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For close to 20 years, consumers haven’t been willing to pay for new music. They’re not going into music stores for it (many of the national chain brands no longer exist), and when they discover it online, it has all the excitement of dragging and dropping a gallon of milk onto their online grocery. Something tactile and emotional is sorely missing.
On the flip side, independent music creators are in a constant struggle with obscurity, with little hope for label support. Releasing a new album can feel like throwing a coin into the bottomless wishing well of the internet, hoping for the best.
Adam Ritchie Brand Direction (Aritchbrand) was tasked with earning exposure for a forthcoming album from independent band The Lights Out. The album had an interesting concept: each song was a report back from an alternate universe. The music and production were highly professional, but Aritchbrand knew media would likely ignore it, because the band was unsigned and relatively unknown.
But, Aritchbrand also knew that there’s a place music-loving consumers do go to get something new on the shelf: the beer store. They approached Aeronaut Brewing Co. – a brewery founded by scientists from Cornell and MIT – and brought them onboard to brew a beer inspired by the songs and theme of the record.
Aeronaut approached the task like a science project, developing a beer that could serve as fuel for a pandimensional traveler. Sounds and flavors were paired in a new kind of product that offered a full sensory experience. Aritchbrand used back-end technology on the band’s Twitter account, so each time the social media trigger on the label was posted by a consumer, the consumer would receive a message back, telling them what they were doing right now in a parallel universe, and a link to the album.
T.R.I.P., the world’s first album release beer, was born.
By putting the album on a beer, Aritchbrand broadened its media reach horizons. and were no longer restricted to “fickle” music media. They now could approach food, beverage, beer, culture, lifestyle, business, technology, design, science and visual arts media as well.
They prepared a series of announcements to roll out over the three-month campaign, from live interactive events, to a National Beer Can Appreciation Day news peg. As it turned out, Aritchbrand needed all of those options.
The album was released on Feb. 1, 2017, in the middle of three holiday vacations, a contentious presidential election, fallout and protests in the wake of the inauguration and Super Bowl – possibly the nosiest, densest, most challenging media relations climate in recent memory.
If the idea wasn’t truly original, Aritchbrand wouldn’t have stood a chance, but they fought hard and earned exposure for this project in MarketWatch, ADWEEK, UPROXX, Paste Magazine, Food & Wine, Men’s Journal, The A.V. Club and more – and reactively earned placements as far away as Russia, Finland and Thailand. Both craft beer and music fans ran to the beer shelves and posted images of themselves hoisting the beer/album in the air, and the product quickly sold out.
Media recognized how Aritchbrand was working to reintroduce the immersive, “quest” aspect and excitement to physical new music discovery, and praised the project for its innovation. Reporters excitedly posted pictures to social media of the beer can albums they were sent.
Competing releases from larger artists, without a food/beverage component, suddenly appeared flat. In the process of rising to a seemingly impossible media relations challenge, Aritchbrand invented a viable answer to a problem plaguing an industry for decades, put physical discovery back on the table for music consumers starving for a more tangible relationship with their music and used technology to solve a problem technology initially created.
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