I was asked once if the concept of the album cycle is over. I generally think of an artist’s long-term career as an entity that is constantly growing and getting bigger every day. However, there’s no doubt, that any kind of statistical growth has valleys even if it’s moving upward in general.
Thus, it is not only extremely important that an artist has a strategic plan behind a content release, but garners attention and excitement about the project to create as much awareness as possible. This of course is to engage more casual fans and hopefully find new ones as the relationship between the artist and the hardcore fan generally boils down to the fact that the artist is proud to be putting out new material and the superfan is equally as excited if not more, to experience it.
When brainstorming ideas of what to do in advance of their new album, Brooklyn’s Bear in Heaven wanted to figure out a way to not only spread the word on their new album, but do so in a way that was creatively satisfying to the band as artists.
In December, Bear in Heaven announced their new album would not be previewed by releasing an album track or video. Instead, the band slowed their LP by nearly 400,000%, stretching it to play only once from December 14th 2011 until the release day of April 3rd 2012.
You can check out the pre-release stream on their website.
While some might view this as a marketing gimmick, Jon Philpot of the band considers the pre-release stream both a statement and an expression of creativity. Says Philpot, “We wanted to make an ambient record in addition to releasing this record (called “I Love You, It’s Cool”). Everyone is doing these countdowns for albums and we thought this concept allowed us to create both an ambient piece as well as a countdown. The stream is its own art and music in and of itself. It’s more of a monster than I thought it was going to be. I’ve been going in and checking it out. I don’t know where we are in our first song and it’s noisy. I wonder if people will have a strange familiarity [when they hear the album at the normal speed]. Subliminally maybe people will already feel they know this music.”
Imogen Heap is another artist who has been running a pre-release project for so long that I feel it has flown mostly under the radar for anyone who is not a hardcore fan.
In March of last year, Heap released 900 “sound seeds” to her fans of every day sounds ranging from a bike to a lit match. At that time she announced that she would be recording a song for her new album once every two months and releasing the track as soon as it was ready (“Xizi She Knows”, the latest single, is available now). The process will take a year and a half, with Heap’s new album set for the end of summer 2012. Not only has the pre-release created excitement among Heap’s fans, it has generated revenue as all have been released through her site and at digital retail. In addition, the project has already landed a sync deal, with “Minds Without Fear” landing on The Dewarists in India late last year.
However, before it makes sense for an artist to create a pre-release strategy, ideally they need fans who can help carry the torch of excitement by spreading the word. How does an artist get to that point? For Bear In Heaven, Philpot says it’s “The group of people that you’re with. You’re only as strong as the people you have around. Being able to trust each other is a big thing and to let the ego go.”
Social networking has also been a key to Bear In Heaven’s success. Says Philpot, “We put a lot of value in Twitter and Facebook. Adam [from the band]spends a lot of time on it; he’s dedicated to Twitter and it’s a good thing. Meeting other artists is very helpful as well. But the highest priority on the foodchain is making good tunes and making tunes that you like and hopefully other people like. Don’t censor yourself if you can.”
What are some of your favorite pre-release campaigns that you have either worked on or enjoyed as a fan? Please share in comments below, and/or on Twitter!