Telling A Story Through Song

[By Ryan Ogle]

Social media has provided bands and musicians a wealth of opportunity to connect directly with, as well as expand upon their fanbase. Beyond the traditional method of relying on reviews, interviews and advertisements to build hype for an upcoming album, or exhausting promotional resources on “single” – most of which rely on trusting journalists and critics to tell an album’s story – bands can now utilize the tools provided by social media and social networking to let the music speak for itself.

As the owner and operator of a niche music promotions and media relations company that works primarily with independent and “underground” artists, one of my most effective promotional tools is the track stream. Using sites like Soundcloud, Bandcamp, ReverbNation and YouTube (among others), bands can release one or more songs at a time from an upcoming album as a way to give their audience a preview of what’s to come. Most campaigns I work involve multiple track streams released two to four weeks apart, with a full album stream going online the day or day before release. Not only does this give fans more than just a single to go off of when deciding whether to purchase an album, it’s also a proven deterrent to illegal downloading. In today’s music industry where sales are almost non-existent and each new album is fighting for attention amongst a sea of weekly releases, it is more important than ever to tell a good story about the record before its street date.

One memorable campaign where I employed this technique came in 2012 when I was hired to promote the new album from extreme metal band, Cryptopsy. With a history dating back to the early ‘90s, Cryptopsy has long been one of the most influential and respected bands in extreme metal and has sold over 300,000 albums to date. In 2008, the band switched gears to a more commercially-viable sound. Their fans did not respond well and the band lost credibility among many who felt they lost their edge or ever “sold out.”

Four years later, Cryptopsy had “returned to their roots,” so to speak and had written and recorded an album that captured, and improved upon, the essence of the early material. Without the financial backing of a record label to help with high-profile (and cost) ad campaigns, we had to rely on social media to convince fans that the band the loved a decade ago was back. When we first announced that the band was back with new material, the chatter on Facebook and online forums showed that the audience was skeptical at best that Cryptopsy had truly returned to a more extreme sound. Seeing the potential for a failed campaign, my partner and I were able to talk the band, which was very hesitant at first, into giving a series of track streams a try. Within hours of posting the album preview, sending the press release, and getting word out via social media, the band’s Facebook page had exploded with fan reaction. Music news sites, facebook pages and forums were buzzing with the news that the band had indeed “returned” and the stream began to go viral.

Because the album was being released on different dates in different countries/territories, the following couple of track streams were a bit complicated in regard to timing and outlet, but by the fall of 2012, right before the album would be out in physical and digital formats in North America and Europe, we were able to stream it in full on the heavily-trafficked Blabbermouth.net (nicknamed the “CNN of Heavy Metal News”). The results went beyond all of our expectations and, within a month, the band had sold 5,000 copies of an album they were putting out almost entirely by themselves.

This campaign was an example of how were able to utilize new promotional strategies and social media to convincingly tell the story of how Cryptopsy were able to successfully bounce back from an unpopular release and regain the attention of their audience.

Photo courtesy of http://www.cryptopsy.ca

The Blabbermouth.net full album stream was posted on November 20, 2012 at this location.

The stream, posted via an embedded soundclound link, has since been taken down.

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