Walking around and going in and out of stores and restaurants, I noticed an odd trend that I don't quite know what to make of. At the entrances or front windows of these storefront businesses were small one-sheet posters promoting new (or kind of new) albums. No, there's nothing in that that we haven't seen before; indy bands have done that for ages. But these ads weren't for indy bands or records (although it may depend on how you define indy. I saw John Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love and Freedom; Beck's Modern Guilt; and--the weirdest of all to me--Radiohead's In Rainbows. Mellencamp and Beck at least make a little bit of sense, because they've each got new albums. But why push In Rainbows now? It was available online nine or ten months ago, and it's been in the stores for more than six months? What makes now such a perfect time to advertise it? And why advertise it--or any of these--in this lo-fi manner? Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, but this is the first time I noticed large, established artists getting their names out this way.
I wondered if it might have something to do with Radiohead's appearance at Lollapalooza this week, but the posters only mention the album and have nothing to indicate that there's more information you might need to have. Further supporting this argument, though, is the fact that I didn't happen to see any In Rainbows posters today--two days after their performance. I didn't go and check out any of the places where I saw the poster on Saturday, so I don't know if the places from which it was missing had their posters up yesterday. Still, is it some sort of attempt at viral marketing? I don't know what the deal is with TBD Records, which put out the Radiohead record. They were just established last year, and so far they've put out In Rainbows and the most recent Underworld album, so I guess they count as an indy label, but Mellencamp is out through Starbucks (an untraditional label, but not outside of a monolithic corporate structure) and Beck is Geffen. Has anyone else noticed records by high-profile musicians being advertised through such low-profile methods? It seems an overreaction to pin this to the shrinking record industry, but maybe I'm stuck in my old ways of thinking. Anyone have any insight?