Arcade Fire has always been a band with a message, from Neon Bible’s commentary on post-9/11 hysteria to The Suburbs’ criticism of the suburbs. Their latest album, Everything Now, is no different. The indie-rock group has set their sights on the pervasive perversion of branding on the artistry of music, alongside commentary on the instant gratification and lack of verification omnipresent on the internet.
To promote the album, the band wove a bizarre narrative, signing on to a “360-degree arrangement” with fictional company Everything Now and creating a phony social media coordinator, Tannis Wright. While Arcade Fire is no stranger to out-of-the-box promotion for their albums, their pre-release campaigns have never been quite so elaborate or multifaceted.
Here’s a breakdown of their campaign:
On April 2, 2017, one “Rafael Derras,” likely fictional, created the blog “Arcade Fire Expat.” Nobody noticed.
Phase 1: Teasers
However, Arcade Fire added additional layers, creating two new Twitter accounts. The first, @EverythingNowCo, the “official” account for a content marketing company, retweeted a short video featuring a clip from the album’s title track, posted by second new account @AF_0ff1c1al, a.k.a. Masha S—which was designed to look like a Russian spambot.
Все сейчас вездеhttps://t.co/L6LgmgkzGb
— Masha S (@AF_0ff1c1al) May 31, 2017
The band’s official twitter account posted a new logo on the same day:
Stay tuned for Infinite Content pic.twitter.com/Q6OW6XCow4
— Arcade Fire (@arcadefire) May 31, 2017
The band began selling official Everything Now merchandise at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, including a vinyl recording of the album’s title track. Their Instagram account was also wiped, further teasing new content to come.
Phase 2: Materialist Marketing
On July 1, Everything Now revealed the official Everything Now website and music video, and, in three typo-ridden tweets, announced their new “Content Division” and that their first music signing was “The Arcade Fires.”
Starting June 3, Arcade Fire began manufacturing disagreement with their marketing partner after Everything Now tweeted out the new album’s song titles in anagram form. The band’s official Twitter account responded:
Please stop with the track list anagrams, @EverythingNowCo. We'll reveal the song names when we're ready. Not cool.
— Arcade Fire (@arcadefire) June 3, 2017
Later that month, infighting continued as the Arcade Fire Facebook page released fake ads for tie-in products and followed up with a new music video on June 16. Everything Now responded the same day, calling the release “a clear sec. 9 violation.” Six days later, the Arcade Fire Facebook page was updated:
The post also includes an updated music video for “Creature Comfort,” which includes “fun fact” overlays and eventually advertises products to tie in with each track on the album, poking fun at commercialism in modern music.
Reminder: This account has been temporarily taken over by @EverythingNowCo in order to maximize promotional efforts.
— Arcade Fire (@arcadefire) June 23, 2017
The band’s promotional efforts begin in earnest here, posting an announcement of a limited-edition fidget spinner. The band’s Twitter account continued to announce fictional tie-in products for the next month, causing a stir when involving actual brands.
Revealing the true message behind the campaign, the Arcade Fire Twitter account posted about how “shady” the music business has become, calling out other band-brand partnerships as hypocritical and contradictory with their art form.
Phase 3: #FakeNews
On July 1, the Arcade Fire campaign pivoted away from its ironic commercial approach, “turning over” the reins of its Twitter account from Tannis Wright to Sarah Huckabee Sanders and mocking Donald Trump’s comments on the size of his inauguration crowd.
Beginning on July 14, the band began a widespread disinformation campaign, creating slightly altered versions of popular websites, including “Entertainment Weakly”, “StereoYum,” “Billlboard,” “Fact Company” and “The Hollywood Reported,” all spinning the same plausible meta-commentary about the commercialization of music as relates to their album’s rollout.
Controversy about the fake news strategy reached a head when screenshots of an announced dress code (“HIP & TRENDY”) for a pre-release concert of the album were published on Brooklyn Vegan, leading to backlash, a statement from the band on the lack of a dress code and a scanned “fax” from Tannis Wright:
— Arcade Fire (@arcadefire) July 24, 2017
All this led to a final clarifying post on The Sharables: an interview with the infamous and elusive Tannis Wright, wherein all of the controversial statements and false information are blamed on the (fictional) social media intern, adding further layers of falsehood.
The album released on July 28 to 100,000 week-one sales, enough to put it at number 1 on Billboard’s top 200 albums, which would certainly indicate the success of the campaign. However, as The Outline points out, the band hit the figure partially because they packaged a copy of the album with every concert ticket sold. Additionally, the band is bigger than it’s ever been, but their last album, Reflektor, also topped the Billboard 200 with 140,000 first-week sales.