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Visualizing Virality: The xx's New Album Premieres Through A Single Fan

In a modern-day chain letter, indie band The xx sent its latest album to one fan, allowing them, and us, to see word of mouth in action.

Last Monday, at around noon EST, only one person was listening to The xx’s upcoming sophomore album, Coexist.

Today, through no marketing intervention, the band’s new music is now being heard all around the world. (They have since posted a link on their Facebook page to stream the album.)

While other bands have experimented with social-media-driven record releases, typically those campaigns begin with a big public reveal. In this case, the band originally shared the album with just a single listener, with the intention of observing the viral spread (the first listener’s identity is being kept secret, but he or she lives in southeastern England). The band, partnering with Microsoft, built a website to track the path of their digitally distributed Coexist. After a gradual build, the site crashed due to unprecedented traffic.

Coexist Album Artwork

"It was actually quite slow at first--like watching puppies being born," says Adam Farrell, who heads up the band’s marketing. "For a moment, it seemed like the grand experiment might sputter out. Then, some big sites got a hold of it and it literally exploded just before midnight on Labor Day."

Check out the site to watch a data visualization of the album being (beautifully) passed around the world in real-time. As the week goes on, you can also rewind to see global distribution patterns over the past few days.

The xx, an English band whose first album came out in 2009, is also providing American and Canadian fans with a digital copy of Coexist with each ticket sold for their upcoming tour.

"In this day and age, a lot of how bands interact with fans online is to reward them with something new and innovative," says Farrell. "To get people excited. The xx were a word-of-mouth band, so we thought this was a way to go back to that sense of self-discovery and fans sharing of music. The visualizer paints that picture in stark detail."

Coexist drops September 11.

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2 Comments

  • verticality

    Anyone know which agency developed the Microsoft/the xx partnership? Or was it an internally developed Microsoft initiative?

  • KosmicTom

    Microsoft's blog post about it says: "
    Big thanks to The xx, their management at XL and Beggars, and the team at Clarity Consulting for making something truly beautiful!"