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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.

No smartphones

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.

David Moth

Published 10 February, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

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Nicola Arnold

Also worth giving a shout out to Zoopla for their genius guerilla-marketing idea of giving out purple umbrellas to those queuing in the rain for the Electric Ballroom gigs!

over 2 years ago

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Missyangel

It was good to read you enjoyed being at the show. It seems the gigs are as wonderful as I expected them to be. You mention a few 'gripes' via twitter about people not making it to London. Many of us do NOT live in London, many fans live many miles away from the capital of the UK.

I for one would love to see Prince and the 3rdeyegirl show and cannot think of a more knee-trembling gig to attend. I would, however, appreciate being able to book a ticket in advance so I can take time off work. I'm not rich enough to be able to drop everything at the last minute to travel across a rain sodden landscape on a last-minute price hiked travel ticket to a potential London-gig-that-may-or-may-not-happen and where I-may-or-may-not-get-in.

I know I am not alone in feeling let down by 'a great PR stunt'. I dearly, dearly hope that Prince and 3rdeyegirl play a few larger venues, or at least ones I and other non-London based fans have some hope of getting into. I'll get my wellies on and walk over 100 miles if I have to. I'll even leave my phone behind.

over 2 years ago

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VIRGINIA

Oh yes...daring to be!
he can share his majesty through every pore of his body!
Amazing...he is so good! I just see how bright he is...oh god I need to see him again!
Love,

over 2 years ago

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Andreas

Ditto what Missy Angel says about a Londoncentric stunt. However, from a marketing perspective...it helps when the product is this good

over 2 years ago

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Hans Schepers

How much I would like to agree with the writer- this is basic use of social media by an already established name with a huge and highly anticipating fanbase. There is nothing unique about it, really. For Prince/3RDEYEGIRL it is, but hey, he's got a *LOT* of catching up to do. Keep up the good work though.

over 2 years ago

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Tina Copley

I completely echo Missyangel's comment. I've been an avid Prince fan since the early eighties, and am desperate to see one of
his shows! I'm a northern lass so need a bit of notice to get to a gig in London. I'm happy to travel but need to know my journey wont be wasted. A chance to buy a ticket in advance would be great!! Come on Prince, spare a thought for your loyal fans in the North :-)

over 2 years ago

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Jo

1) it's more than a few gripes by fans.... if you are disabled or unable to physically stand in the rain for hours then your are excluded, if you are a parent who can't just dump the kids at the last minute you are excluded, if you work for, say the NHS, and are expected to work a shift u can't go sick - you could however plan to take that shift/day off if you knew in advance, if u don't live near London then unlikely u will get there in time - combine any of these points and u've no chance! Much of his fan base are now in the 30's/40's and have children, rent, mortgages, jobs etc. This approach excludes so many and what is so disappointing is that Prince has always stood for fairness and equality, not discrimination - maybe being somewhat misguided?

2) is it the right thing to do to make fans stand in the rain/cold for hours when ticketing the event would stop this (or at least selling tickets to those in the queue so they can go and spend the hours before the gig somewhere warm)? He would not need to send hot chocolate to fans if he didn't make them queue.

3) he is not reacting to social sentiment since despite being tweeted several times by many fans they are choosing to ignore these points. The £70-£10 ticket issue is not responding to the fans, it's sticking to your word - quite difficult to go back on this when said so publicly.

4) Prince is not a new entity trying to make his way and testing if people like him. The guerilla approach is a farce for someone so established.

5) there r many pictures of the shows being tweeted so 'fans' are not respecting his wishes!

Prince is the most talented and unique artist I have ever come across and I have huge respect for him. This is not about the music itself, its about enabling fairer access to experience the music.

over 2 years ago

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Amanda Wassall

I am heart broken. It looks like I won't get the chance to see Prince.
I live in Birmingham and even if I Jumped straight in the car the minute the next gig was announced and raced to London by the time I got there the Que would have already exceeded the venues capacity.

my only hope would be to spend a week in an hotel and hope he picks one of the nights I'm there to do a gig which would cost a packet.
I do understand why he's doing it the way he is but if he could just announce the next gig the night before it would give fans like me a chance to get there and in that Que before it gets to long.

over 2 years ago

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Tim buckto

Jeeze. People are absolutely pathetic. Grow up.

You do not have a right for prince to come play at your house, just by virtue of the fact you have chosen to live in some backwater, or by the fact you have children, or have work or whatever.

The man is playing gigs, that you can get into for £10. Last night was not sold out by 9pm, so if you really left in the afternoon, you'd have got in.

Prince is a free man and you are not a king, stop expecting everything to be handed to you on a plate. I'm sure he will get round to you soon, so please lord, stop this awful whinging. And you know what, if he doesn't come and see you, it serves you right cause it sounds like you wouldn't appreciate it anyway, short of him coming to your living room, making your dinner and playing every song that you demand him play. (and all at a volume that doesn't wake up your children.)

