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Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL played another surprise show in London last night as part of their Hit N’ Run tour to promote the band’s new single and forthcoming album.
The gig in Shepherd’s Bush was announced on BBC Radio 6 early on Sunday morning which sent Twitter in a Prince-inspired frenzy.
The ‘guerilla’ shows are part of Prince’s policy of avoiding middlemen and traditional marketing channels to promote his gigs and new music releases.
Last week he played two surprise shows in Camden’s Electric Ballrooms following a closed press conference held in a friend’s flat in East London.
Prince could easily fill arenas around the UK if he decided to do a more traditional tour, so it’s interesting to see that he’s opted for smaller venues and last minute word-of-mouth to promote the shows and generate excitement.
The reaction on Twitter has been hugely positive and it has generated excellent publicity for his new music.
I don’t expect many acts to follow suit and eschew the more traditional method of touring and promoting their music, but here’s why I think Prince is winning on social media this week...
It’s great PR
Save for a few gripes about people who aren’t able to get to London in time for the gigs, the shows have been met with universally positive mentions on Twitter.
This builds excitement around the shows and plays on people’s fear of missing out. As word-of-mouth spreads on Twitter, anticipation builds for the next surprise gig so Prince doesn’t have to do any promotion or marketing in between.
As a result people are queuing for up to eight hours in the rain for last-minute tickets despite the fact that there has been zero money spent on marketing or promotion.
And those that do queue, are rewarded with free gifts from the man himself...
Reliance on word-of-mouth marketing
Nearly all of the promotion for the shows has been done through Twitter, with 3RDEYEGIRL’s official feed and Prince’s manager Kiran Sharma tweeting mentions of the shows then waiting for fans to do the rest.
There hasn’t been any coordinated build up like the teaser campaign that came before the Rolling Stones' gigs last year. Instead Prince tells people where he’ll be then leaves the rest up to word-of-mouth promotion.
But it hasn’t all been done through Twitter. Before the Camden gigs a video was posted on 3RDEYEGIRL’s YouTube channel which showed Prince singing a song called ‘I like it there’ during a sound check at Electric Ballrooms. The video included a link to a countdown clock that ended at 7pm that night.
That video alone was a more powerful marketing tool than spending thousands on traditional marketing channels.
He’s reacting to social sentiment
Prince’s management team is clearly monitoring social media channels and responding to fans in order to maintain a good feeling around the shows.
For his Camden gigs the number of people queuing outside Electric Ballrooms would have filled the venue twice over. Rather than leave people disappointed Prince simply played two back-to-back shows so more fans could get in to see him.
Similarly, for the Sunday gig in Shepherd’s Bush tickets were initially priced at £70, despite the fact that Prince had said to the press that all his London shows would cost about $10.
Many people took to Twitter to protest the price hike, with Topsy showing that the hashtag #10PoundPrince was used 266 times in the run up to the show.
As a result, fans only had to pay £10 on the door even though the price on the tickets still said £70.
You could suggest that this was a ploy to deter too many casual fans from showing up, but personally I feel Prince and his management team recognised a potential PR disaster and reacted to what people were saying online.
The dawn of smartphones has been detrimental to live music, as a large number of stupid people feel the need to experience gigs through a mobile screen rather than just watching what is happening right in front of them.
This means that everyone in the venue has their view obstructed by the glow of smartphone screens.
Thankfully Prince has decided to make a stand and banned people from using their phones in the venue. Security guards were on-hand to slap down anyone who dared to even unlock their iPhone screen.
While a handful of people seem to feel this is a breach of their human rights, right-minded folk can see that it improves experience of live music.
It also has the added benefit of adding to the veil of mystery that shrouds the man and his shows, driving up the sense of excitement and anticipation around the tour.
For most gigs you can pretty much relive the experience by watching endless YouTube clips, but the only way to experience the 3RDEYEGIRL shows is to actually be there.
And as one of the lucky ones who made it into the Shepherd’s Bush show on Sunday, I can’t recommend it highly enough.