You kids today don’t know how easy you have it when it comes to music being marketed to you. Pretty much everywhere you turn you’re getting clobbered over the head with content marketing about Kanye or whoever; you don’t even really see actual “advertising” any more. But confarnit, back in our day, we had to walk barefoot 12 miles through three feet of snow, uphill both ways, just to get on the internet to get some music marketed to us. In some cases, it was worth the effort, like when Radiohead ingeniously rolled out “Blips” to market their album Kid A. If you were alive back then, you might recall the excitement around these quirky and brilliant short clips that preceded the release of the album. There was no such thing as reliable streaming video at the time, so if you were hip to them, you might spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get your hands on these little clips, which were mostly created as 20 to 60 second QuickTime files. They’d never play properly in the browser, so you’d download them, and watch them offline. The resolution was horrible, but the content created for them was perfectly suited to the medium They would look like this in the QuickTime player:
If you grew up with the music marketing of the last several years, this probably all sounds absurd. But at the time, it was sheer genius on the part of Radiohead. No-one in the established industry at the time believed there was a way to market music on the internet. Mostly because they were too stupid and lazy to figure it out, and were hell-bent on destroying Napster and filesharing with multi-million dollar campaigns that accused you of being a thief in short ads before every movie you went to see. See this Wikipedia highlight for more on the details, but the gist of it all was that the fans were DYING to hear the new album (which was taking quite a while), and were pursuing the advertising (the “blips”) before it was even released. As opposed to the ads chasing them, as is the case today, when your browsing history tracks your every move to show you disturbingly specific ads wherever you go. Radiohead, as we all know, continued with this kind of innovation the years to come.
Watching the Blips
You can view all the blips below in a single YouTube video, or a selected set in better resolution in the Vimeo clip further below. But to get the authentic vibe of the originals, you should visit this page that has them collected in their original .mov and .asf formats.