The element of surprise has rarely been desirable in the world of music marketing. Traditionally, there were months of lead up to album releases, and every act during those months was a specifically designed PR move to raise anticipation for a new album. This ranged from new artists releasing their debut album to established artists looking to make a comeback.
And in a world where you’re fairly likely to know what your favorite singer had for breakfast via a tweet or Facebook post, it would seem that surprise would no longer be possible, even if it was desired.
However, a few recent releases have bucked this trend, which leads us to wonder if there are some positive marketing aspects centered around secrecy in this day and age when information is freely and quickly spread. More importantly, how does this help independent music artists?
My Bloody Valentine and David Bowie are two of the most recent examples of a surprise attack when it comes to releasing albums. It makes more sense for the former, which hasn’t released an album since 1991’s Loveless , a record that has become one of the most iconic indie albums ever made.
Though the group’s guitarist and songwriter Kevin Shields has often spoken of new music for years, the actual release of the group’s third album, mbv , earlier this year seemed to come as a surprise to everyone. Even at a relatively high price for a digital download, the band’s site (where the album was put up for sale) crashed within minutes of the album’s availability.
Perhaps more impressive was the surprise announcement of David Bowie’s 27th studio album, The Next Day , earlier this year. Though Bowie has been absent from the public eye for much of the past decade due in part to health problems, it’s still improbable that an artist as legendary as Bowie could sneak in and out of a New York City studio and record an entire album with no one finding out.
But that’s just what he did, and the debut of the album’s first single, “Where Are We Now,” that announced the album’s release seemed to come to a shock to just about everyone.
But how does this relate to indie marketing? Isn’t the inherent goal of marketing to get the word out about a new product? After all, David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine are going to sell records no matter how they release them.
Sure, but it goes back to the previously mentioned fact of how connected everyone in today’s music world. However subconsciously, it seems there is something of a hankering for the old tradition of the mysterious artist, and at this point one of the only ways to achieve that is by giving your audience some type of surprise.
Marketing is more important than many indie artists realize, particularly today when nearly everyone can “release” music in one way or another, it’s increasingly important to promote your work both online and off. But there’s no “right” way to do it. There are probably cases where hiding the fact that you are recording an album until it is ready for release will work to your advantage. For another artist, using this strategy might mean that no one really notices a new album release.
The point here is to keep in mind the importance of marketing in your strategy as an artist. It’s one of those business aspects that can easily get overlooked, particularly in the life of a young artist.