It’s been a busy month for The Black Keys. But perhaps more so for their record label (Nonesuch/Warner Brothers), their Management (Q Prime) and their PR company (Sacks & Co). The lead up to and release of The Black Keys’ album El Camino must be a very stressful time for all involved. Maximise this opportunity and an album can maximise its sales potential; mess up and an album can potentially sink without trace.
How The Black Keys’ promoted this album really has been a case study in how best to release an album in the digital age. The end result? 206,000 albums sold in the first week of release in the USA and a number 2 position on the album charts.
Much of the band’s El Camino album release strategy seems to have been pretty much honed during the Brothers album release. Then, as now, the band concentrated on New York media opportunities and the live TV appearances that location offered to give maximum punch to the campaign.
What was interesting this time around was how much more intense and sustained this release campaign for El Camino was.
There wasn’t just a few events, but rather an almost daily release of information. This included:
- email blasts to a fan mailing list
- Twitter and Facebook updates
- viral videos
- tour date releases
- Record Store Day record release
- TV, print andÂ radio interviews
- video interviews
- album release shows
- livestream broadcasts
It was a cross-media and cross-platform assault on fans, old and new.
All the events seemed designed to generate awareness and a frenzy of sorts, an excitement in fans that would spill over into a commitment to pre-ordering or rushing out in the first week to buy the album. The momentum of those early sales (album and concert) will then create a self-perpetuating momentum of word of mouth and demand.
A few things were more notable with this album release campaign above all others, or were done better than ever:
- The much better use of direct emails to alert fans for pre-sales and events
- The constant insistence for fans to join the said mailing list
- The support of local and independent record stores, whilst at the same time almost exclusively pushing pre-ordering via iTunes and their website
- The way Pat Carney led news releases via his Twitter account
- The fact that the album only leaked a week before the release. In any case the band had their own streaming system set up for some songs, even though they would deny other streaming sites the privilege.
- The general coordination across all media that kept The Black Keys in the music press seemingly day after day, week after week, in one way or another
The album was released into the unusual December 6 slot, something Pat Carney noted in an interview:
Thereâ€™s a rule you release albums in February-March, then you tour the summer. Then thereâ€™s the September-October schedule. Our new album is out on December 6. I asked the label for a list of major rock bands that had released albums in December. In the last 10 years thereâ€™s maybe four. But our manager said itâ€™s a shame more bands donâ€™t, â€˜cos it would force the industry not to shut down. So weâ€™re going to try it.
Perhaps the attraction of not having to release against other major acts as they did with Brothers in May 2010 was also an attraction. Releasing the album as soon as they practically could after creating it also meant The Black Keys’ built upon, and importantly didn’t lose, the momentum they had created with Brothers. So many thousands of new fans had first heard that album or were introduced to it via the band’s touring even during this 2011 northern summer.
Although the figures are not yet out, it looks like the El Camino album will go to number one in the USA and elsewhere. The band have already sold out Madison Square Garden, New York, and have announced another show and also multiple nights in Alexandra Palace, London. They’ve also booked stadiums in advance for their North American/Canadian tour. It might just be The Black Keys’ are a fantastic band, but their promotion and those supporting them have certainly shown the way as well. No doubt there’s much more to come over the coming months, though most of the work has now been done.
For those who were asleep this past month, here are some of the promotional highlights and how the PR unfolded: