The music business has changed in so many ways over the last few decades, but how much has it changed?  Sometimes it’s good to look back just to see how far things have come in the last few years.

As I was cleaning up around the house, I stumbled across an old promo item from U2 that I had from many years back.  It was a Solicitation Kit to convince retailers to stock their then-new Achtung Baby album on store shelves.  With all the recent hype around the album’s 20th anniversary, I cracked it open to remind myself of the kit’s contents.  Inside, it contained an advanced cassette of several songs, a video tape, and of the greatest interest here, the original marketing plan.  There’s nothing inherently controversial in what was done to market the album 20 years ago, but there is a lot of interesting tidbits that show how much marketing has changed in the last 20 years, including:

  • The list price of a CD has decreased, even while inflation has gone up.  We remember $16 CDs in 2001 pretty easily, but they were that expensive in 1991 too.
  • Of the “Tips/Trade” publications used to hype the industry, 50% of them no longer exist.
  • Of the “Consumer Publications” used, 25% of them no longer exist
  • Of the “Alternative Magazines” used, over 70% of them no longer exist

Boiled down, the marketing plan really consisted of very few elements:

  • Radio
  • Music Video
  • Press Articles
  • Press Promotions/Ads
  • Retail POP Displays

While a tour was part of the “plan” (1 sentence for what became the groundbreaking “Zoo TV” tour), it really didn’t factor into the album release plan.  Contrast that with all that’s needed now.  You’d need to add blog presence, website promotion, social networking, mobile strategies, digital retail promotions, music sync placements, and others.  No wonder those who are industry veterans pine for the old days.

The packaging paragraph seems rather innocuous, offering two formats including one that is a jewel box only giving “the retailer and the consumer the format they want.”  It turns out that was the most controversial part.  While now we only think of CDs as jewel box only, that was not the case in 1991.  In fact, U2 was the first superstar act to release a CD just in a jewel box.  While consumers may have wanted that, it was not the format that retailers wanted. Billboard magazine reported that Tower Records and National Record Mart refused to order the jewel box only version because they “didn’t want to send the wrong message to the labels.”

Finally, it’s also interesting that this marketing plan was done so long ago, that it was prepared on a typewriter. My, how times change. Enjoy.

Achtung Baby Marketing Plan

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  1. Jack Ahmann January 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm # Reply

    Music promotion is constantly improving on a day to day basis. I work in hip hop promotion and techniques change each month as new social avenues emerge.

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