TTo promote the issue of Secret Codes & Battleships – which arrives in standard format on October 24th in the UK through Powdered Sugar Records (with distribution from EMI Records) – multi-platinum artist and erstwhile vocalist of Savage Garden Darren Hayes launched a special promotion: a scavenger hunt. Each code had been divided into four parts, with each part placed in a bottle and scattered around the globe. Those who discovered the codes within the bottles each received a limited edition collector’s edition version of Secret Codes & Battleships – and a personal phone call from Darren.
“I’ve actually been doing stuff like that for a year,” Darren points out. “It began with me doing video blogs about making the record, and then I started using Morse code and sending out secret messages via Twitter. We then had a competition where there was a treasure hunt, and fans had to work out a code and find a password and enter a competition to be flown from anywhere in the world to London to hear the record for the first time ever. That happened, and we then put clues in bottles and hid them in Rome, New York, London and Sydney. Fans had to find them and they’d win a collector’s edition of the album, but when they combined the four clues it unlocked a part of the record – it’s a ten-minute video preview of all the music on the record. It’s been incredible, and it’s been a year-long journey to get to this point.”
Generally speaking, within the digital age it’s arguably more important to communicate with the fans and encourage their involvement. “I think it’s always been important,” the singer feels. “I just think it’s easier today with social media, but I’ve always embraced that. I used to go into IRC chatrooms and message on message boards back in the day, and 15-20 years on Twitter and Facebook are obviously the tools of today, and who knows what they’ll be next week. But yeah, it’s definitely important. I think it’s important to communicate really. I don’t come from a generation of performers where I feel like a celebrity, and I certainly don’t feel above my audience. I am a fan. I’m a fan of other artists, and I find it difficult to even refer to the people that buy my music as fans. I find it a bit degrading, except they know what I mean by that because I was the kid who waited outside Michael Jackson’s hotel for an autograph. I totally understand it, and I try to break down those walls a bit. That’s why I try to use social media to do that.”
Darren is the owner of a uStream account, a service whereby you can stream live videos to fans. “I’ve only just started video streaming actually – I enjoy it,” he admits. “To be honest nothing really beats the live show, but uStream’s great for people who live in places where you will probably never be able to get to. They get to see you live essentially, so I’m going to be doing more and more uStream stuff for sure.”
How effective has your foray into social media been Darren? “To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know. All I know is… to be honest, I’ve only just really focused on my Facebook page six months ago; we went from 2,000 followers to 110,000 followers, and it’s just slowly grown over time. Twitter has been a similar thing; I started with one follower, and I think I’ve got about 45,000 or something. To me it’s not necessarily about an immediate spike, or about something that a marketing person would tell you – to me it’s just about having a presence there. For me, when I think of an artist… If I wanna check out their latest release, I’ll probably go to Twitter and YouTube. I’ll go to a separate YouTube page and then I’ll check out what they’re like on Twitter, and that’s a lot different to the way that I used to check out music, which is I’d just go to a record store and flick through albums.”