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Beef Of The Week #365: Arcade Fire v Arcade Fire

By | Published on Friday 28 July 2017

Arcade Fire

In the 24 hour, on-demand, me-first culture of the modern world, in order to stand out a band needs a sustained gimmick. Arcade Fire’s gimmick has been to point out that this is the case. Over and over again. For weeks. With their new album, ‘Everything Now’, officially out today, this brings to an end (hopefully) a gruelling promotional campaign.

The conceit was this: The band signed a ‘360° agreement’ with fictional company Everything Now Corp. The made-up company adopted an aggressive marketing strategy, which saw it push the band into everything from giving away promotional cigarettes to entering a brand partnership with Ben & Jerry’s, resulting in a new Arcade Fire-themed ice cream flavour ‘My Body Is A Cone’.

In June, a fall out between the band and the company was staged, suggesting that Arcade Fire had been unwilling to engage with the campaign. “Everything Now Corp doesn’t want to work with a band that’s content to be the ninth biggest in the world (current rankings)”, said a statement. “We want to work with those who strive to be number one, and who will do what it takes to get there”.

That was five weeks ago, and the whole charade has been no less exhausting since then. In part, the problem is that the band seem keen to skewer every part of modern culture they can think of via their spoof marketing campaign marketing campaign. And they can think of a lot.

A significant part of this was publishing various bits of ‘fake news’, from an article on Win Butler’s exercise regime, to claims about the band’s links to extremist groups, another purporting that Terry Gilliam had been making a massively over-budget music video for the band since 2005, and another revealing that they had launched a number of lawsuits claiming ownership of the ‘Millennial Whoop’.

Then last week, they published an article on a site designed to look like Stereogum, called Stereoyum, mocking the music blog’s ‘Premature Evaluation’ feature, in which it publishes early reviews of new albums. Titling their feature ‘Premature Premature Evaluation’, the band predicted what the real site might say when they actually came to review the record. Stereogum responded by posting a review roughly confirming those predictions.

To say this joke has been laboured is an understatement. Particularly as the pay off doesn’t match the effort that’s gone into the set up. For the most part, the punchline is basically ‘we are pretending to do a thing that already happens for real’ without offering any real comment on it, humorous or otherwise.

This week, it all reached a strange climax, when a statement was published claiming that there would be a strict dress code for Arcade Fire’s album launch show in Brooklyn tonight. Ticketholders were emailed and told that they would have to arrive looking “hip and trendy”, with a long list of clothing items that would not be tolerated.

“Our dress code is HIP & TRENDY as if you are going to a concert or night out with friends”, said the email. “The event is standing-room-only so please plan accordingly. PLEASE DO NOT WEAR shorts, large logos, flip flops, tank tops, crop tops, baseball hats, solid white or red clothing. We reserve the right to deny entry to anyone dressed inappropriately”.

News of the dress code was reported (largely negatively) around the internet, only to be followed by a statement from the band saying that it wasn’t true and that fans could “wear whatever you want to any show”.

Win Butler replied to a tweet by Brooklyn Vegan directing readers to its report on the dress code by saying, “Hi. Not sure who drafted this email, but it 100% did not come from the band in any form. Not that it matters! Enjoy the clicks”.

At this point, it’s hard to know what the band were even lampooning. Was it the media for reporting on things that appear in apparently official announcements? Or people who make sure they look good for their Instagram selfie at every social event? Or were they mocking themselves, having previously announced and retracted a live show dress code back in 2014 when they weren’t in prankster mode?

The album launch email also announced that fans would have to lock their phones in a secure pouch before the performance, in order to stop them taking Instagram selfies or filming the show. Though this seems like such a thing that Arcade Fire would do, I’m still not entirely sure if that was part of the joke or not.

Who has time to even think about all this, when Everything Now Corp has already capitalised on the controversy of #dresscodegate by launching a competition asking fans to tweet photos of themselves in their least trendy outfits?

Over time, this whole promotional campaign will become a distant memory as it gets buried under the weight of the internet. Maybe that’s the point. Ultimately, of course, it will be the album that lives on. But at the end of this arduous campaign, who could really be enthused about listening to a collection of songs that explore the same themes?