The music industry was changed forever the moment Napster launched in June 1999. Since the peer-to-peer file sharing network took the world by storm, record companies have endured a love-hate relationship with the internet. Over the decade since the birth of services like Napster, the traditional business model of phased single and album releases died a slow and painful death.
Record companies have been slow to respond to this change. Initially they devoted their energies to fighting the change, only to be outsmarted by consumers and technology at every step. Even when fans did pay for digital music, it was at a fraction of the cost of a traditional single or album.
Security is a major factor. Somebody leaks a hotly awaited track from a popular band on the web and within minutes it has been passed around, posted on YouTube or Soundcloud, converted to mp3, sampled and remixed, and nobody spent (or made) a penny.
Kaizers Orchestra is one Norway's top artists, and they were getting ready to release a new single as an introduction to the upcoming album. This time, though, they wouldn't give anybody a chance to steal it. They decided to launch a record without even recording it.
Fans hunger for new material, which is great for bands, but they're less keen on paying for it. Fans will turn out in droves to see their favourite bands live, so the best chance at making money is ticket sales from live music events. But concert tickets cost more than recorded music, and are less likely to be experimental purchases.
Kaizers Orchestra decided they'd rather win new fans in the long term rather than sell a record in the short term.
The new release would be released, but not as a CD or an mp3, and not on vinyl. It would be released on paper.
One month prior to the single release date, and before the song was heard anywhere on the radio, the sheet music was made available on posters, music and fan forums, and even the very torrent download sites that were part of the file sharing problem. There was only one way to hear the new Kaizers Orchestra single was to play it yourself.
Norwegian music fans were challenged to cover Kaizers Orchestra's next single, Hjerteknuser (tr. Heartbreaker), before they had even heard it.
The largest music schools in Norway, were sent the music to be copied and distributed among students and the national radio broadcaster NRK's youth channel, P3, encouraged people to upload their versions to the popular P3 website.
Fans started posting their covers of Hjerteknuser in different styles and genres. As the word spread, Kaizers Orchestra and their Hjerteknuser challenge became a popular topic of bloggers, twitter, fans and the press. The challenge was also covered on national TV.
Visitors to the cover site could vote for their favourite versions, with the most popular version was announced live on P3 on 21 November 2010
Once the hype for the single had reached its full potential, Kaizers Orchestra released the original version of 'Hjerteknuser'.
The original and three best cover versions were all placed on heavy radio rotation.
Kaizer Orchestra's Facebook fanbase increased by 100% as a result of more than 500 000 actions in social media and media coverage worth more than 1 million Euro.
Kaizers Orchestra's concert at one of Norway's largest venues, the Oslo Spektrum sold out without any advertising. The Spektrum is has a concert capacity of nearly 10,000 people.
Within 48 hours of the launch, Hjerteknuser reached #2 on the Norwegian iTunes top 10 chart, making it Kaizers Orchestra's fastest selling single on iTunes ever.
The album Violeta, Violeta reached the no.1 spot in norwegian charts In the first week of its release.
This campaign was shortlisted at the 2011 Festival of Media Awards in the "Best Social Strategy", "Best Earned Media" and "Best Use of Content" categories. It went on to win all three awards.