New York musician Noah Wall is making his fans work for his new album, HÈLOÏSE. Wall has hidden copies of the disc — on vinyl and cassette — around Manhattan, providing fans with a digital map in order to locate the merch.
“The orderly and symmetrical Manhattan grid seemed like a good canvas for this idea,” Wall says of the hunt. “The locations of each album correspond to points on the grid that, when connected, spell HÈLOÏSE. Scavenger hunts usually require some physical payoff so this seemed like a good format to celebrate the arrival of my album in physical form — the digital release came out September 1.” You can check out the map here if you’re in Manhattan and have a moment to hunt.
So why the choice to distribute cassettes and vinyl, rather than CDs? Why a physical product at all, really? “I really like the whole tape resurgence in general,” Wall says. “They are affordable to manufacture and give you that tactile satisfaction that’s not quite possible with digital. It was also a fun excuse to do different artwork than the LP and try and make a beautiful object — they sound great too!”
Hiding the tapes around the city also gave Wall a sense of completion that couldn’t quite be captured by uploading tunes to Bandcamp. The musician left the house at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning to hide all the albums himself.
“The web obviously provides a lot of ways for digital music to spread exponentially in a way that would be tough for physical merch (especially for me since I don’t play a ton of live shows),” he says of the undertaking. “The physical releases are pretty limited editions, too, so, a year from now, digital may be the only option unless there’s another pressing.”
More and more, bands are releasing interesting physical components to records in what seems to be an effort to cement the existence of the work — we live in a time of endless streaming music, remember. Neon Indian released its newest disc with a custom synth, while The Flaming Lips offered up a flashing toy with its six-hour song. And who could forget Radiohead’s newspaper, The Universal Sigh?
What do you think of the rise of creative merch (and album release strategies)? Would you hunt for HÈLOÏSE?
By Brenna Ehrlich