The old way: CDs were biked around media offices by filth-caked couriers, as PR companies and pluggers got paid mega-bucks to persuade DJs, hacks and TV presenters to get behind them.
The new way: Bands and PR companies – still in some cases paid mega-bucks – do anything and everything they can to make the artist a hit on Google.
Examples: The Ting Tings, Rihanna.
Marketing manager John Bonini of Impact Branding and Design recently told the Wall Street Journal that Lady Gaga’s tweets make her £19 million a year. That’s about £1 per follower. How is that possible? Well, “The first thing you do when you hear a new artist is Google them,” David Collyer tells us.
Collyer is the owner of Authority Communications. The Premier League likes of Elbow, Kasabian, Florence & The Machine, or Paul Weller, turn to him when they desire digital pimping. “You need an up-to-date online presence to survive these days,” says Collyer, and a key way to do this is with Twitter. Keeping connected with your fans not only makes you feel exciting, but part of someone’s life – you’re more likely to spend money on an album if you feel there is a genuine connection.
To give you some idea of Google’s power in the music industry, Coldplay’s Chris Martin recently said that his only regret regarding their latest album was calling it Mylo Xyloto. Not because it sounds like a sinister French clown but because it was “two words that you couldn’t even Google… Nobody knows how to even try to spell it as they enter it in that little white box.”
Rihanna also has a name that’s hard to spell but it doesn’t appear to be holding her back. With an artiste of this sort of size, clever campaigns and tailored content seem unnecessary; multiplatform promotional carpet bombing is the order of the day. The Umbrella singer has over a billion views on YouTube and more than 54 million Facebook “likes”, while nearly 16 million souls tune in to hear Twittercisms such as “This bitch I’m wit is thick as f*ck” and “God is MAJAH!”
Despite that, “The real idea is to go viral,” according to Matt Key, Engine Creative’s co-founder. “That gets the interaction from the fans, and the natural growth on Google.” The Ting Tings recent augmented album cover is a prime example. Engine Creative built an app so that when you place an iOS device over the album, the cover comes to life. As a result your jaw drops, so you tweet… Word spreads. “A company like ours provides a service for bands to do something a bit different, to stand out,” explains Key.
Post the Lana del Rey “authenticity” wars, this could become an issue, though. Key admits the Ting Tings did nothing in the creation of their own app beyond approving it, while Snow Patrol once told us they didn’t even know the app we were sent to interview them about existed. Similarly, Rihanna may not be entirely behind everything “Rihanna” puts online, and John Power would rather “strum guitars” than “tweet or any of that shite.” “I think if you’re putting it out there, it all has to be believable,” says Key. “It has to fit the brand, and resonate with the fans or it’ll undoubtedly fail”. Angry Birds: Joy Division Edition will have to remain but a cherished dream, then…