Try to remember the last time you heard of an album launch. Now try to think of a time when that wasn’t because of social media. I’m guessing that’s hard. Today, launching an album is more than an announcement - it’s a production. And the more elaborate and innovative artists become, the more insights offered for our own campaign launches.
Here are four takeaways from recent launches:
A little planning, a little mystery, and stir.
First, a disclaimer. This is not a think piece about what Beyonce means. It’s about what she does. When you step away from the ‘hair’ hullabaloo, you see an expertly executed album launch that was not only creative in the final deliverable, but also the moments leading up to the release. Beyonce first teased us that something big was coming with each Instagram -- the first one a video of her with the vague caption “Lemonade 4.23.” Leaving the world confused and excited in the wake, each consecutive post revealed a little more detail about her intentions. And after the release, she had the stylized Instagram trailers signifying her “Formation” world tour ready to go. Beyonce proves that the pre, during and post launch of a campaign can be both methodically planned but with a sprinkle of mystery.
Don’t neglect a good activation.
Like Beyonce, Taylor Swift excels at curating pre, during and post album launch content. But Swift knows there’s nothing like an activation campaign to reward fans and create a little buzz. For example, she invited hundreds of fans over to her house for cookies and sneak peeks of her upcoming album,“1989,” as part of her “1989 Secret Sessions.” The fallout of which had participants circulating their own content in addition to her aptly-shot polaroids and song lyrics on Instagram. The campaign had fans excited, the media talking, and it set the tone and look of her vintage-inspired album release.
Are you even listening?
LeBron James is known for many things - otherworldly basketball skills, commendable cameos in Amy Schumer movies and album launches, apparently. In March of this year, LeBron tweeted a request for Kendrick Lamar’s record label to release some of the new music they were withholding. Fans went wild. The tweet received upwards of 7,766 likes, 5,231 retweets and too many comments to count. Outside of the tweet, fans felt activated to call for Lamar’s untitled subtracks to be released. And thus, Lamar’s “untitled unmastered” was released, in part due to James’ participation but also because of fan fervor. The album was delivered and received with open arms because the record label listened to what fans wanted. To conceive a campaign without listening to what audiences actually want would be a fool’s errand. Unfortunately, it’s a step that strategists often miss when focused too much on being creative and less on sentiment.
Get a little weird and get a lot of attention.
Leave it to Radiohead to master the unconventional album release. Earlier this month, fans and media noticed that the band had disappeared from the Internet. Their website, Facebook and Twitter all went blank. While this approach may not have specifically signified an album drop, it did suggest something was happening (which of course turned out to be an album release). Wiping your social presence from the world can be counterintuitive and extreme for client-driven campaigns. But Radiohead’s actions demonstrate that sometimes a misplaced message, an underutilized platform or a bizarre stunt can be key to for drawing more eyeballs. In a phrase, keep marketing weird.
These artists have set the bar for innovative album launches, and more so, they’ve taught us a few tricks for keeping our campaigns fresh. After all, campaigns are music in the making.