I was lucky enough to work at One Little Indian while the Bjork Biophilia campaign was going on, and it was a real eye opener as to how indie labels market their biggest artists.
Bjork, known for being outlandish, experimental, unique and original is always coming up with strange and interesting ways to put out her music, and Biophilia was no exception. She was one of the first artists to make her album available as an app, from iTunes.
As well as the app, the album was available on the traditional CD, Digipack, 12″ vinyl and download formats, but it was the Manual and Ultimate versions that were the ones that truely stood out.
The Manual was a 48 page colour book with pictures, lyrics and drawings, as well as the Biophilia album and Biophilia performed live in Manchester, where she had a residency a few months before the album release date. Price = £35
The Ultimate Edition included the Manual, and 10 tuning forks, each in the key of a song on the album, all included in a hand made wooden box. The most important thing was that there was only 200 made. Price = £500
These special editions of albums are definitely one of many future revenue streams for artists. Customers and fans don’t mind paying money for artists they truly believe in, and want to do well. They will spend £500 to prove their loyalty to an artist. Bjork fans are notoriously loyal, and many buy everything she has ever put out. They don’t have to, but they choose to.
Many labels and artists are putting out these deluxe, limited edition versions of their albums because they are limited in terms of how many will be produced, and that makes people that eventually get one feel special.
Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor did a similar thing to this, with deluxe and super deluxe versions, and they ended up grossing $1.5m in the first week. All the more amazing when you think that they didn’t have a record label, so that’s $1.5m straight to the band, not minus record label cuts.
This just proves the point. Fans will buy something if they think it’s worth buying. Just because album sales are decreasing, doesn’t mean that nobody buys music any more. Loads of people, millions of people still buy music. You just need to give them a reason to want to buy something. And giving people the chance to buy something that limited, special and looks good, is a great thing.
If the choice is between buying a bog-standard CD, or downloading it, or downloading it illegally, then the majority of people will choose the free version. However, give them a reason to buy, and something worth purchasing, like a special edition book, or tuning forks, or a nice wooden box, and people will pay for it. People want to support their favourite artists, and feeling part of something, and owning something that only 199 other people will own, is special.
If artists continue to put out limited editions of their releases, people will buy them, alongside the CD’s and vinyl and downloads. If artists choose to only put out CD’s, you can be sure that people wont’ feel like there’s any point of buying it, as they’re getting exactly the same as everybody else that buys it.
Along with the app, where each song on the album had a different interactive game to play while listening to it, this marketing campaign was really well thought out, and unique. I’m not sure where Bjork will go from here, but you can be sure it will be something special, with rumours she’s already working on the follow up to Biophilia.
You can see Bjork’s amazing performance on Jools Holland here: