We used to wait for concert tickets to go on sale before we worried about snapping them up.
We used to wait for a new song to be released properly on the radio before we could hear it.
And when it came to Arcade Fire following up its Grammy-winning 2010 album The Suburbs, fans have been waiting keenly and watching closely for the tight-mouthed Montreal rockestra to provide signs as to the new product's concept and content.
We used to do a lot of things, but when it comes to music marketing, the rules have changed. And when it comes to many things Arcade Fire, some of the wait is over. After weeks of cryptic missives and street graffiti messages, the band erupted in a flurry of promotional indie-rock razzmatazz on Monday. Here are the key developments:
The double album Reflektor will be released on Oct. 29, on the U.S. label Merge. Digital, CD and vinyl versions are now available for presale on iTunes. All preorders include first access to tickets for the band's unspecified "special shows" and coming world tour (no dates announced).
Speaking of special shows, one of then happened Monday evening at Montreal's Salsathèque club. On the club's website, a poster advertised a performance by a group called the Reflektors, whose faces were hidden. Previously Arcade Fire had promised that a revelation would occur on 9/9 at 9 p.m. The sneaky show indeed took place on Sept. 9, for 100 sleuth-y fans who, as stipulated by the conditions involved with admittance into the venue, wore costumes or dressed themselves formally.
A new single, also called Reflektor, is now out, along with two videos. The song, produced by former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and which leaked online on Sunday, is a dance-y, dynamic, jungle-percussive, horn-happy, propulsive and angular rocker which features a fellow enigma, the Let's Dance singer David Bowie. Lyrics are sung in French (by Régine Chassagne) and English (by Win Butler, with some Bowie assistance). It's the kind of questioning, high-drama, existential tune we've come to expect from the full-swinging conceptualists: "Now, the signals we send are deflected again" and "Will I see you on the other side?"
It has been announced that Arcade Fire is to visit 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York to appear as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live's season opener on Sept. 28. Tina Fey hosts.
As for the two Reflektor videos, the "official" one is traditional and the other is interactive short film. The former, directed by the filmmaker Anton Corbijn and shot in black and white, involves a band with oversized papier-mâché heads worshipping a disco ball in a field. A wildly mirrored man is the key; deciphering will take time.
The interactive "virtual projection" video is directed by Vincent Morisset and is aimed at the technology-savvy and artistically curious set. Google Chrome usage is encouraged; at the click of a mouse or buttons on phones or tablets, effects are manipulated.
And to think, this is just a start. We live in a brave new world of online razzle-dazzle and new hype-building techniques. Arcade Fire (and Kanye West and Lady Gaga and others) are not playing the game, they are developing it on the fly. Butler sings on Reflektor about songs escaping on neon silver discs and "All right, let's go back." But going back is not an option. Butler and Arcade Fire will see you on the other side.