In Wu-Tang's words, they took a "400-year-old,
Renaissance-style approach to music," creating a one-of-a-kind
piece of artwork. The result was "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin," in
a silver engraved box -- the only copy of the album that will be
toured around museums and potentially auctioned off. It delivered
them 10 times more buzz than a traditional album promotional and
their next album, "A Better Tomorrow," will build on this -- they
plan to embed eight tracks into 3,000 portable speakers followed by
a traditional release.
Jay Z and Beyoncé: "Run" tour film
Jay and B didn't have albums to release this year, but there was
a massive tour to promote and some negative relationship PR to
shake off. In last year's list we saw some great use of the film
medium by musicians. The "Run" film took it a step further, upping
production values, enlisting director Melina Matsoukas and
featuring stars such as Sean Penn and Jake Gyllenhaal to create a
high-energy Bonnie-and-Clyde-styled story, setting the tone for
their shows and racking up over 10 million views on YouTube.
Foo Fighters: "Sonic Highways"
Through the music industry's metamorphosis, Dave Grohl and the
Foo Fighters have continued to crank out solid albums. Their latest
effort, "Sonic Highways," involves an HBO partnership -- a TV
series that takes them across the country. Each song for the new
album is recorded in a famous location and each episode covers the
musical history of that city.
Nipsey Hussle's $100 mixtape
Being an independent artist has its advantages. Nipsey Hussle
released only 1,000 copies of his mixtape "Crenshaw," selling them for
$100 each. They sold out in 24 hours from a single LA store
and, symbolically, Jay Z, the champion of #newrules, even picked up
100 for himself.
Thom Yorke: "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" BitTorrent
Industry innovator and outspoken Spotify critic Thom Yorke was the first to
release a major album via direct download and under a "pay what you
want" model. Yorke has always looked for new ways to circumvent
record labels and major industry players.
York released "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes," his second solo album,
for $6.90 via a BitTorrent download (the platform received only a
10% commission as opposed to iTunes' 30%) -- drawing major
press coverage and discussion outside of his core fan base.
Taylor Swift: "1989" and the Spotify swifty
The most impressive part of the "1989" release was the way Swift
took her role as the only artist this year to go platinum and used
it to create even broader relevance by taking her music off Spotify
igniting a debate around the industry and streaming
Token misguided blunder: U2's "Songs of
We all knew something like it was coming after Jay Z and
Samsung teamed up, but in the era of
streaming music, where any album can be made instantly available,
the tactic was borderline offensive. Non-fans were shocked to find
U2's album automatically downloaded to
their iOS devices. I don't imagine we'll see it used in such a
broad stroke again, but it could be great with some more precision