East City Management founder Stephen Taverner has told Music Week he believes Alt-J could headline Glastonbury in the future, as well as many other major UK and international festivals. The manager's confidence stems from the trio's new record, Relaxer, out today, which he says is likely to hit the Top 5 in the UK and Top 10 in Europe, America and Australia. It's certainly fighting talk. Read on to delve deeper into the campaign, as Music Week gets the skinny on streaming, strategy and possible superstardom.
The record is out this week, how’s the campaign gone so far?
The set up has gone brilliantly. In dropping 3WW as a first track, we weren’t going for an obvious radio smash, we just wanted to set the tone. Then 6 Music A-listed it, a few stations around the world started playing it and it did really well on streaming services. It’s still getting shared like crazy. When we did come with our first radio track, In Cold Blood, we were up an running.
How big a focus is streaming for Alt-J? Have they always had a good relationship with digital?
The focus has been very much on streaming, I guess it is for everybody now, but it’s where a huge part of the band’s audience live and consume music. That started with their first demos while the band were finishing university and doing the odd gig here and there. There were four up on SoundCloud as free downloads and they had almost 200,000 streams in a year. There was huge word of mouth not just in the UK but around the world, so when we released the first record we sold out a club tour in the US. That took the US label by surprise. The band have always had this solid online following, those early fans are on Spotify or Apple Music now so that’s where we focus a lot of our attention.
Do you favour one platform over the others?
I stuck my head above the parapet on the last album by giving Spotify the pre-stream rather than iTunes. It upset iTunes at the time, but I could just see our audience were living and breathing Spotify. I felt if we could connect with them early it would really help the album. We had to upgrade our European tour during the pre-stream because tickets sold so quickly off the back of people hearing it, so I could see it in action. We continued that into album three.
What are you doing differently with streaming this time?
Well, there’s no exclusivity with streaming these days, which is fair enough, with all the windowing that’s been going on, it got a bit crazy. But it’s more about what you do between albums, I think. With a band that can cross between genres on playlists, maintaining your numbers is really important. There are new people discovering you between albums so when you do come with the next record you’ve got an even bigger audience to market to. With both Apple and Spotify we’re doing joint marketing campaigns and branding our posters with their logos. Outside of that it’s getting great music into playlists and hoping it connects, which it seems to be doing.
Have you got specific sales targets for the album in mind?
Here in the UK I’ve absolutely no idea. We’ve spent so much time in America, Europe and the rest of the world that I can’t gauge it. I can probably gauge America better, it’s certainly looking like it’ll be top 10 there and in most of the European countries. Here, it should be Top 5, touch wood. Never take anything for granted. Top 10 in Australia too hopefully. It’s looking really healthy.
Do you have different plans for different territories?
The same thing works everywhere as long as it’s good. It has to be great music, an amazing live show, it just has to be amazing, it’s as simple as that. It’s like when we put the demos up on SoundCloud, I picked the four I thought were the best and they caught fire. They were so good we didn’t even bother re-recording them for the first album.
Beyond that, how do Alt-J grow from where they are now? What are you focusing on?
We’re trying to underplay wherever we can, we’re doing so in Europe and America and we’ve just announced the seaside tour, which is kind of an underplay tour of the UK. So that leaves us room to grow into arenas next year, if it goes well, and then into the festival season, headlining or doing the penultimate slot on most of the major festivals next summer. You take a step back and then move forward.
And then there’s headlining The Other Stage at Glastonbury, how important is that going to be?
It’s huge. It’s nerve-racking and scary for the band, there are a lot of logistics. Our show is pretty massive, we’re having to bring in a crew to build the thing above the stage, it’s going to be huge. I can’t tell you too much but the lights going on off the stage will be pretty impressive too. In terms of stress levels, it’s massive! It’s also incredible, the band are humbled by it.
Will you ever headline The Pyramid Stage?
You never take it for granted but it’s been talked about. All of the UK festivals have talked to us about headlining their main stages. I’m always very careful, you never want to get up there too quickly, there’s only one way after that and it’s down or sideways. We’ll see.