Music has a unique way of bringing people together. Whether you’re a 50-year-old mother of two or a college freshman, when the right song comes on, you both let your hair down and lose yourself in the sound.
Music can also bring marketing professionals together, because there have been some spectacular album promotions over the years. Here are seven of our favorites, as well as the lessons marketers can take from each one.
1) Kanye West Builds a Weekly Routine
To say Kanye West is a polarizing figure is an understatement, but the man can write a catchy tune. And after nearly a quarter-century in the industry, he’s made quite a few connections.
West put both of those to work to promote his 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. For 14 straight weeks, he dropped a new single every Friday, often featuring other hip-hop artists. Kanye called these releases “GOOD Fridays,” a play on words but also a nod to his GOOD Records label.
Some of the songs later appeared on the album or elsewhere, but they were all new at the time of release. Kanye also offered them for free on his website, allowing fans to get a taste of the record before purchasing it.
The Lesson: Offering a free piece of anchor content—whether it’s a song, a whitepaper, or a checklist—builds trust in your brand, which in turn leads to sales down the line. Additionally, don’t be afraid to lean on others to share your message. Cross-promoting via other people’s blogs, mailing lists, and social media (or music) is highly effective.
2) Josh Freese Offers Experiential Marketing Like None Other
If you’ve ever listened to a rock album, chances are Josh Freese has performed on it. The long-time drummer is a mainstay of acts like The Vandals and Devo and has also drummed for Axl Rose, Sting, Weezer, and The Offspring, just to name a few. With more than 400 records to his credit, he has to do something special to make his solo albums stand out.
Enter Since 1972, Freese’s second solo release from 2009. He developed a unique way for fans to get involved with the album by creating a crowdfunding campaign with a progressive list of goodies.
If you donated $50, you’d score a CD and DVD, a T-shirt, and a five-minute phone call with Freese himself. For 10 grand, he’d bring you to Disneyland and give away his Volvo station wagon. And the biggest prize of all: for a mere $75,000, Freese would not only take you on a trapeze lesson with Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails and serve as your personal assistant for two weeks, but he’d also record an EP about your life. Not a bad way to get memorialized!
The Lesson: Experiential marketing is a great way to give your customers something special. When you offer a memorable experience, they’re more likely to spread the word about your product.
3) Nine Inch Nails Knows Where Their Fans Will Be
Nine Inch Nails’ 2007 album Year Zero explores dystopian, apocalyptic themes. So naturally, frontman Trent Reznor wanted to create a wild, expansive landscape for fans to explore. And what better way to do that than with a cryptic scavenger hunt?
During the year and a half campaign, which the band called a “new entertainment form,” fans worked on decoding messages on T-shirts and joined website portals to learn more. They also downloaded songs from the record found on USB drives in the bathrooms at Nine Inch Nails concerts. Fans excitedly shared the files online, giving the album plenty of buzz before it even dropped.
The Lesson: While digital advertising is certainly important, feel free to think outside the box with the locations of your marketing strategies. An ad in the bathroom may sound unusual, but that’s when your audience is at their most captive. Get creative!
4) Jay-Z Embraces the Power of a Brand Partnership
Jay-Z has never been one to shy away from exclusivity. His music only recently returned to Spotify after he had removed it to promote his Tidal streaming service. But before all of that, he found a partner to creatively promote his 2013 album Magna Carta Holy Grail.
The rapper teamed up with Samsung, appearing in a commercial during the NBA Finals, when many of his fans were watching. In the weeks before the album came out, Jay-Z shared lyrics via a Samsung app. Three days before the album’s commercial release, he offered it free to download—as long as you were one of the first million people with a new Samsung phone and had been using the app.
On top of the million free downloads, Magna Carta Holy Grail debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 charts, selling 528,000 copies its first week. We’d call that a successful campaign.
The Lesson: Brands and influencers often partner together. However, the best partnerships come with each side contributing and being allowed to share their authentic voice. Offering exclusive discounts or freebies to customers can also help convince someone on the fence to make a purchase.
5) Lee Scott’s Exclusive Offers to Different Customers
UK rapper Lee Scott realizes not all of his customers are going to be super fans. For his album Nice Swan, he developed unique promotional packages to target fans at different stages of the buying process.
For example, Scott created a “Luxury Infomercial” video to let fans know that the first 100 people that pre-ordered the album would also get a limited-edition bundle chock full of exclusive content. Once the album was available to the public, he developed a new collector’s pack, which included bonuses like multi-colored vinyl records and a 16-page lyrical booklet.
When fans began uploading Nice Swan to the internet, he embraced it. He made the entire album available on all streaming sites for free, lending his music to a wider audience and gaining new fans that may have otherwise never heard him.
The Lesson: Know where your customers are on their buying journey. One type of incentive may not work for someone who’s just getting started, while a long-time fan may crave something else. If you can put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you can make your message more powerful.
6) Iron Maiden Crosses Into Video Games
Iron Maiden got its start when physical albums were just about the only option to hear a band’s music. But they’ve taken to the digital shift of music quite well. In fact, the promotion for their 2015 album Speed of Light seamlessly blends the modern marketing age with a highlight from when they were just getting started.
Without leaving the comfort of their computer chair, fans can hop on over to the arcade to play the Speed of Light 8-bit video game. The website also features links to buy the album or watch a music video. It’s a great combination of different mediums to share a story.
The Lesson: Customers spend plenty of time online, which can make it harder to stand out from the crowd. Use multiple methods to deliver your message.
7) Katy Perry Posts Up Near Landmarks
For musicians (and brands) with global audiences, you can embrace your status as someone recognizable across the world. That’s how Katy Perry approached marketing her 2017 album Witness.
The pop star planted chained disco balls at U.S. and international landmarks, such as New York’s Times Square or Leicester Square in London. The disco balls caught people’s eyes, and then the headphones captured their ears—they were playing Perry’s new single “Chained to the Rhythm.” Fans could share their experience by snapping a photo and using the #ChainedToTheRhythm hashtag.
The song earned three million streams within 24 hours of its release and set a new mark for the highest first-day streaming for a single track by a female artist. Maybe disco isn’t dead, after all.
The Lesson: As social media platforms become more popular, user-generated content is ripe for the picking. Offering your fans easy ways to share your message and giving them a perk along the way—like a sneak peek at an upcoming product—helps expand the content you can share.
Is there an album that sparks a special memory for you? Share it with us in the comments below!