As the record industry continues to search for new ways to sell and market records in the digital music age, more and more artists are using fresh and creative campaigns to sell albums. Of note has been Radiohead’s “pay what you want” maneuver for its 2007 In Rainbows album that sparked many copycats afterward. Björk and the Kaiser Chiefs stand to become the next two artists to find new marketing mechanisms, with the former releasing her new album this year as a series of apps for iPad, and the latter letting fans design their own album.
Björk, long known for her eclectic and evolving music style and voice, will release Biophilia this year, which she describes as a “multimedia collection.” Recorded partly on an iPad, the resulting “album” will combine the song with apps, live performance and music video.
For example, the app for the song “Virus,” created by interactive artist Scott Snibbe, consists of a close up shot of a virus attacking cells that are singing along with the chorus of the song. Additionally, the app is also an interactive game that allows the user to try and stop the virus from destroying the cells. The catch is that once a user “wins” the game—or stops the virus—the song stops playing.
In addition to the ten apps that are housed in a “mother app,” the Icelandic singer also will debut the songs live during a residency at the Manchester International Festival beginning later this month and continuing through the first two weeks of July. The concert will feature Björk performing the music onstage with the assistance of the aforementioned iPad, as well as new instruments she had commissioned for the shows, such as a pipe organ that can be controlled digitally.
Leed’s band Kaiser Chiefs released their fourth studio album, The Future is Medieval, on June 3 as a way for fans to create their own version of the album. When a visitor to their website purchases the album, they are given access to preview 20 tracks, all of which were recorded by the band specifically for its fourth record. After previewing the tracks, the purchaser is required to pick 10 tracks and arrange the track listing. Additionally, the user designs the albums artwork through a special design feature of the website.
Making the project particularly unique is the fact that after an album is designed by a user, a new website was created where the user can sell his or her version of the album to friends and others by promoting the copy on websites and social networks. For each copy sold, the user that designed the album is awarded £1.
While some critics derided the album as just a way for the record company to sell two copies of the album to the same user (assuming the buyer wanted all 20 tracks), the innovative method is just one in a string of creative marketing campaigns bands are participating in to market and, hopefully, sell albums. In fact, the move could hurt the band in a way, since each album design counts as a separate album, The Future won’t be eligible for chart positions.
Though the methods differ distinctly, the way Björk and Kaiser Chiefs are selling new albums is part of a current trend seeing bands looking for more ways to stay relevant and move copies. Whether these methods will work, however, remain to be seen.