Sunday 4 December 2016

Artists who fox their fans

Niall Byrne

Published 18/02/2011 | 05:00

There has been a couple of examples of artists embracing new technology for promotion of their releases recently. Not all of them have worked out in their favour, however.

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For Mike Skinner's last album as The Streets, Computers & Blues (which our own John Meagher called "a disappointing end to what was once a singular career" last week), Skinner first released a pre-released mixtape called Cyberspace & Reds, which could only be officially download by scanning a barcode on his website with an iPhone app called Mike Scanner.

That puzzle led on to a barcode of a Heinz tomato soup can which unlocked mixtape downloading rights.

Following that, an interactive film featuring Skinner appeared on YouTube (bit.ly/streetsinteractive), in which you can control Skinner as he wakes up and goes to meet his girlfriend. The story isn't exactly Oscar material, but it's a nice, clickable series of vignettes featuring plenty of music from the album, which was probably the point.

Meanwhile, in New York, rapper Lupe Fiasco, with a big hand from his rallying fans, finally managed to convince his record label Atlantic Records to release his album Lasers, which was recorded two years ago. What did Lupe do to reward their efforts? He sent them on a wild goose chase...

After tweeting his followers instructions to go to Union Square at 7pm and "just look up in the sky", fans who turned up were confused when nothing seemed to be happening until an ambulance turned up. Some eager fans presumed Lupe was inside and rushed to its side. He wasn't.

As one first-hand account by NYULocal's Myles Tanzer (bit.ly/qrfiasco) recounts: "All the fans left the ambulance and moved into the streets. Cars were blocked off immediately and another ambulance was temporarily unable to get through. On the side of the building that DSW Warehouse is in, an image was projected onto the building. It was Lupe's Twitter icon, a QR code."

Yet upon scanning, all the QR code led to was a pre-order for a deluxe version of the album, while the projection played short snippets of a music video without sound. "People began to walk away very quickly to say the least," said Tanzer. Another upset fan, who was dragged out into the city in sub-zero temperatures, was heard screaming: "I'm downloading this album for free. This was bullshit."

The pointless event only served to upset genuine fans and could have been easily achieved by other means. Audible Hype suggests (bit.ly/lupedeaddrop) Lupe could have gone with a "dead drop" method, where USB keys are placed in walls in public spaces, becoming a real-life peer-to-peer network. Exclusive tracks or a mixtape could have been shared. At least, fans would get something in return for their efforts rather than a call to purchase the expensive version of the album.

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