Hip-Hop Marketing Execs Need to Get “Lost” – Sucker Punch Me, Please
There’s really nothing hip-hop about ABC’s Lost, one of my obsessions since the first episode premiere back in September 2004. The show had me at the guy-gets-sucked-into-the-airplane’s-still-spinning-turbine. Though, I must admit, I love the fact that I can write about it here on XXLMag.com; that’s the beauty of a staffer’s blog week—it’s his or her time to let the distinctive personality radiate.
And, fact is, I’m all over the place.
Earlier today, I came across an exhaustive feature over at Wired that is essentially catnip for any self-respecting Lost junkie, I asked myself, “How can I relate this to hip-hop, since it’s my blog week and all?” I figure, there’s no use in trying to curb one’s enthusiasm about art, especially when I can connect the dots here.
So what have I come up with? Something rooted in the marketing wizardry of sir J.J. Abrams, co-creator of Lost and the guy who knows how to set-up a project better than anyone in the business. Just revisit his pre-release hype machine employed for 2008’s Cloverfield, the handheld-camera monster gem that he produced. How, when we all went to see Transformers that previous summer, we were blasted by a title-less trailer that culminated in the Statue of Liberty’s head hurling across the screen?
I, for one, left the theater not thinking about Optimus Prime’s crew—I immediately went home and researched the hell out of that mysterious and anonymous trailer. That’s the power of effective marketing, and Abrams’ team (Bad Robot) has pulled similar tricks with Lost over the years.
Those fake Dharma Initiative commercials that have aired within episodes. The fugazi Oceanic Airlines billboards. All of the online hoopla surrounding the Hanso Foundation. The list of clever promotions extends like The Human Centipede (Has anyone here seen that trailer? If not, click here to give it a look and please don’t hate me for the suggestion.)
All of this is to say, why can’t record labels and/or rappers come up with marketing schemes like these for their albums? Especially in this Internet age—the possibilities are endless. Drop bait-and-switches all across Twitter. Leak cryptic mp3s to the major blogs, a distorted instrumental with half-bars interspersed in hiccup form. Construct phony Q&A features with folks who claim to have been in the studio when a certain song was recorded, but then don’t name the track or artist(s) responsible. Send the cyber world into frenzy, with just a basic misdirection or two.
And then, smack, debut the new street single out of nowhere—forget the unceremonious Twitter announcements of when your new record is going to premiere. When I see via tweet that Eminem’s first single from this summer’s Recovery is called “Not Afraid” and will hit radio this Friday, I’m left a bit disappointed, wishing that the song would have hit me by surprise Friday morning.
Of course, this argument is tough, considering that sites like Twitter and blogs are unstoppable beasts at this point, and asking artists to consider alternate routes for self-promotion is like requesting a Nas album entirely produced by DJ Premier.
Wasted lung work.
Am I alone in this? Would anyone else out there enjoy a bit of creative planning on the parts of labels and rappers? I’m not saying J.J. Abrams needs to take over a major label (but, come to think of that…); I just believe in ingenuity. I’m the guy who refuses to watch behind-the-scenes clips from music video shoots and scoffs at trailers for rap vids. Show me the damn finished product and let me be impressed on the spot. Sucker-punches are welcome in my world. —Matt Barone