The rise of Wu Lyf. Lessons For Artists On Anti Hype And Self Promotion
January 11, 2012
Fresh from their US TV debut on The Letterman Show last
week, few British bands can say they had a better 2011 than Manchester’s WU LYF
(World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation).
This time last year, WU LYF were all the music industry and
press could talk about. Journalists and PR Execs were falling over themselves
in attempt to get close to the four-piece, all before they had their first
The band formed in Manchester in 2008 and began playing a monthly
residency at a small local venue. They built up a small but dedicated following
off the back of these shows, selling lifetime subscriptions to their ‘Lucifer
Youth Foundation’ for £15, which entitled members to plenty of material and songs from the band. As
the press started to get excited about them, the band seemed to hide away from
plain sight even more, refusing to do any interviews or meet with any labels or
This resulted in increasing amount of attention from the
media, with rumours about the band manifesting themselves from every corner.
There are stories of them inviting PR execs and journalists to see them play a
set at 11pm, only for them to have finished before they even turned up (true),
or selling out a vinyl collection of their first few mp3’s for £50 a pop (not
true). Someone even claimed that lead singer Ellery Robert’s father was in
David Cameron’s Cabinet (come on now).
WU LYF continued to communicate directly with their fans via
their blog, sending out cryptic apocalyptic messages which only added to the
mystery, setting themselves up almost as some sort of cult who only insiders could really 'get'.
The band’s first real media interaction came in the form of
a single press photo depicting a gang of hooded and masked youths on a roof shrouded
in flare smoke. The picture was exciting, provocative, and most importantly –
ambiguous. It told us nothing about the band and who they were, other than the
fact that it would be foolish not to take them seriously.
This press photo was followed out of nowhere by an official
video for their song ‘Spitting Blood’. The video quickly drew the attention of
the art and media world, with experimental filmmaker Michel Gondry (‘Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’) rumoured to have cold called the band after
being so impressed by it. People talked, talked and talked about who this band
could be and what their intentions were.
The band eventually started to take the more traditional
promotion route, announcing and releasing their debut album, touring and giving
press interviews alongside it. Though now a fully-fledged band, it’s hard to
imagine WU LYF would be enjoying the same success if they hadn’t hidden away
from the press as they did.
WU LYF built themselves on the notion of anti-hype. By
refusing to give anything about themselves away to anyone, people started to
obsess. Who are these weird Kids from Manchester and what is their agenda? In
this age where everyone expects to know everything about you and where pop
stars tweet about what desert they had at Nandos, this was a stroke of genius.
This should not detract from the fact that ultimately, you
need the tunes. Above all else, WU LYF’s singles, albums, videos and live shows
are all critically acclaimed across the board in their own right. Forget
everything else – if you don’t have the material then it doesn’t matter how
savvy your promotion campaign is.
This is not to say that you should neglect things like toruing, press releases, SMS Keywords and other standard promotional methods. However, with so many thousands of bands doing the same old
thing (single, tour, album, tour, press release, tour, etc, etc), it might be
worth considering doing things a little differently. Think outside the box a
little, try and surprise potential listeners by coming at them in a way they
might not expect. Remember, you are competing with hundreds of thousands of bands who musically, are probably not that different from
you. Try and keep 'em guessing.
So, think about what WU-LYF did, get crazy get inventive. First upload your release and then start promoting.
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