allowed audiences to get to know the story of each song intimately. The artist’s marketing team crafted an interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” narrative format around the songs. For those unaware, this format allows users to be in control of the story presented to them by clicking on a series of prompts leading to alternate situations or endings. They let the fans play as Avicii, and as each narrative wrapped, it was revealed to represent a track on the album. The marketing campaign smartly reflects the title and themes of the record. It also creates a world for fans to inhabit while listening to the album. Making the journey they took to get to the record personal to them.
Guns N’ Roses- Chinese Democracy
Typically, artists begin marketing campaigns with other companies when the record is complete. However, it is unusual for a brand to create a marketing campaign around an artist so they can finish their record. The much maligned and delayed 2008 record Chinese Democracy took 14 years to create! Their previous records were the Use Your Illusion double header from 1991. Fans thirst for more Guns N’ Roses was reaching fever pitch. To quench that thirst, Dr. Pepper, apparently huge Guns N’ Roses fans, announced it would give everyone in America a free soda if Chinese Democracy would be released in 2008. At this point $13 million was spent on the record and the only way tracks were heard if you saw Guns N’ Roses live. The band pulled through, releasing the record on November 23, 2008. What’s great about the campaign was that it was not sponsored by the band at all. It was in fact Dr. Peppers attempt at cheap publicity. Once the record came out, the company made good on its promise.
U2- Songs of Innocence
How do you release an album to millions of fans without even knowing they are your fans? You give them a free record. Whether they want one or not. Leading up to an Apple product launch, representatives for the band have stated that U2 would not be involved. The group famously used music from their 2004 LP How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in commercials for the Ipod. This promotional campaign is different as it still affects people to this day. After unveiling The Apple watch and a new Iphone, CEO Tim Cook revealed that the new record, Songs of Innocence would be available to all Itunes Store customers at no cost. What could possibly go wrong? The record was automatically added to the purchased section of a user’s libraries, available to 500 million customers in 119 counties. Tim Cook called it the “largest album release of all time.”
The album campaign didn’t work as it angered musicians and fans. Artists such as The Black Keys Patrick Carney, felt that giving away the record represented music piracy and that up-and-coming artists struggled to release music at all. Fans and Apple users expressed displeasure in the inability to get the record off their devices. The record, while intended to be a “gift” from the band, became one most couldn’t give back.
Wu Tang Clan- Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
Wu Tang Clan, one of the all-time great hip hop groups felt that the value of music had been cheapened by piracy. Alongside marketing stunts such as U2’s Songs of Innocence, the ability to purchase music wasn’t holding much water in the early 2010’s. The group’s record, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin proves that music does have value. So much so that very few people could actually hear it. The album was placed in a handcrafted nickel and silver box and allegedly features music recorded over their storied career. Only one copy was made and was sent on a tour of museums, music festivals and art galleries. The album sold for $15 million, once again placing value on music by making it one of the most expensive records ever sold.
This concludes part one to the greatest marketing campaigns ever executed. Tune in next week for part two.