Get a grip. Rock and roll clearly isn't for you.

over 2 years ago

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Melody

Ditto Missyangel. I am hoping and praying for an opportunity to get there with a guaranteed ticket. I'm in the same boat, I live in Wales and I can't afford the time or expense to travel and stay in London and gamble on whether I get to the right place at the right time.

I was very excited by all of this last week but starting to feel frustrated and annoyed after having considered every possible option to abandon work, challenge my physical health and the health of my wallet to see the performer I most adore play live, especially in a small venue.

Please give we fans outside of London a chance!

over 2 years ago

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Desirée

If you want something, work for it, don't sit and whine.

There's always possibilities to go to London and see him if you really want to. He's bound to perform again one of these days, so call in sick, get to London, check into a cheap hostel for a few days and wait.

You can dress for the cold, throw on a jumper, a winter coat and a scarf and enjoy the atmosphere.

Just stop whining already!

over 2 years ago

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Debbz

Amanda Wassall - I heard Prince was playing about 11.30am yesterday in Worcester. I couldn't set off until 4.30pm but did manage to get in to see him last night :-)

over 2 years ago

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Jo

Desiree - good advice, ok next time I'll call in sick so all those people who have key surgery scheduled won't get operated on, I'll leave my kids in the house on their own and they'll probably get taken onto care! And actually I am doing something about it by expressing the views of many frustrated fans.

Tim - I guess yr view on life as a woman I have decided to have children so I can't also have a career!

over 2 years ago

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Nav

I left my house in a flood hit Caversham, Berks at 3.50pm, walked 2 miles to town, got a rain hit delayed train to London then tube. I still got in as I thought it was worth taking the chance of seeing him. Not everyone is medically fit or able to stand in a queue or have kids etc but quit complaining. I had friends travel down to London for the entire weekend to see if there was going to be a gig on the off-chance. We all got in. They weren't even sold out. Prince has his reasons for doing shows this way & if you had listened to his interviews where he says he would start out small then if successful he'd do bigger venues. 3RDEYEGIRL don't have enough material yet to have a decent show and I am sure he'd prefer not to have to keep doing his back catalogue whilst experimenting with new material. He loves entertaining but he is a musician who just wants to make music. He should be appreciated for that & not joining the Greatest Hits geriatric tour idiocy...

over 2 years ago

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Robin

I would love to experience 3RDEYEGIRL. Prince just needs to come to Atlanta, Ga. so I can. Come on Prince!! ATL is waiting!!!!!

over 2 years ago

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Clare Rees

I agree with most of the points in the above article, but I do think that most people are missing the point entirely - from written reports, to the people complaining that they can't get to see him.

This isn't just an example of 'gorilla marketing' - it's underpinned by a much more important PR strategy.

Take the £70 / £10 ticket example. Prince and his team were not reacting to social media backlash when they reduced the price; it had been part of the plan all along. By running these hit and run gigs in the manner that they have, it's basically ensured that only the hard core fans see the gigs. These are people who are happily prepared to queue all afternoon for a chance to see Prince live in a small venue (a definite 'bucket list' event for many!) and would have been delighted to have done so for £70. By ensuring that the most passionate Prince fans attend the gigs, it's pretty much guaranteed that every piece of communication about the gig, afterwards, will be nothing but positive. Remember that this was for a gig that was playing on a Sunday, therefore making it a little more accessible (to people that work) than the previous week-night gigs, that would have entailed bunking the afternoon off work. So the price was leaked as higher to ensure that only the most devoted arrived.

Far from being angry about this, those living outside of London or with responsibilities preventing them from attending the hit and run shows, should take reassurance from the existence of such a strategy. The fact that it's in place at all suggests that there are bigger activities planned for the near future. Why would one need to drum up such social media buzz and word of mouth hype, if one wasn't planning future events with larger capacities that needed to be filled - and therefore planned with bookable tickets? The more cynical will say that it's all a marketing stunt to support the release of a new album... but we know that Prince doesn't really care for the 'standard' workings of the record industry and for years now has shied away from commercial releases.

And that leads me on to my final point. I too, at first, was one of those people whining about how difficult it was going to be for me to attend. But I quickly remembered that actions like this are exactly why I love Prince so much. The fact that his actions are driven by what he believes in and what he enjoys, instead of the potential for commercial return. So far, the people who matter are the winners: Prince gets to release a new band and new style to positive acclaim whilst playing the more intimate style of show that he so prefers - even if he and the band don't profit from the ticket sales. And the hardcore fans, who have supported Price for over three decades, are rewarded with the intimate shows that the crave - and for only £10. Let's hope that once demand has been tested and whipped up into a frenzy, a wider scope of people will also get an opportunity to enjoy Prince live.

over 2 years ago

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greg

Prince you are the best live performer on the entire planet today...you can fill stadiums up to 100.000 people....ι can see that you promote your music with a ticket of 10 to show your music teasing... your world wide fans. This is great... You can do it again .. combine NPG & 3rdeyegirl and write music history of being the ultimate live performer artist of all times. If you do this on 1000 people why not on 500.000 or 1.000.000 touring Europe and USA. You are already blessed and you have to prove nothing since you are the best ...but you can do it again ...just wow it would be fun....

over 2 years ago

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