In the wake of an overload of social media marketing plus blackouts used to promote album campaigns (I tend to go by the general rule: once Taylor Swift starts doing it, it's dead), recently some artists have been taking things back to basics. Just last week, rock behemoths Brand New released their first album in eight years—supposedly their last ever—by sending it in the post on CD to 500 fans, and they're not the only people to be employing tactics like this right now.
In the past couple of days, fans of both King Krule—a wunderkind who hasn't released music since December 2015—and erm, U2—some dads—have received items of interest in the mail. The comparison between the two is kind of a lesson in why this sort of thing doesn't always work.
Let's start with Krule. Well known as an elusive musical presence, it makes a lot of sense for him to promote new music via the strange, low-key, and personal vehicle of the Royal Mail. A few days ago, fans started to tweet that they had received some interesting post from the man himself:
The "mail" in question features a charming photo of Krule and a dog on one side, and something that looks suspiciously like lyrics in Spanish on the other. But just you wait. On Monday, a video called "Bermondsey Bosom" emerged on Krule's Facebook page, where these same lyrics are read over an instrumental as a scenic clip plays:
As per the video's caption, the words translate as:
Slipping into filth, lonely but surrounded.
A new place to drown, 6 feet beneath the moon.
He arose a blood sucker, painting black and blue objects
with projections of himself. It was always about himself.
He jerks inside,
his guts twist,
sits in the Big Smoke
and thinks of her....
Me and you against this city of parasites,
Intriguing, no? This sort of build-up makes me feel genuinely excited about what's to come from King Krule. Very good.
...And then on the other hand, there's U2. Not content with infiltrating everyone's phones like the Y2K virus when pushing album Songs of Innocence onto all iTunes accounts in 2014, U2 are now forcing their agenda into people's literal homes. Yesterday, members of their fan club (ahem) received mysterious "letters" that probably pertain to their new album, which is probably called Blackout:
I mean, fine I guess—it's just that for some reason, while very similar marketing works for musicians like King Krule and Brand New who have been out of the spotlight for years, for U2 who are, for better or worse, extremely hammy, it feels a lot less interesting.
And while there is a long history of bands doing general weird shit to get people talking about their music (remember when Nine Inch Nails left USBs with unreleased music on them in venue bathrooms for fans to find on their 2007 Year Zero tour?), right now this seems to be a response to the predictability of the promo cycle in 2017. But as I've pointed out, it can always go either way, and your standing in the music industry can have a huge impact on whether this sort of marketing feels cool or tryhard. And when huge bands like U2 are hopping on board, it can only feel like something genuinely fun and different for so long.
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