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So much media buying…

8 Aug

Yep, that erratic, dreadful about posting Nomoretvparty blogger person is back.

I wanna briefly talk about the current guerilla marketing trends used by some of the major and major indie labels for record releases this year, because I think it’s a trend that is both impressive and absolutely dire. (And we won’t even go into how that marketing goes into overdrive for major tours/festivals/the SXSW Hulu Stride Gum party in a warehouse)

This is simply about how buzz has been building for a format that has lost all currency in the Spotify/iTunes landscape, the album. For example, on the huge PR funding campaign, Daft Punk and their new label Columbia paid for short teaser ads that appeared on programs like SNL. These ads literally just flashed their iconic helmets, until they finally released the same ad with a snippet of their new single, which we would eventually be called “Get Lucky.” Then they released more at hugely attended and phone-laden events like Coachella banking on the crowd to spread the word of a mystical video showing the robots and Pharrell singing this new single we had only heard a part of. It all played out in a smart fashion, but for an album that will probably sell decently by current standards was it a smart investment?

As a music listener, I can say it actually worked. Was there really that much clamor at the beginning of the year for a new Daft Punk album? Perhaps. But could you really bank on a band that made “Human After All?” That album was seriously one of the biggest disappointments of the last decade.

But, all of sudden these cryptic ads appeared. Daft Punk were back. And then there was music…music that sounded like the best song that they had done in a decade. All of sudden you HAD to hear this album. They had teased you with that 15 seconds of Italo-influenced disco. Everyone was talking about this new Daft Punk. (Why they didn’t make an Italo album in 05’ when that was a thing again, I’ll never know).

And then there was Boards of Canada. They pushed it in an even more cryptic fashion that jives with the band’s image. Record Store Day releases printed into the single digits. Secret codes also dropped in snippet videos and then shockingly enough a television ad. Let me say that again…there was a TELEVISION ad talking about Boards of Canada. Then a website was launched that had more news about the record release had to be cracked with these codes…

It was all brilliant and engaged with the audience and credit to creative, but unlike Daft Punk it was all totally unnecessary. Daft Punk are a band that realistically should fit with exactly what is happening in the major pop musical force that is EDM.(And yes it is a pop musical force, a shitty one, but there are people seriously like that bollocks.) In some ways records like Discovery and Homework are at least partially responsible for that school of dance music, but their momentum was seriously gone. If you could name me more than 2 songs on their last album, I’d be shocked. They certainly didn’t release singles or remixes that kept them in the ether. You needed something to remind you just how much you liked Discovery or Homework. You needed to remember that despite a lot of people ripping them off, Daft was a band that had something to say and create that as a music fan you needed to hear. (Which they did, R.A.M. is a really well produced anti-EDM/old person dance album that I really dig.)

So the buzz created was definitely a success.

But, a group like Boards of Canada? If any band doesn’t need sleight of hand it’s Boards of Canada. They’ve made being slow moving hermits part of their mystique. You EXPECT them not to do anything for five years at a time. Their last album, while partially disappointing, certainly didn’t cause their cult of fans to abandon them. And that’s what it is, it’s a cult of fans, their albums are not going to be that widely crowd-pleasing.

Here’s how you advertise Boards of Canada’s new record… There’s a NEW ALBUM by Boards of Canada coming out in 2013. That’s all any of us card-carrying members of the BOC cult need to know. I don’t need cool creative codes or Adult Swim albums to sell me, just say “you know those bonkers brothers in Scotland that made Geogaddi… they have something NEW.”

In this case I’d almost rather see those ad dollars just go to the band’s pockets. The ideas were cool though.

And that leaves us with Magna-Carta Holy Grail, which is a new low in the “I have a number 1 album on the charts” game. Samsung bought a million copies and gave them to their phone owners, which came in the form of a personal info accessing app.  Oh not to mention all those TV ads, paid for by Samsung during the NBA Finals(EXPENSIVE ad real estate mind you), filled with Jay-Z discussing just how many ideas he has about releasing this album.

How about putting that into the music? Instead of making soul-coasting, hip-hop versions of late 80s Rolling Stones records that have one decent song and lots of uninspired excess, make something that really pushes your skills/ideas/soul. And to top it off the app didn’t even work for that many people, due to server crash and general downloading malaise!

In short the buzz did kind of work, however the implementation and motivation let it down majorly.

While I don’t want to see this become a standard or necessary for a band’s success, I would argue that these marketing moves did in fact do something that was good for the industry. They got people talking about albums. People probably would’ve just gone to some webstore or random dark portal and downloaded it, but here they were engaging with the idea of an album. We had to think back to what we liked about those artists. Could they do it again? What’s that small sample they are playing now? It sounds cool, is it on the ALBUM?

There was mystery and imagination again like when you couldn’t stream every song instantly or only had the liner notes to inform you about who this band is. That feeling is one you don’t get to experience as often as a music fan anymore and is increasingly valuable…even though it was all prompted again by record companies dropping mad dollars.

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