sunshine enema USB pill

20 Unconventional Album Release Gimmicks That Totally Rock

When you want to stand out, when you want to be talked about, you gotta have album release gimmicks. Don’t just make CDs in regular CD jewel case and digital downloads like the rest of the regular guys. No siree! You gotta be a little EXTRA!


There are so many ways to get creative with releasing, distributing and marketing your music so that you’ll surprise (and even shock) your fans. Here are some ways you can make your album release a few notches crazier than usual:

Table of Contents

Put some weird ingredient unto your Packaging–like Ke$ha’s blood

Album Release Gimmicks- flaming lips blood vinyl

Flaming Lips released their new record “The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends” with an album packaging blotched with blood of artists like Ke$ha, Erykah Badu, Chris Martin, Nick Cave and Grammy’s Best New Artist Bon Iver.


Put your music in something edible like Chocolate Heart or Gummy Skull

Album Release Gimmicks flaming lips chocolate heart USB

Flaming Lips is known for their elaborate album release gimmicks. They released a compilation of love songs, contained on a USB stick, and packaged inside an anatomically correct chocolate human heart. The band also released four songs on a USB drive buried inside a life-sized gummy skull. As in, you have to lick or break the candy before you can listen to their music.

Album Release Gimmicks flaming lips skull USB flash drive

Sell your CD with a box of Pizza with your face on it

Album Release Gimmicks taylor swift red pizza

Taylor Swift puts her face everywhere, including the pizza box. If you’re not huge enough to tie up with a Pizza company, just get the idea and come up with something else…like team up with a club and put your faces on a glass of beer or something. The point is, package it with something your peeps would love to consume. This album release gimmick always works.

Honesty Box or “pay whatever amount for our music”

Radiohead In Rainbows Distribution

‘In Rainbows’ was made available online in 2007, with fans able to pay whatever they think the music is worth. One third of the downloaders did not pay a single cent but the ensuing hype and publicity led to ‘In Rainbows’ being the most profitable album of Radiohead’s career.

Put a download code on a Soup Can

kosher max tundra soup can album release

Here’s something similar to Taylor Swift’s pizza. Fans who choose the soup can format also get an exclusive digital compilation of Max Tundra’s friends covering his songs. What a novel idea.

Tie Vinyl or USB on Balloons and set them free

Album Release Gimmicks balloons

Jack White and 3rd Man Records are known for their album release gimmicks. released a limited-edition single by helium balloon from his Third Man Records label headquarters in Nashville. The track is “Freedom at 21”. White and colleagues at Third Man filled 1,000 blue balloons approximately two feet in diameter with helium, attached flexi-discs and released them into the sky.

Belgium-based band GARCIA GOODBYE also released their new single “Horizon” by putting it in USB sticks, tying them to balloons, and setting them free. The Flash Drive has a note to call the band so they can play on the houses of these lucky finders. Read about it here.

Garcia Goodbye balloon

Put a download code on a tee

Album Release Gimmicks download t-shirt

Mos Def’s latest album, The Ecstatic, is in a wearable T-shirt format. The T-shirt has The Ecstatic Killer of Sheep-interpolating cover art printed on the front, song titles on the back, and a download code for the album on the hang tag.

Give away Limited Edition newspapers

radiohead publicity newspaper

Radiohead gave away copies of their newspaper, The Universal Sigh, in conjunction with their new album The King of Limb.

Digital Album Signing thru Google+ Hangouts

album release gimmick, 20 Unconventional Album Release Gimmicks That Totally Rock

Now autograph signing sessions are entering the digital age thanks to Google+ Hangouts. Ellie Goulding held the world’s first digital album signing as part of a promotion for her second album. Using a Wacom tablet, Photoshop and a custom Google+ Hangout app Ellie Goulding talked face-to-face some of her fans from across the world, signed and dedicated an album cover for each them.


cassette tape Album Release Gimmicks

We’ve heard lots of anecdotal evidence that the cassette is making a comeback, and sure enough, SXSW “it” band The Dirty Projectors are selling cassettes that come with download codes. Lucky Dragons‘ website contains the offer “cassettes now available in MP3 form.”

Flash Memory

beatles music release gimmick flash card

Take a look at this cute little thing. It’s a flash memory drive of the Beatles. After transferring the music onto their computers, fans can use the USB memory stick for whatever they want — or they can leave the files on there, to keep them in “mint” condition.

Interactive CD Package with Online Animated Experience

Jive Talk Interactive CD

This interactive CD package was designed for Jive Talk‘s latest album ’123 Jump!’. To enhance fans’ experience with the band, we created an online animated experience using Augmented Reality and Quick Response codes.

Fold the CD case to form the stage and scan the QR code to start the band’s “live” animated performance. Watch the animated Jive Talk members perform their title track, “123 Jump!”

Put your Music in a Pill

sunshine enema packaging USB

Sunshine Enema released a USB drive shaped like a pill nestled inside a pill bottle. The bottle was sold inside a prescription bag. The bag is stapled with a “dosing instructions” to aid any listener in how to use their new medicine, along with contraindications, common uses, and warnings to let the prescribed know that “There is no recommended dose. You are on your own.”

Turns out they’re not the first one who did this. German pop rock band Die Heuwels Fantasties also made a bottle of memory sticks in the shape of pill capsules for “Pille Vir Kersfees”…in 2008.

album release gimmick, 20 Unconventional Album Release Gimmicks That Totally Rock

Releasing one album in 4 discs that has to be played in 4 players at the same time

album release gimmick, 20 Unconventional Album Release Gimmicks That Totally Rock

Here is an album that required four different CD players to listen to. Once again, the Flaming Lips had the shockingly normal idea to release an album with eight songs. Each song was separated into four tracks on four different discs that had to be played simultaneously to get the whole experience. Whew! Not very advisable if you’re not yet a band with a million fans.

Music Box

album release gimmick, 20 Unconventional Album Release Gimmicks That Totally Rock

Scottish guitar band Mogwai gave its fans (the author included) a real treat in the form of a professionally-constructed metal music box that plays their song “Tracy” when you wind a little crank on the side.

Sheet Music

beck music release music sheet

Forget vinyl, forget cassettes, forget eight tracks because if you’re really hip, you’d go for the sheet music. Beck  released his album Song Reader in the most old-school format possible — sheet music.

NES Cartridge

NES cartridge Alex Mauer Album

Chiptune musician Alex Mauer released the first album to ever be pressed on an actual NES cartridge. The can be inserted into an actual NES. Rocker Jon Black also offers his latest album on original Nintendo cartridges.

NES cartridge album

CD Case that actually plays music

Album Release Gimmicks moldover cd

Moldover designed a CD holder out of a custom circuit board that has the all the CD information (including track titles) written out in circuitry!

Cardboard case that plays a record

wedding invite vinyl

The hand-spun record yields a garbled, but scrutable listening. This one in the picture is actually a wedding invitation but a great inspiration for any musician. It requires a bit of tinkering and folding —effectively championing the inner science-nerd kid in the recipient. The whole thing serves as an interactive packaging for the song.

James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.

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