WOM powers xx’s new album after pre-releasing to one superfan

How the xx shared their new album Coexist by releasing it to just one fan

Superfan in London given album to share online before its official release – and snowball effect causes host site to crash
The xx, Shepherd's Bush Empire

The xx: going viral. Photograph: Jim Dyson/Redferns/Getty Images
Amanda Holpuch

guardian.co.uk, Tue 11 Sep 2012 17.33 BST

To recreate the word-of-mouth phenomenon that made them famous, the xx shared their album stream Coexist with a single fan just outside London last week – days before its official US release.
It was a risky marketing move that set out to test whether the band could replicate their initial viral success with a map that tracked shares with a visualization on the Coexist stream’s host site.
Twenty-four hours after the stream was shared with a fan on Facebook, the site crashed from the millions of streams, with the average user spending 2.1 hours on the site.
“From a statistical perspective, it’s one of the most significant album premieres we’ve ever done,” said Adam Farrell, vice-president of marketing at Beggars Group. Coexist is being released worldwide on the Young Turks label, a joint venture with XL Recordings which is part of the Beggars Group.
Farrell said the xx were instantly able to determine the superfan who would first receive word of the stream due to their frequent postings on xx-related social media.
“The fan was the only one listening to it for an hour or so. It seems like they were hogging it for a bit,” Farrell said.
Once the superfan finally released the stream, it spread quickly among the xx’s online community, avoiding the eyes of music blogs until the next day, when media outlets finally got hold of it.
“What we saw on the first album was a real word-of-mouth phenomenon we had never seen before,” said Farrell.
To promote the xx’s second album Coexist, the label had to find a way to inspire the same sort of virality that greeted the band’s eponymous debut. XL then entered talks with tech companies, and Microsoft agreed to create the visualization, which was inspired byAaron Koblin’s visualization of flight patterns in the US.
The stream’s visualization prompts a burst of lines as the album is distributed across the globe, cascading from its origin to the opposite ends of oceans, where it then radiates to another point on the map.
Music downloading and social media have made the pre-release album stream an integral part of the modern music marketing scheme, and XL hoped the visualization would draw attention to the physical release date.
“It’s really hard to focus people on a release date – it’s almost like the release date has become something that’s become an adjunct to the whole campaign,” said Farrell. “Even though for most bands and from the label perspective, it’s the most important date because the record’s available for sale everywhere.”
Coexist’s release was one of XL’s biggest album premieres. The group – which owns and distributes several other labels – counts Vampire Weekend and Jack White among their clientele.
A day before the album’s official US release, the viral move made it to thehomepage of Reddit, where fans motivated by the visualization initiated a campaign to get the album spread in each country of the globe.
Despite its success, Farrell doesn’t plan on replicating this visualization site for other bands: he says he finds it especially suited to the sensibilities of the xx.
~ curated from: guardian.co.uk, Tue 11 Sep 2012
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