The Black Keys’ Mystery Promo Video

Update: Mystery solved. See this MTV article for details.

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It’s now been more than a month since The Black Keys’ released their new album, El Camino. While everything about the release was relatively self-explanatory, one big unknown remains. What was the point of this so-called ‘Masked’ video?

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM-2p3sUML4

The video shows Dan and Pat having moulds made of their faces to masks.

The video was, of course, released as part of an elaborate Record Store Day promotion for the Lonely Boy/Run Right Back 12″ vinyl release. There was a backwards url placed on the record sleeve that prompted fans to go to a url : www.theblackkeyselcamino.com. The site just had a countdown clock which, when it hit the zero hour, revealed this video.

Even more interesting how come only, to date, 725 or so people have viewed it? Fans seem not to have been interested in it. Or rather it just hasn’t received the publicity it perhaps deserves. Part of the reason the video has so few views is that it is unlisted, so it doesn’t appear on The Black Keys’ YouTube channel if you are looking at the Lonely Boy video, say.

So, what now? What is the point, purpose or meaning behind this video? It doesn’t make sense to develop a campaign around this video for it not to play a further role in the elaborate marketing strategy for this album.

Perhaps it’s part of the ‘making of’ a new video. What do you think? Surely the fans out there are interested to know, or someone knows what the plans are for it. Leave a comment or hit  The Black Keys Fan Lounge up on Twitter with your thoughts.

How The Black Keys Promoted The El Camino Album

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 and  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:

There’s a rule you release albums in February-March, then you tour the summer. Then there’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 there’s maybe four. But our manager said it’s a shame more bands don’t, ‘cos it would force the industry not to shut down. So we’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:

 

El Camino: Which Songs Will Form The Black Keys’ New Tour Setlist?

There are few certainties in life except for death, taxes and the same Black Keys’ setlist at every show on a particular tour.

The Black Keys’ concert setlist for a tour, once settled upon, seems to not change for the life of that tour. Over the years some songs have managed to hang on and be included on most tours. With a new album, El Camino, being released there is even more material to choose from. What the setlist will be for the first shows of upcoming tour after El Camino is released will therefore be of great interest to fans.

If there’s one thing fans love to discuss it’s what, in their opinion, the best setlist should be. No-one is ever happy, everyone has their favourites. Older fans always pine to hear a rarity or early material. Some would love for the band to mix it up every night, play at least something from Chulahoma or have a fantasy chance to program the setlist themselves. Alike their sound, however, The Black Keys call the shots and are very deliberate with their setlists.

The other reality is with the release of El Camino, The Black Keys will have 85 songs on their 7 released albums to choose from, not including rarities, covers (Chulahoma) and b-sides they are known to have played. Clearly it’s not all going to fit into a 60-90 minute set. When the band was consistently playing a 90 minute set they were playing 22 songs.

Here’s the setlist from their 27 July 2010 show on the Brothers tour:


8 of these songs were from the Brothers record, easily their most popular. Common sense would suggest that most fans on the next tour coming to shows will want to hear the Brothers material, for many it would have been their first introduction to the band. At a guess Tighten Up, Howling For You, Next Girl, Everlasting Light, She’s Long Gone are most likely to be included in the new El Camino tour setlist.

Of course, the the band will have to preview new material to get fans buying the new El Camino album. Let’s assume after a few months from the release date, at least 5 dongs from El Camino are added to the setlist.

If 5 Brothers tracks and 5 El Camnio tracks are part of the setlist, that would leave 12 other tracks from all other albums to fill the 22 tracks of a 90 minute set.

Some songs built the band’s popularity, especially live, and seem to have become the core around which newer material is added. Some of the songs that have constantly been included in The Black Keys setlists from 2002 – 2011 include:

  • Busted, I’ll Be Your Man, The Breaks (from The Big Come Up album),
  • Thickfreakness, No Trust, Set You Free (Thickfreakness)
  • 10am Automatic, Stack Shot Billy, Girl Is On My Mind (Rubber Factory),
  • Your Touch (Magic Potion)
  • I Got Mine, Strange Times (Attack & Release).

If these 10 were included, 2 more rarities/b sides might be included to round out the 22 tracks. Perhaps a choice between Have Love Will Travel, Til I Get My Way, Same Old Thing, No Trust or Too Afraid To Love You might get a look in on different nights.

