Well Played Radiohead. Leveraging Social Networking to Sell Records.

When I got into work last Friday I was greeted with an onslaught of activity from the Twitter-sphere concerning the new Radiohead record The King of Limbs.   Much to my surprise, I learned that the record had been made available for purchase a day early.  With a feeling that I had some sort of exclusive scoop, I led my mouse to the website and bought the album.  Part of it too was that I knew that my friend and music connoisseur Chad Udell was in meetings all morning and did not have access to download it himself.  I felt that I, for once, could be the one to break some music news to him when he got in….. I guess I could have texted him……oh well.

I wanted to take a moment and comment on how brilliant the release of the new Radiohead record was.  I don’t want to necessarily discuss the music but focus on how the band leveraged the current climate of social networking to sell more records.  Bucking the trend is something Radiohead has been known for, and to say that this record went “viral” would not be an apt description.  In fact, the term “viral” itself seems to be a descriptor that has run its course.   Representatives of the band stated that, “…the website and album were ready, there was no need to wait.”  But I am somewhat skeptical of that.  I think they knew exactly what they were doing.  What the band did was a well timed, accurately placed, monetized “leak.”  People were expecting to buy the record on Saturday.  But when the band Tweeted-

“It’s Friday… It’s almost the weekend…It’s a full moon….You can download ‘The King of Limbs’ now if you so wish!

Two things happened.  People wanted it then, and people wanted to get the word out.  I am surprised the Internet withstood the traffic [sarcasm].  But it was a frenzy.  Twitter, by far, out paces any other form of web based digital news feed.  As an experiment, I added ‘King of Limbs’ and ‘Radiohead’ as two of my columns in TweetDeck.  I ended up deleting them soon thereafter due to how distracting it was.  TweetDeck was going off every 3-5 seconds…..it was intriguing and annoying.  I don’t have concrete numbers to how many more records they sold by ‘leaking’ the record, but with all of the excitement I’m sure a significant percentage (myself included) bought the record out of an impulse to be ‘ahead of the curve.’

Add to that the number of people who then went to their FaceBook page and updated their status to herald the news, and you have literally millions upon millions of people informed in a matter of hours if not minutes.  Even if 5% of those people the went and bought the record….well, you do the math.

As someone who has been in the position to want to sell as many records as possible, I have so stand in appreciation and say to Radiohead ‘well played gentlemen…… well played.’

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