Bands explore promo potential of Chatroulette

Fri Mar 19, 2010 9:17pm EDT
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By Antony Bruno

DENVER (Billboard) - In the promotional run-up to the April 13 release of its new album, Ohio experimental rock group Foxy Shazam tapped a curious outlet to promote the release: Chatroulette.

The Russia-based online chat site connects users around the world for one-on-one video sessions. The connections are random, so there's no way to select a specific partner. And a "next" button enables users to skip to the next selection.

Foxy Shazam previewed its entire self-titled Warner Bros. album March 8-13 on Chatroulette. The feed, which ran in a loop over a webcam, consisted of a stream of the album and the set's cover art with a text overlay of the release date.

It doesn't sound like the most efficient way to promote new music, and Warner Bros. senior vice president of new media Jeremy Welt agrees. But efficiency, he says, wasn't the point. Foxy Shazam wanted to be part of a buzzworthy venue in order to introduce itself to new fans, he says.

Launched in November, Chatroulette has quickly become an Internet sensation. Unique U.S. visitors to the site surged to 960,000 in February from 109,000 in January, according to comScore.

"It's a meme right now," Welt says. "It fits in with who these guys are. It's kind of wild and crazy. It's very rock 'n' roll when they want to go do stuff like this ... It's not always about practicality."

Foxy Shazam isn't the only band that feels this way. On March 12, Toronto group Holy F--k used Chatroulette to announce the May 11 release of its new album, "Latin." The first single streamed over an image of a placard listing the band's name, the title of the song and album and a link to its Web site.

Portland, Oregon, indie outfit the Nurses performed live on Chatroulette earlier in the month, setting up 15 webcams to increase the likelihood that users would happen upon their performance.   Continued...