It is easy to forget that behind top artists is a record label, and that record label has a marketing department and PR teams which employ managers and directors to conceive witty ways to convince you to still BUY music. Buying music–a delicate and dying past time in the digital age — has had to adapt some traditional marketing concepts surrounding the artist and their product, to result in return. Seeing as it’s list-making season, here’s the 5 Best Music Marketing Campaigns of 2013.
1. Beyonce’s Surprise Album
On December 13, Beyonce caught us with our pants down when she dropped her latest album completely unannounced–whilst in the middle of a world tour. The ensuing hype proved that she was bigger than advertising, and maybe even the Internet.
Her digital strategy involved shunning traditional tactics of churning publicity, and let her legion of fans do all the work for her via social media. News of the release was first announced to her followers on Instagram (8 million of them, to be exact) with the minimalistic caption of “Surprise”.
Queen Bey’s new self-titled album featured 14 songs and 17 music videos.
The element of surprise came off, mainly because she operated with the secrecy of the Illuminati; There were no teasers, previews or interviews, and despite working with a myriad of collaborators, everyone managed to keep their mouth shut.
iTunes got exclusive rights to release the album, meanwhile, Amazon threw a bitter strop and announced they wouldn’t sell it. Beyonce’s PR team sent her to Walmart to pick up a physical copy of the new release, whilst handing out $50 gift cards to shoppers. They caught the whole process on film, the video went viral, and might even earn her a sainthood.
It wasn’t just a great marketing plan to fit a great album, but it was also backed-up by results: there were social media mentions, video impressions, and most importantly of all, sales. Beyonce shifted 200,000 units on the first day, and 892,000 after three. This catapulted her to No. 1 on the charts, and cemented her place as the best selling female artist of 2013.
2. Miley Being Miley
You know when a nightclub closes and reopens two months later renamed, redesigned and with a new team of promotors? You walk into the club, it’s different, yet slightly the same? That’s technically what happened to Miley Cyrus.
Miley Cyrus entered 2013 as a completely redesigned product with a new target audience: horny old men. Having grown up on screen as a Disney darling, Miley needed to slay Hannah Montana in order to re-emerge as pop star Miley. The transition started with a chop and bleach dye of her hair, then several memorable performances (including the tongue-wagging-Robin-Thicke-twerking at the VMAs), Terry Richardson directed music video and naked photos, then finally, Bangerz, the album.
Miley’s tongue was wagging, consequently, everyone else was talking. Bangerz, an okay album, was propelled by the publicity stunts which saw the ballad “Wrecking Ball” enter the charts twice, a few weeks apart.
The redesigned and new Miley wasn’t taking actions into her own hands– this was a carefully choreographed marketing ploy by a team to reintroduce the singer. Miley’s actions were not the build up to a mental breakdown, but the build up to a new album launch.
3. Kanye West Drops A Baby And New Album 72 hours Apart
Now that Kanye West has taken a vow of verbal celibacy for six-months, we can begin to digest the biblical stream of consciousness he preached throughout 2013 in the build-up to Yeezus.
His surreal tour of the interview circuit blessed us with a slew of endlessly quotable, absurdist sound bites and inspired countless parodies. In his own head he’s a God, but on the Internet, Yeezus, is merely a meme. As a bonus feature, Kim Kardashian pushed the release date of their debut baby, North West, forward by five weeks, unleashing her upon the world a mere 3 days before Yeezy’s album.
4. Daft Punk Gets Lucky
Victims (re: enigmas) of false appearance reports and Coachella headlining announcements, Daft Punk’s French helmet shielded wonder-duo and their team took the notoriety of past hype created by their anonymity to promote Random Access Memories.
On February 28, split silver and gold helmet images merged together were released on the Daft Punk website and Facebook page. Followed by the exploration of social marketing teasing, conventional marketing techniques were also applied three days after the social interaction: a TV ad was released and billboards popped up in key locations around the world. The fused helmets were larger than life; minimal, yet impactful; staring down on the fans and them eagerly sharing their location on their personal social platforms.
Next, teaming with the Creators Project, interviews with Daft Punk collaborators were released as a documentary to the creation of the album. This was the build up to the album that brought back disco and launched hundreds of more tours for Nile Rodgers and Chic.
The album launch party wasn’t attended by 2,000 in Paris or NYC, but an obscure agricultural fair an Australian town with a total population of 2,000. The obscurity of the location of the album launch created even more press and hype for the release of RAM.
5. Arcade Fire Goes Guerrilla
When Arcade Fire won the 2011 Grammy for album of the year for The Suburbs, the wrath of a thousand tweets and the notable tumblr, Who Is Arcade Fire, was launched.
In preparation to promote their fourth studio album, Arcade Fire (AKA the-least-controversial-band-in-music) experimented with some guerrilla marketing techniques. It started with chalk and graffiti tags spelling out the album’s title, Reflektor, in major cities, followed by the appearance of posters in the same locations, revealing the album’s release date. The tags spread across social media, and even courted controversy when journalists questioned the safety and environmental impact of the “vandalized” buildings.
Then, Arcade Fire announced a series of small shows as their pseudo-band, The Reflektors, and asked audience members to dress up in fancy attire. The action, although reflective of the album and the pseudo-band, resulted in bad PR as asking fans to “dress up” for a concert was deemed inappropriate and applied a heavy word for an indie band: pretentious.
It felt like no small or large idea the AF camp employed to get people interested in the new Arcade Fire album was working. Except it was; it resulted in a conversation of whether the band’s actions to promote and invite the participation in their art was commercial or cultural, and certainly lustered more interest.