Queens of the Internet Age: Band Uses Animated Videos for Promotion
The Internet is sometimes described as the apocalypse of the music industry. Illegal downloading means that music is available at the fingertips for free, causing record companies, and the bands they represent, to lose out on the money that records and CDs generated with ease. It is true that bands were, and still are, exploited by record companies, but illegal downloading, though perhaps less exploitative towards bands, is not a financially viable route in itself. The money losses have been tough, but the music industry should not hide in a cupboard of dusty albums, waiting for the demonic Internet to devour their profits – any smart businessman, musicians included, should understand the need to adapt to new technology and media. This is exactly what Queens of the Stone Age, a Californian rock band formed in 1996, have done prior to releasing their new album …Like Clockwork on Matador Records. The band has used viral promotion, including a fantastic series of animated music videos, to make their new album a topic of excitement, anticipation and worthiness for music fans.
Queens of the Stone Age have suffered losses because of the Internet, for example their 2005 album Lullabies to Paralyze was leaked weeks before its official release, but this has not deterred them from harnessing the Internet for themselves. …Like Clockwork has been an eagerly anticipated album, seeming as fans have been waiting for it since 2007, and the band has ramped up the enthusiasm by using the Internet as a tool. They kicked things off with samples of the album art and tantalisingly short sound-clip teasers, then offered the fairly unique service of sending a wonderfully creepy automated call to those who typed their phone number into a website, an anonymous voice breathing gutturally down the line and telling fans to keep tuned. This steady trickle of offerings to the Internet kept the fans interested, and journalists published articles online detailing each new teaser. The pinnacle of the viral campaign, aside from the release of single ‘My God is the Sun’ in full, has been the release of five animated music videos, each taking a sample from one track off the album.
The videos, designed by the British artist Boneface (who has also designed the album art) and animated by Liam Brazier, are set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where violence and chaos rule. Brazier comments on his website that the aim was to create ‘something somewhere between a motion comic and an abattoir run by [director Quentin] Tarantino’. The first video, using approximately half of the song ‘I Appear Missing’, begins with desert shots of a crow picking at a bloodied, unconscious man in a suit and bandages. The man opens his red eyes and then, as if held by invisible strings, glides across the desert and soars up into the air, only to crash down into a graffiti decorated alleyway. The video’s plot is simple, but presented in a visual, visceral pleasure of bright and dark tones, highly detailed lines, stylised gore and a mixture of fluid and jerky movements that often chime-in satisfyingly with the music. The second video, using the song ‘Kalopsia’ which was collaborated on with Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame), picks up where ‘I Appear Missing’ left off and follows a strange, masked creature with lamp-like eyes who can turn men into gelatinous red pulp with its hands. This video, with its slow and sweet soundtrack, presents a dichotomy of the monstrous and the pitiable, the creature’s movements showing that it misunderstands its own violence.
The third video, ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’ (a statement that sums up the band’s entire promotional campaign) features a thuggish character in a metal mask who causes a riotous bar-fight and a lot of neon-coloured blood to fly about. The fourth video, ‘If I Had a Tail’, focusses on a hit-and-run car whose driver, obscured for the most part by goggles, keeps a score of their successful hits on the dashboard. The final video uses the entirety of ‘My God is The Sun’ and unites the four characters in a giant, be-winged skull in the sky, a compelling and stylish conclusion to the story. Their videos add elements to the songs used and, because they are connected together by a plot, become a longer entity akin to a short film. A kaleidoscope of simultaneous beauty and oddity for the eye, these animations are pleasing as creations in themselves as well as teasers for …Like Clockwork.
‘I Appear Missing’ has attracted over 2.5 million views on YouTube, more than the ‘My God is the Sun’ single release video which has 1.4 million, and ‘broke a million views… in two days’ according to Liam Brazier. Though there is a drop to the 500,000 mark for ‘Kalopsia’ and slightly under for the three other videos, the relative continuity of views after ‘I Appear Missing’ suggests that, quite significantly, viewers were attracted to come back and watch each new release. The videos have been advertised heavily on websites, in particular the band’s very active Facebook page, and constant updates from the Queens have inspired fans to communicate their excitement about the new album and appreciation for their extensive promotion efforts. One fan on facebook comments about the videos that they ‘weren’t just promotion for the new album. They are f***ing art’ and another says ‘I will never forget these videos, the hype, the build up to this album, this is a musical experience unlike any other I’ve ever had.’
Critics have been similarly impressed by their efforts; Spin.com describes the videos as a ‘series of nightmarish videos stitched together into [a] master edit’. Michael Nelson, on stereogum.com, criticises the album as ‘too light to justify such a bombastic promotional campaign’, but Queens of the Stone Age, and Matador Records, have done this because they are adapting to the Internet age, where because of MP3 players single songs have become more important than albums in their entirety – a steady stream of releases makes more sense than a long wait and then one release. By deciding not to keep their new songs under a tight lid, the band are keeping fans keen by giving them enough to sink their teeth into until the album release; this likely means, though this is surmised without statistical back-up, that less fans have illegally downloaded the album as a result. The band’s decision to stream their entire album on iTunes has also aided this because fans are able to listen to the entire album free without having to download it. Queens of the Stone Age understand that the Internet’s range of websites and services can be utilised for effective promotion. The entire affair certainly has this fan on the edge of her seat, waiting for her copy of the album.
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