Chinese Democracy: the finest PR campaign never performed

Today sees the release of Chinese Democracy, Guns ‘N’ Roses’ first album since 1994. If you don’t know the back story to the album best catch yourself up with Wikipedia. Suffice to say I was 9 when they started recording the album and even I’m holding my breath in anticipation.

cool AxlThe last anyone knew Chinese Democracy had cost $13 million, Axl Rose was the only original member of the band left and the world should have forgotten about the album long ago. Add that to their last album, the atrocious ‘The Spaghetti Incident’, going down like a lead balloon and Axl Rose should be clawing for fame on Celebrity Big Brother. He managed to stick around though due to a series of leaks, celebrity cameos, corporate backings and stunts which any PRO would be proud of.

In 1996 just as the band started recording CD Slash left the band in a blaze of sour grapes shortly followed by bassist duff. Losing a member has been enough to kill better bands (see: Blur, The Libertines) especially if that member is a rock god but G’N’R just called in Brian May, Nine Inch Nails, then Dave Navarro making headlines every time. (even Shaquille O’Neal had a go)

Around 2000 people started to suspect that maybe CD wasn’t ever to be released, one rumour said it was called Chinese Democracy because just like Chinese democracy it didn’t exist. The mere fact, that the album had taken so long(eased along by the odd comment from Axl’s ‘friends’) it started generating buzz and rumours from no where, the album had accidently created the type of word of mouth campaign agencies spend thousands creating.

When coverage in Rolling Stone dried up an album track leaked, followed by another completely different version of the same song. The internet lit up for two weeks with argument and suddenly everyone wanted to know when the album was due again, the campaign went viral.fat axl

Rumours started circulating that Axl was a nut so Guns ‘n’  Roses went out on tour playing bizarre snippets of songs then cancelling gigs to work on the album further fuelling rumours.

Other bands even started getting in on the act, in 2003 The Offspring released a press statement claiming they’d named their new album (Splinter) Chinese Democracy because they were bored of waiting, they relented when Axl threatened a lawsuit.

Finally came January of this year and after multiple song leaks the album was handed to the record company (an act which usually garners no attention) and a million headlines were made.

In March G’N’R received corporate backing as Dr. Pepper promised to give every person in America a free can of Dr.Pepper if the album was released this year. They’re following through to their credit.

A string of events ranging from the idiot to the bizarre largely caused by Axl’s massive ego generated a PR campaign which resulted in one of the most anticipated albums ever. Did anyone even notice the actual PR campaign?

 

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