Hype Case Study #1 – Boards of Canada

Anyone connected to the internet couldn’t have helped but be drawn into the recent excitement around Boards of Canada’s announcement of a new LP, and not necessarily because it’s the first album in 8 years from the Scottish brothers.

I’m not sure who’s responsible for the promo campaign that’s been slowly unfolding over the last couple of weeks, but they’ve certainly earned their crust.

Rewind to May last year. Nothing’s been heard out of camp BoC since 2006’s ‘Trans Canada Highway’ EP. A fan posts on the Boards of Canada Facebook page asking if there is any truth to the rumours of a new album. A single word answer is posted in reply by ‘Boards of Canada’, “Yes”. Cue delirious excitement from beard stroking leftfield electronica fans around the globe.

Months go by. Nothing. Not a sausage. Until…

Record Store Day 2013. A mysterious record in a Boards of Canada sleeve is found in New York’s ‘Other Music’ record store. The baffled buyer of the frankly bizarre vinyl audio message contained within does what any confused young person does in this day and age, and reaches out to the online community for their assistance/opinion.

Before long a second YouTube clip appears of a similar recording, with a different sequence of numbers, this time purchased from London’s ‘Rough Trade’ record store.

Other number sequences are derived from website source codes, radio transmissions, etc. Geeks of the world unite to decipher a quite frankly bizarre set of clues. Most recently an ad airs on the Cartoon Network to help complete the picture.

Why the Cartoon Network? Well, why not? What gets broadcast generally gets put online in one shape or another these days, so where the original broadcast takes place is largely irrelevant. This whole campaign has been an exercise in online collaboration, and has gone off without a hitch.

Eventually all of the pieces get put together, and point to the passcode for a new website for the duo. The cracked code leads to a short video confirming the new album, and leading to a pre-order page. Pre-orders go through the roof. (I’m guessing at that last part).

So, to recap: niche IDM producers on a UK indie label excite a worldwide audience with a marketing budget that can’t have cost much more than $1000, and drive fervent fans to a direct-to-consumer pre-order page on the label owned and controlled webstore. How achingly bloody web 2.0.