Daft Punk, Kanye, and Boards of Canada: The Gimmicky World of Music Marketing


It's the Internet age. Music is the art form now that's consumed to the point of gobbling. Between free programs like Rdio and Spotify, and advance streaming services including Pitchfork Advance and the recently launched Press Play (via The New York Times) it's truly never been easier to listen. Why schlep to the record store when you can listen to virtually anything for free and from the comfort of your bed?

See also: Why Daft Punk Have to Keep the Masks on

Yet two 40-something French robots are the most wanted men to unmask. The most infamous rapper alive projected his face onto sixty-five city walls around the globe last week, shattering the sphere between public and private space. Obscure coordinates rewarded the ears of those fortunate enough to retreat to the California desert, revealing a shadowy electronica group's newest work eight years in the making.

This is what we talk about when we talk about music in 2013.

But how is it that these anomalies exist? By pure statistics, they shouldn't. Streaming programs convenient for the listener aren't exactly conducive for the artist. As detailed in a New York Times article from January, services like Spotify and Pandora give artists a fraction of a cent every time a song is played. Unless you can afford to live off a $1,500 check for every 1.5 million listens, you can't expect to make a living from the meager cents earned.

Still, the divide between artist and audience is rapidly shrinking. With a program such as Ableton, you can now record your parakeet Nancy warbling over your tap-dancing niece's fancy feet, and sample your apartment's gurgling radiator too. So how are artists and labels -- who have the "death of the industry" storm cloud already pouring over them -- fighting to capture listeners' ears and shortened attention spans? How do you find ways to make people care about new music? Excited to the point of exerting effort to achieve it?

One of the cornerstones of marketing is obvious: hype sells. So does mystery. Something about the helmeted Daft Punk gives you a sense of unease and excitement -- because who the hell knows what they'll do next? Kanye is an outrageous person by definition, but "New Slaves" has reignited a series of conversations about race, appropriation and modern slavery. The elusive Boards of Canada could afford to send fans on a rat race -- hiding fragmented clues inside of Record Store Day vinyl releases to piece together a source code revealing details about their new album Tomorrow's Harvest.

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