Today, Daft Punk releases Random Access Memories, the duo’s first studio release in eight years, and it’s likely to be a big hit.
It didn’t take much in the way of advertising, either – the album was teased with three well-placed ads that each ran once, and a single loaded to YouTube. The fans did the rest of the work – and the label didn’t stop them.
On March 3rd, a simple 15-second ad ran during Saturday Night Live. Just the image of Daft Punk’s name sent the internet into a fit.
The band’s comeback was discussed on entertainment blogs throughout the rest of the weekend, and the following week, something happened. Internet users realized the :15 clip perfectly looped into itself. By the middle of the week, YouTube was flooded with 10-minute versions of the loop, hour long versions of the loop, and even 10-hour long loops.
The hook was infectious. Users half-joked that this :15 loop was the best music they’d heard in years. Video loops and remixes crept throughout the web and across major news outlets.
The label did nothing to stop it – so more people played with it, shared it, and even more people heard it.
Then, on March 23rd during Saturday Night Live, another :15 ad with an even more distinctly Daft Punk hook was aired.
And afterwards, there were more remixes, extended loops, and more press coverage.
Fans were ecstatic.
And on April 13th, during SNL a one-minute ad aired featuring collaborators Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. It put the hooks in context, and fans went into an all-out frenzy.
The track was released on YouTube later that week, and at the time of this writing, has over 31 million views.
Predictably, remixes and covers began popping up everywhere, and enthusiasm was so great that SPIN catalogued some of the more notable versions, including a pitch-shifted version of the track to make Pharrell Williams sound like Michael Jackson:
Now imagine if there’d been a crackdown on use of this content – it would have left a sour taste in fans’ mouths, and would have prevented, literally, millions of impressions.
As a counter-example, when was the last time you saw a great Prince tribute on YouTube? Or were aware of a new Prince album?
If you have a product that gets people really excited, let them be excited about it. Let them share it – and make it easy for them to do so. The enthusiasm Daft Punk generated with a total of one minute and thirty seconds wasn’t because of the air time they bought, it was because they let their fans play.
UPDATE (5/29/13): It worked. Random Access Memories debuts at the number one spot on Billboard, and is the fastest-selling album of 2013.