June 10, 2010 / 2:51 PM / 9 years ago

DEVO returns with fan-driven album

LONDON (Reuters) - The alternative music act Devo, best known for its 1980 hit “Whip It,” is pioneering a new method to help win fan approval. It is asking them what they want to hear.

Mark Mothersbaugh, lead singer of the U.S. band Devo, poses for a photograph in a hotel elevator in London June 9, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Singer and co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh told Reuters Television that the U.S. band’s first album for 20 years — “Something for Everybody” — was shaped through an online campaign which asked fans for their opinions.

“We thought people understood us enough to make observations which could be really important,” he said.

The resulting disc bears a promotional sticker that reads “88 percent focus group approved.”

Fans helped whittle a selection of 16 songs down to 12 which appear on the album, selected the new color for the band’s trademark flower pot hats (blue rather than red) and even issued decisive advice on the cover art.

“The focus group liked the picture of the woman eating a piece of candy in the shape of a Devo hat,” Mothersbaugh said.

The campaign was devised by U.S. advertising agency Mother.

“People nowadays really don’t like surprises,” Mother creative director Bill Moulton told Reuters. “They look at surprise as something negative, as something scary.”

Forrester Research media analyst Mark Mulligan said the band’s approach made sense in an era where fewer fans were buying music.

“The relationship between fans and artists is much closer than it was before and will continue to become closer, and that’s simply because the role of record labels cannot be relied upon as a guarantee of success anymore,” Mulligan said.

Devo frontman Mothersbaugh said the band’s focus group strategy is also meant as a statement in itself.

“We were doing it both for real and also kind of a little bit as a joke, poking fun at pop culture.”

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