The Digital Launch That Fell To Earth

Howard Bowden, head of content, Clarion Communications

Twenty-four and a bit hours later and I still can’t work out what’s more astonishing: that David Bowie is back, or the way in which he did it.  Lets look at the facts: 1. With the exception of a four-piece guitar band from up north, Bowie is THE most important figure in British Popular Music over the past half a century (source: me).  2. With no live performances in a decade, no new music since 2006 and well documented health issues, the word was that we’d never hear from him again (as ‘confirmed’ to me by a national newspaper news editor the other week).  3. The last time I checked, the internet was a pretty big place, yet NO-ONE knew any of this was coming; no blurry cameraphone shots of him leaving a recording studio, no MP3s of demos leaked onto filesharing sites, and no slip-up by someone involved in its making on Twitter, as the excellent Alexis Petridis wrote in The Guardian.  This really isn’t how you’re supposed to do things these days, you know.

And yet from absolutely nowhere, the new single and video became available online at 5am yesterday, with the promise of a new album in March - the first I knew was when it featured in the Today headlines at 7am, after which Twitter and a very large portion of Her Majesty’s Media went bonkers.  The track itself, ‘Where Are We Now?’, can be described as elegiac, mournful and sounding like something from his mid-70s Berlin period (copyright: every journo who wrote about it today).  And while I think it’s quite fabulous, the best bit is how it appeared unannounced in cyberspace, to become - apparently - the perfect comeback.  Or as @theQuietus put it, ‘Make no mistake: this is Picasso resurrected in a Rolf Harris era’.

Before the internet, and then when it first appeared, Bowie was always bang on the money compared to the rest when it came to working the media, and it seems like nothing’s changed.  The best digital launch of 2013?  It’ll take a mighty impressive effort to beat it.

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