Bands market music to a new world

A Gibson Les Paul guitar on display in New York

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: As more people turn to the Web to buy music, artists are trying harder to lure them back to the record store -- and I'm not talking about your typical marketing promotion here. Timothy Beck Werth has more.


Timothy Beck Werth: Health is a noise rock band from Los Angeles. They play loud, aggressive music that isn't likely to get much play on alt-rock radio stations. Guitarist player Jupiter Keyes says they wanted to do something different to promote their new album.

Jupiter Keyes: Some way to make it a little more interesting to buy an album because you know what you're getting when you buy an album, especially because you already downloaded it.

To get fans to buy a hard copy, they're taking a page from Willy Wonka and including "golden tickets" with the CDs. But don't expect a tour of a chocolate factory. Winning fans instead get strange prizes like the chance to prank call a famous indie musician or drinking beers together on a Web cam while working on an art project. The grand prize is a three day trip to L.A. to party with the band.

John Famiglietti is the band's bassist:

John Famiglietti: When people talk about music being released now it's always really depressing or sad or how much better it used to be, but one thing that can be better or really better about now is that it can be really personal and you can just directly talk with your fans.

The band says they want to make their fans happy, but a boost in CD sales would be welcome. CDs are more profitable for musicians than downloads. But CD purchases have been in freefall for almost a decade. According to SoundScan, CD sales dropped 20 percent last year. For many bands, convincing fans to buy a CD can be the difference between making a profit and going back to their day job.

The sales promotions can be pretty simple. One artist took select CD buyers out for a steak dinner. But other bands are resorting to even more bizarre approaches.

Bob Lefsetz is a music industry analyst. He recalls recent CD release with a built-in, high-tech promotion:

Bob Lefsetz: It's got a chip which turns the case into a musical instrument akin to a Theremin. Yeah, but what does the music sound like? I didn't even bother checking it out because I know it sucks.

These are extreme examples, but experimental promotions are becoming standard operating procedure for bands without major label support.

Amy Phillips, news editor at indie rock site Pitchfork.com, says some promotions are more calculated than they seem.

Amy Phillips: We get e-mails all the time from labels or publicists who will say, "Hey, we're looking to leak this track." We've had cases where poeple have interviewed the artist later and the artist has said, "You know, somebody leaked it, I don't know how it happened.

She says the best way to get her attention is to just make great music.

I'm Timothy Beck Werth for Marketplace.

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