Recent high profile music releases
Ok, so this post may be a bit lengthy, but I feel like I need to write something down.
This week has seen the release of two fairly high profile (at least in their respective genres) music releases. Aphex Twin's Syro
and Thom Yorke's Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
Both artists have taken completely different avenues to generate interest and actually unleash their music onto the public.
Firstly, lets examine how Richard D. James has released his album. Over a month before the release date (16th August), various posters, stencil graffiti, and blimps(!) appeared in select locations worldwide including London, New York, and Tokyo. Shortly after these appeared in the real world, an onion site on the deep web was set up which could only be accessed via the Tor browser, which teased an imminent release of new material. This step in particular is something which is arguably beyond the scope of 'the average joe' and in my opinion was intended for those who were determined to find out more information about the release - i.e. the more, shall we say, "passionate" listeners.
Then over the coming weeks various things happened. Official announcement via the Warp Records website, including a classically Aphexian blurb and a smartly placed tidbit confirming the studio release of a long waited-for live track. Pre-orders for various editions of the album, and a limited edition £250 version that can only be purchased by winners of a random ballot. Then the actual early release of the first track, and subsequent listening parties that again could only be attended by winners of a separate ballot. All of this activity was interspersed with interviews peppered here and there, some overseas in Europe, some for well known web publications, etc.
All in all, it was a pretty standard and rather predictable hype train that was spiced up a little bit by the use of an unusual 'seed' (the Tor onion site) to help ignite interest firstly amongst the "passionate" fans, which would then fan out over the following weeks to others. In many respects, it was rather similar to a previous Warp Records album promotion that shall remain nameless for this post.
The main thing to take away from the Aphex Twin release is that the majority of "hype" if you want to call it that (and I certainly am) was done pre-release
- it was a steady and quite obviously very carefully planned set of events. We've seen this before with many artists - Trent Reznor comes to mind immediately, in his dabblings with promotional Alternate Reality Games.
So now I move on to what happened with Thom Yorke's solo album. Save for a photograph of what would end up being the vinyl release, there was no pre-announcement...no whipping up of a fan frenzy. Just a simple announcement from Thom on the Radiohead website that the album was available to buy right now, and that the distribution would be a little bit different from the norm...
The album is being sold as a £30 deluxe vinyl package with instant multi-format digital downloads, pretty standard fare these days for deluxe physical releases. However, the interesting bit is the option to purchase the album digitally for £3.69 as a pay-gated BitTorrent bundle - the first of it's kind
. I won't go into technical or logistcal specifics, but I will say that this is in my opinion a pretty big deal. Release music this way is similar to the recent revolution that has happened with artists who release music via Bandcamp, in the sense that the traditional music distribution and business model is being turned on it's head. I believe this distribution method has some serious legs - it puts the distribution into the power of the listeners (quite literally, since listeners download the tracks from each other) which means there are no middle men to pay, no reliance on the traditional scheduling and other stuff that goes on with a label (Aphex Twin's album was reportedly given to Warp back in December 2013/ January 2014 meaning at best a 9 month wait), and it means that all the power goes to the musician or artists producing the artwork.
The very fact that the album was released without any 'big noise' announcement or hype train leading up to the release date, as well as the novel distribution method is enough to generate it's own hype and interest without the laborious promotion that often goes into high profile releases. My Bloody Valentine are another example of a band that released a long awaited (almost 20 years!) album without any hype, unleashing it onto customers at the same time as the announcement.
In these main two examples of music releases, either artist could have gone either way - Thom could have done it the traditional way, and Richard could have done it the surprise way. I'm sure whatever they would've done would've garnered equally successful results. I just feel that after quite a few of these protracted hype trains, it's so refreshing
to have an album be released without any long anticipation - to be able to just consume the media, and enjoy it. #aphextwin #syro #thomyorke #tomorrowsmodernboxes
(I have disabled comments for this thread, for reasons that should be clear to some.)