Why Radiohead’s Marketing Campaign for the New Album is Pretty Genius

I just wanted to type up a quick post talking about what Radiohead have been doing recently to promote their new album – A Moon Shaped Pool – and why it’s awesome. I’m not even a massive Radiohead fan (don’t get me wrong, I like their albums, but they’re not one of my favourite bands), but even so, you can’t help but admire their marketing approach. There’s two sides to it that I want to talk about: going against the social media grain, and not making the album easily accessible…

The social media disappearance

I didn’t even realise that Radiohead were releasing a new album until a couple of weeks ago when half my Twitter feed shared articles about Radiohead’s social media disappearance, i.e. keeping their profiles/pages but deleting all old tweets and status updates.

Radiohead on the Guardian screenshot
At first, I think a lot of people thought “what the hell are Radiohead doing?”, like it was a bad thing to do, because it goes against the typical social media way of thinking – the fact that you should use those channels to talk about yourselves, not simply be mute. But that’s exactly why it was such a smart thing to do. Everyone talked about it. EveryoneThe Guardian. Vanity Fair. Pitchfork. NME. Mirror Online. The Telegraph. The Independent. Mail Online.* Mashable. Fortune. ITV News. Daily Star. The Huffington Post. I could go on…

* …Who I’m not going to link to, because… it’s Mail Online. I mean c’mon… this blog publishes some really stupid stuff, but I’ve gotta have some standards…

Then, a few days later, a whole bunch of the biggest news publishers in the world wrote about them again, when Radiohead broke their social media ‘silence’ by releasing one of the songs.

From what I could see it was one of the most talked about, widely reported – and therefore highly anticipated – album releases I’ve seen this year so far.

I can’t find the tweet now, but someone joked on Twitter that Radiohead’s social media manager probably had a heart attack when they were told to delete everything. But who knows… maybe they were the one who suggested it. Whoever it was deserves a pat on the back anyhow.

Not making the whole album available via Spotify

I’ve talked on here before about how what you choose not to do promotion-wise and being selective could actually be better than trying to push yourself out everywhere. That post is nearly five-years-old now and yet it’s truer than ever – and I’d put my money on the fact that Radiohead have been strategic here…

Two tracks from the new album – “Burn The Witch” and “Daydreaming” – were made available on Spotify, sort of as singles. However the whole album hasn’t been. As I type this, if you go on their profile on Spotify, you’ll simply see this message:

Radiohead on Spotify screenshot
The old-school musician promotion tactic was to work hard and get yourself out there – get seen and heard by as many people as possible. As a former musician myself, I can attest to it – I played as many gigs and open mic nights as I could, and whenever I released a CD, I tried a promote it as much as I could (pretty naïvely/terribly, to boot). With the Internet, it’s easy to think “I need to put my music out everywhere” and put it on Myspace (hey, remember Myspace?), Last.fm, SoundCloud, Bandcamp… and Spotify.

But what’s wrong with putting your music on Spotify? Well, the royalty fees are absymal, supposedly. It’d be much better if people bought an actual copy of the music – on CD, via iTunes, etc. – rather than only streaming and listening via Spotify.

It used to be the case that if a band wasn’t on Spotify, it was because a) their record label hadn’t sorted things out with Spotify just yet, or b) they’d flat-out refused to be on it (which was the case with the likes of Metallica and AC/DC for a time, and is still the case with Tool). However instances like these are few and far between these days, and obviously Radiohead have indeed shared two singles from the album on Spotify, just not the rest of it. This screams to me that this has been done very much on purpose – they’re choosing not to put the album on Spotify, to encourage more purchases (assuming that people won’t just illegally download/stream it instead, of course).

I’ve gotta say, it’s a clever move… Like I said in the intro to this post, I’m not a massive Radiohead fan, but I really like the two new songs that I’ve heard and so I’m really tempted to buy it, depsite being a Spotify-only kinda listener (usually) who rarely ever buys CDs/MP3s anymore. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Musicians (and, well, anyone) can learn a lot from Radiohead. Be bold and be different to get noticed. And don’t just make yourself easily available because it’s the standard thing to do. Do it well and it will pay off.

1 Comment

  • Dan

    June 1, 2016 at 4:11 am Reply

    Radiohead is great at playing the contrarian … geniuses they are!

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