How far do you have to go to promote a new album?! Radiohead and Beyoncé included

Do you remember when we used to find out about new album release by means of a classic, and yes, sometimes predictable, album launch? Something along these lines


Well, you may not have realised, but the world has changed. It’s not just technological progress or the move from printed press and our old pal the TV to so-called new media, but the increasingly pressing need to surprise.


And it is not only emerging artists elbowing each other out of the way and inventing new appealing formulas in order to stand out from the competition. In fact, that sort of logic – “what can I invent to show I have some new music?” – makes a lot of sense for them.


Yet recently we have witnessed an impressive amount of teaser mania from the big players too.


What really struck us was how two such different artists could have put together two strategies that in some aspects are very similar. We are talking about the communication strategy adopted by Radiohead and Beyoncé.


It was late April when Beyoncé used social media to release a mysterious teaser to the world, pre-announcing an equally mysterious event. It was a dreamy, slightly distressing video, where the sounds were overlaid with a constant mood of suspense.


Rumours ranged from a new album to a clothing line, but one thing we were all certain of – this was a “world premiere event”.



Beyoncé wanted to make sure people were talking about her even before the product was out and, obviously, she succeeded. So, while on the one hand we have a video teaser on social media, on the other we have a teaser manoeuvre that is even more complex and, perhaps, pretentious.


We mean “How To Disappear Completely” implemented by our Oxford boys of course. On the first of May, Radiohead completely disappeared from the internet.


It was an unannounced erasure, all traces of tweets, posts and any other signs of a social life were just blank.


But already by the next day a little bird had awoken fans with a clue, a preview, a teaser of what we now know is “Burn The Witch”.


I Radiohead non sono nuovi a modalità alternative per il lancio e la vendita dei loro album.


Rimane una case history la strategia pay what you want che adottarono nel 2007 per l’album “In Rainbows“. Reindirizzarono fan e visitatori del sito ufficiale a una nuova piattaforma creata per ricevere prenotazioni per l’album. Oltre al formato fisico, con il sistema “paga quello che vuoi” i Radiohead misero a disposizione degli utenti il download digitale di tutte le tracce in formato MP3.


Il successo fu enorme sia per la musica liquida sia per il formato fisico. Insomma, sappiamo che Thom Yorke e soci sono degli sperimentatori, non solo musicalmente parlando. Questa volta hanno portato il silenzio per far sentire ancora più forte il cinguettio del loro indizio.


Dall’altra parte abbiamo Beyoncé che ha puntato tutto sul suono, profondo, vibrante, inquietante per far risuonare il suo appuntamento planetario.


In entrambi i casi è ancora in atto il confronto tra sostenitori e osteggiatori del prodotto musicale tout court, ma quello che ci domandiamo è se la creazione di questa enorme suspense non abbia potuto influire sul generare aspettative esagerate.


Radiohead are no newcomers to alternative methods for launching and selling albums. Their 2007 pay what you want strategy for the “In Rainbows” album remains a case history. They redirected fans and visitors from the official site to a new platform created to receive pre-orders for the album.


In addition to the physical format, Radiohead used the pay what you want system to offer users the digital download of all the tracks in MP3.


Both the digital music and the physical format were a huge success. In short, we know Thom Yorke and friends like to experiment and not only musically speaking.


This time they used silence to increase the hype around their launch. Then we have Beyoncé who bet everything on a deep, vibrant and disturbing sound to make her global launch a big deal.


In both cases, the debate between fans and the haters still rages on, but what we wonder is whether the creating of this huge suspense might not have generated exaggerated expectations.




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