Marketing music in 2008: Go integrated or go home (and download the songs for free)

I’ll admit that I am unfamiliar with the music of Mars Volta. But I couldn’t help taking notice of the integrated campaign the prog rock band and their label, Universal, are marketing their new album, The Bedlam in Goliath.

The CD, which drops January 29th, is making every effort to gather some publicity momentum while offering enough extras to make fans think twice about downloading the album illegally.

One offering is an online companion Flash-based game called Goliath The Soothsayer, which incorporates themes from the album into a room escape adventure. I’ve learned (through the coverage for this CD/game) that room escaping games are extremely popular, especially as free online games that are shared virally.

As well, The Bedlam in Goliath is set to be released on USB flash drive to coincide with a vinyl release. The Barenaked Ladies, ardent supporters of fan rights, did a similar release last year. The USB release will also feature bonus material such as concert footage and B-sides. The band is also featuring four “webisodes” on their website depicting the band in humorous situations that have been linked to and shared all over the Internet. In addition, Mars Volta commissioned a scrambled puzzle of artwork on their website that gave fans access to a downloadable track when solved and the band is planning a pre-release mini tour to debut material.

It seems as Mars Volta and their marketers are waking up to the reality that pop music promotion cannot ignore the Internet. It’s where the fans are, even more than MTV or radio. They also realize that they are in competition with illegal downloads and must up the value proposition in order to sell CDs. For The Bedlam in Goliath, they are taking the best ideas from recent integrated campaigns (like the Canadian Tourism Commission’s USB drop from Tribal DDB) and are gathering mainstream media coverage for their innovative packaging of what many consider an obsolete idea – the album.

It’s not always about “thinking outside the box” (shudder). Sometimes, the best ideas come from taking smaller boxes and rearranging them until they look like something new.

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