Everyone has their preferences with how to consume new media. By that, I don’t mean PC vs. Apple, physical vs. digital, or fork vs. spoon, but rather how one is introduced to a new release. My partner prefers to avoid trailers, teasers, or any documentation that might spoil a movie she’s been looking forward to while she will consistently read ahead on how to proceed in a story-based game, allowing all the spoilers to come through, and I’m quite the opposite.
When it comes to music, I will go out of my way to try to find advance singles or samples of a new record for bands I love, while some of my friends will refuse to hear one note until they have a copy of the LP in hand so they can listen to it in full as the album was intended. With these differences in how to accept the new media and have it make an impact, my question lies in how to best market new albums. Especially considering over the past few years I’ve seen a rather predictable trend occur.
Many artists (at least in the metal and hardcore genres) have fallen into a three-step marketing plan for every new album.
Step One: release an official video for a lead single.
Step Two: release an official lyric video for another single.
Sometimes steps one and two can be reversed or combined into an official video with lyrics.
Step Three: partner with some website to stream your album in full a few days before the official release.
I noticed this trend happen with Cult Leader’s A Patient Man back in 2018 by advance releases of “I Am Healed” and “To: Achyls” and then again last year for Napalm Death’s singles of “Backlash Just Because” and “Amoral” in advance of their album Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism. These are just two of many albums that followed the same marketing trend of releasing two or three singles as either videos or lyric videos or streams followed by a full album stream before release. Now for me, I can appreciate this tactic as it will draw me in and make me appreciate the album in full when I finally get to hear the flow as it was intended in the complete release. But, I can see how it diminishes the joy and excitement of hearing it as a full work of art in a single sitting. For some, these are seen as “spoilers” and ruins the mood and flow and impact of the whole album, which is a point of view I can understand and appreciate.
Luckily some artists have strayed away from this by dropping new releases as surprises. For example, long-standing crust band Tragedy in 2018 dropped a new album, Fury, at a local show as a complete shock to everyone as it was their first new material in six years. 2020 was a good year for the surprise releases as queen Taylor Swift released not one, but two surprise albums and HUM released Inlet, their first new album since the fucking 90s!! This tactic of little to no advance notice of a new release can be a blessing and a curse because, on the one hand, everyone gets to experience the record as a holistic piece of art at the time of release, but on the other hand, its lack of advance singles or marketing could lead to the release being missed entirely.
Some artists are pushing the envelope by straying away from both of the above marketing strategies. Take for example “supergroup” Old Man Gloom who happens to have had the best marketing strategies of any band in a long time, mostly because their strategy is to pull different pranks and just mess with everyone. Be it through releasing a condensed version of their album Meditations in B as a single track on a HydraHead Sampler, or by releasing advanced copies of The Ape Of God to reviewers only to reveal that they are putting out two albums of the same name and the advances are a combo of tracks from each, and most recently providing a single to their new album Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning in May only to announce and release a full stream of the follow up album Seminar IX: Darkness of Being a few days later. I may not be the biggest fan of their music, but I am a huge fan of what they are doing, creating art and marketing art on their own terms. My guess is that it’s less a brilliant plan on how to sell their art, and more likely drummer Santos Montano convincing all the other members to follow through with some of his amazingly hilarious and borderline terrible ideas.
Now, I’m not saying one tactic is better than another or one way to consume the art is better than another. But it leads to the question: which is your preference? Are you the type who prefers to get bombarded with single after single until you can hear the full album or do you prefer to avoid the noise and immerse yourself into the full album experience? Which marketing strategy has more of an impact on you? For me, the surprise drops will always stick out in my mind, while the advanced singles fall into the background at least once the album drops. But out of all of them, I will always be drawn to pay attention to what Old Man Gloom does, because Santos is the single mostentertainingdude of all times.
We love you Santos! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Written by Ted Berger
*Edited by Dominic Abate