Over the years, several artists have resorted to some very unconventional methods of dropping their latest albums or singles–to make a splash or in some cases, simply to prevent any potential leaks. Below, check out eight of the craziest ways in which artists have released new music:
Always a trendsetter, Beyoncé set of the surprise marketing tactic, practically causing a worldwide meltdown by dropping her self-titled album at midnight on December 13, 2013, with no prior fanfare. The visual album received rave reviews and gave Beyoncé her fifth consecutive number one album, selling 991,000 copies in the U.S. within the first ten days of its debut. Apple confirmed that Beyoncé was the fastest selling album in the history of the iTunes Store, both in the U.S. and worldwide. The release not only marked the artist’s highest debut sales week of her solo career, it also became the largest debut sales week for a female artist in 2013.
The Flaming Lips
In 1997, the group released their eight-song album, Zaireeka. Simple enough, right? Nope. Each song was separated into four tracks on four different discs that had to be played simultaneously in order to get the experience of one whole song. That means that fans were forced to assemble at least four CD players in order to listen to the album. That wasn’t the only time they decided to release music in an unconventional format. Last year, the Lips released a compilation of love songs contained on a USB stick and packaged inside an anatomically correct chocolate human heart. Each box went for $60 a piece and also included signatures from Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd.
Beck’s oddest release had to be the 2012 album, Song Reader. Why? The collection contained no actual recordings. Instead, it was an album of sheet music that the buyers had to play themselves—20 songs in total, with each tune printed in individual pamphlets, complete with hand-drawn color illustrations and entertaining side notes. The pamphlets were then compiled into a hardback portfolio. Considering you’d need to know how to read music and have at least basic piano skills, the release couldn’t have been any further from listeners’ current chosen method of downloading the album online. It finally got a recorded release in July of this year–although Beck himself is only singing one of the songs.
Many were anxiously awaiting the release of White’s first debut solo album, Blunderbuss, in 2012. Knowing this, White decided to drop one of the highly anticipated singles off the CD via a very unique method of distribution. Ahead of the full LP’s release, the singer attached 1,000 individual flexi-disc records, with the track “Freedom At 21,” to their own helium balloons before letting them go into the air for others to find. Each of the balloons was accompanied by customized postcards with instructions for the finder to submit photos and notify the label of where they discovered the disc.
The Wu-Tang Clan’s double album, The Wu- Once Upon A Time in Shaolin, was recorded in secret over the course of a few years, but that’s far from the most unconventional part of the project. The group has billed the album as a one-of-a-kind work of art. Subsequently, they planned an untraditional launch, making and selling only one copy of an album with a multimillion-dollar price tag. The CD will reportedly be sold to the highest bidder following an exhibition circuit in various museums and locations. The record has already received a private offer for $5 million, but the group is reportedly in talks with a handful of auction houses to facilitate the sale. That isn’t their only unconventional method of dropping an album. The Wu-Tang Clan is selling their other upcoming CD, Better Tomorrow, inside an $80 limited edition portable speaker, starting on Black Friday.
The British band released their 2007 album In Rainbows digitally through their own website via a “pay-what-you-want” model. To the chagrin of record labels everywhere, fans were given the option of buying the albums for no money whatsoever. To add to the hype, Radiohead only announced the album only 10 days before dropping it. It caused quite a stir. In the pay-what-you-want period, the album made more money for the band than 2003’s Hail to the Thief, largely due to the word-of-mouth. After receiving critical acclaim for the unique pay strategy, the band later also sold the album by licensing it to various labels.
Weird Al Yankovic
With the release of Mandatory Fun this past summer, Weird Al earned his first No. 1 album, beating popular musicians like Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran. Helping the album rocket to the top of the charts? His “eight videos in eight days” marketing strategy, in which he released video spoofs of songs like Lorde’s “Royals” and Pharrell’s “Happy,” as well as several originals. The videos quickly went viral, racking up millions of views in days. The release marked his 13th album, and it could be his last. Yankovic has since admitted he’s “more of a singles artist” and may only “release singles digitally” going forward.
In 2009, the rapper became the first major artist to release an album via a T-shirt. Yes, a T-shirt. Mos Def dropped his record, The Ecstatic, in a wearable shirt format that featured the album cover and came with a unique download code for getting the MP3 tracks online. The shirt cost $39 and though it was initially unclear how Neilsen SoundScan would keep track of the album sales, the organization eventually decided all of the redeemed codes will count towards Billboard’s digital albums chart. The record was well-received and ended up reaching No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart.
More From Entertainment Cheat Sheet:
- 10 Fictional Bands So Good You Wish They Were Real
- Bob Dylan’s Secret Stash: Rock’s Biggest Bootleg Is Being Released
- 6 Award-Winning Musicians Who Lost the Spotlight
Want more great content like this? Sign up here to receive the best of Cheat Sheet delivered daily. No spam; just tailored content straight to your inbox.