Usually, when a highly connected super fan gets hold of an album before its release date this spells trouble for the band in question. When it comes to the viral spread of The xx’s new album Coexist, however, a fan-lead leak was wholly premeditated.
In preparation for the September 11 U.S. release of the band’s sophomore album, The xx and their label, XL Recordings, teamed up with Microsoft to dream up an interactive, fan-driven album tease.
Microsoft built a special site for the album in HTML 5 featuring an album stream and the ability to share it across social networks. The main section of the site is emblazoned with a world map that shows the spread of the album from September 3 (the day the project was launched) until September 11. You can zoom in on certain days to see the eventual spread of the album. Apparently, the site temporarily crashed a day after launch and the average user spent 2.1 hours listening to the new tunes.
So how did the xx and their label draw attention to the stream? If you’re thinking press releases and Facebook posts, you have another think coming. The band shared the stream/site with a handpicked super fan from just outside London (determined by volume of Facebook posts, etc) who then passed the tunes around his/her social network.
Yup, it was all word of mouth at the beginning — the music blogs and meme sites picked up on it after the true fans had had a go. Oh, and by the way, the identity of the super fan is currently unknown (Adam Farrell, vice-president of marketing at Beggars Group, said even he doesn’t know who s/he is). If you have any leads, hit us up — we’d love to chat with such a dedicated music lover.
The album release is becoming a true artform nowadays — with scavenger hunts, online puzzles, etc it’s getting a lot more complex than a simple SoundCloud stream. The xx’s iteration, however, is striking in that it shows the power of the super fan — his/her ability to connect with other fans and help a band achieve its desired result. How all this buzz affects album sales, however, remains to be seen.
In the meantime, listen to the new album below.