Possible El Camino tour 22 song setlist (obviously not in playing order) assuming a 90 minute set:

  1. Lonely Boy
  2. [El Camino]
  3. [El Camino]
  4. [El Camino]
  5. [El Camino]
  6. Tighten Up
  7. Howling For You
  8. Next Girl
  9. Everlasting Light
  10. She’s Long Gone
  11. Busted
  12. I’ll Be Your Man
  13. Thickfreakness
  14. The Breaks
  15. 10am Automatic
  16. Stack Shot Billy
  17. Girl Is On My Mind
  18. Your Touch
  19. I Got Mine
  20. Strange Times
  21. Til I Get My Way
  22. Same Old Thing

No-one seems to have ever really asked The Black Keys why their set lists don’t seem to change. The general reasons though might well have been summarised  in this Forum post by fan DerekIrving, when he explained:

I get this question too with my band so here are some reasons my band use’s the same set list for a year before changing it.

1. Performance Length
You know exactly how long your performance is. Introducing new songs change this

2. Musician Consistancy
Every musician has each song down solid, there are no suprises. The more musicians on stage, the more reason to stick to a known set

3. Set List flow
The set list has a known flow to it for energy, vibe, dynamics, etc You know when there is chatter between songs or when a guitarist switches a guitar. Changing night after night affects this

4. Sound and Lighting
The sound and light tech’s know each set, there are no suprises here either. Some of this stuff is programmed and well rehearsed

5. Known costs
You know your full production cost.

6. Fine tuned rehersals
You don’t waste time. You focus on making the song sound as best as it can
You don’t have too many different sets to worry about, just focus on one, focus on the presentation

I like to think of a set as an assembly line. Where you know what the end result is and there are no surprises in between. No one is struggleing to remember a song or lyric. Every band/musician will have a differnt way of doing things but for me and my band it’s important for us to know where everyone is at. Changing 4-5 songs in a single set will affect the flow a band gets after performing a certain set for a while, Again consistancy and professionalism. The bottom line is the band won’t be able to please everyone so they have to be comfortable with the set they are performing in order to deliver a strong show. In any job you do, you’re doing the same thing almost daily. It’s the same in music. You should not feel board or tired with your songs or set during a tour because you should focus on taking the songs to new heights live. Then when the next tour or year comes around then you can change it up and rehearse it.

Studio releases – songs to choose from:

The Big Come Up (2002)
[01] busted
[02] do the rump
[03] I’ll be your man
[04] countdown
[05] the breaks
[06] run me down
[07] leavin’ truck
[08] heavy soul
[09] she said, she said
[10] them eyes
[11] yearnin’
[12] brooklyn bound
[13] 240 years before your time

Thickfreakness (2003)
[02] hard row
[03] set you free
[04] midnight in her eyes
[05] have love will travel
[06] hurt like mine
[07] everywhere I go
[08] no trust
[09] if you see me
[10] hold me in your arms
[11] I cry alone

Rubber Factory (2004)
[01] when the lights go out
[02] 10am automatic
[03] just couldn’t tie me down
[04] all hands against his own
[05] the desperate man
[06] girl is on my mind
[07] the lengths
[08] grown so ugly
[09] stack shot billy
[10] act nice and gentle
[11] aeroplane blues
[12] keep me
[13] till I get my way

Magic Potion (2006)
[01] just got to be
[02] your touch
[03] youre the one
[04] just a little heat
[05] give your heart away
[06] strange desire
[07] modern times
[08] the flame
[09] goodbye babylon
[10] black door
[11] elevator

Attack & Release (2008)
[01] all you ever wanted
[02] I got mine
[03] strange times
[04] psychotic girl
[05] lies
[06] remember when (side a)
[07] remember when (side b)
[08] same old thing
[09] so he won’t break
[10] oceans & streams
[11] things ain’t like they used to be

Brothers (2010)
[01] everlasting light
[02] next girl
[03] tighten up
[04] howlin’ for you
[05] she’s long gone
[06] black mud
[07] the only one
[08] too afraid to love you
[09] ten cent pistol
[10] sinister kid
[11] the go getter
[12] I’m not the one
[13] unknown brother
[14] never give you up
[15] these days

El Camino (2011)

[01] lonely boy
[02] dead and gone
[03] gold on the ceiling
[04] little black submarines
[05] money maker
[06] run right back
[07] Sister
[08] hell of a season
[09] stop stop
[10] nova baby
[11] mind eraser