We always emphasise the importance of content in online marketing, but legendary rock band Radiohead took the opposite approach in the build-up to Tuesday’s release of new single ‘Burn The Witch’ by removing all their content from the internet.
Seemingly putting the title of their 2000 track ‘How to Disappear Completely’ into practice, the Oxfordshire band confused and intrigued their fans on Sunday by wiping all content from their official website, as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages, leading observers to presume that an announcement or some new material were imminent.
Sure enough, following a couple of short teaser Instagram videos on Tuesday morning, the band shared the stop-motion video for ‘Burn The Witch’ later that day. In typical Radiohead fashion, it’s one that will leave you scratching your head and you’ll probably find yourself watching it several times in an attempt to make sense of the Trumpton-meets-Wicker Man goings-on.
It’s peculiar and captivating, but Radiohead have a long history of creating clever and often disturbing music videos that dates back long before the advent of YouTube. Previous ideas have included a dystopian cartoon, a human version of the kids’ game ‘Operation’, and a man lying down in the middle of the street who infuriatingly won’t tell us why he’s doing it.
The last decade or two has seen the whole emphasis of the music industry change. Where CD sales used to be the bread and butter of a sector that many argued was too heavily dictated by record companies, the controversial launch of sharing applications like Napster and Kazaa around the turn of the millennium, followed by the current day success of iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and indeed YouTube, has led to people listening to music in a different way. The extent of this is such that streaming data is now taken into account when compiling the UK music charts.
With 28 of the most viewed YouTube clips being music videos (29 if you include LittleBabyBum’s ‘Wheels on the Bus’), it’s interesting to note that a medium never intended for internet transmission has thrived on video-sharing sites. Music videos were largely made for channels like MTV so as to encourage people to buy the physical copy of the single or album. Today, countless videos conceived before YouTube was a twinkle in its creators’ eyes are instantly viewable there, and continue to act as essentially free advertising for the artists’ material.
Removing all content from the web may seem like an unusual step for Radiohead to take, but online marketing allows for a lot of creativity and any rules behind it are arguably there to be broken. With the ‘Burn The Witch’ video receiving around four million views within 24 hours of its release, it’s hard to argue that this online/offline stunt was anything but a success.