Being one of the most successful and influential musicians of the 20th century, there are few musicians as critically acclaimed as Sir Paul McCartney. Today, the man is 76 years old and still touring around the world as if he was in his prime with the Beatles in the 1960’s or Wings in the 1970’s. Though McCartney is certainly beloved and appreciated for his music, he has not been as relevant in recent decades since the 1980’s. Paul’s album Tug of War from 1982 was the last time he scored a number one hit on the U.S album charts… Until this year.
On September 7th, 2018, McCartney released an album he had been working on for a few years called Egypt Station. Not only did this become his first number one album in the U.S charts since 1982, but it was the first Paul McCartney solo album to debut at the top of the U.S charts. When I heard McCartney had scored his first number one U.S album in 36 years, I had to give the album a listen. When I did, I thought the album was… well… good?
Don’t get me wrong, as to be expected with McCartney, it was a really good album. However, to me it didn’t really seem to stand out any more than Paul’s other 21st century releases such as 2013’s New or 2007’s Memory Almost Full. To me, it was just another good McCartney album to add to his resume of countless other good McCartney albums. So then why did this one do exponentially better than its predecessors from recent decades? I was baffled initially, but then it all became clear. It was the stellar promotional marketing strategies that McCartney and his team were putting into play.
Promotional marketing is a sort of message that motivates an audience to make a purchase or investment with a brand. McCartney’s promotional marketing for the album all began in June, when teasers for a new McCartney project were being posted in the form of pictures of McCartney playing various instruments as well as cryptic symbols (that later ended up being pieces of the album cover) all over his social media pages.
About a week later on McCartney’s birthday, Egypt Station was revealed. The marketing strategies leading up to its release continued. McCartney continued to keep his social media pages overflowing with little teasers and bits about the album. On June 19th, two singles (“Come On To Me” and “I Don’t Know”) were released to the public.
James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment in June featured himself and Paul McCartney driving around Paul’s hometown of Liverpool singing Beatles songs and exploring historical sites relevant to the Beatles and McCartney. The special ended with Paul playing a surprise concert in Liverpool’s philharmonic Dining rooms. This special was broadcast in conjunction with the release of the Egypt Station singles, where it was viewed over 100 million times (with 34 million views on YouTube as of the time of this post).
The following month he also held a social media contest where fans were asked to post a short video on why they should be chosen to attend a secret Paul McCartney concert with the hashtag #UnderTheStaircase (cryptically referring to Abbey Road studios having a large staircase that leads down into the studio rooms). The winners were treated to a private McCartney concert at the famous Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded most of their songs. Paul ended up playing four songs from the Egypt Station album at this concert. On top of all of this, McCartney announced his 2018-2019 “Freshen Up” tour (He’s coming to North Carolina in May 2019)!
McCartney was all over YouTube between June and September with various interviews and events such as a WIRED autocomplete interview, a GQ interview about his songwriting throughout the decades and a gritty unfiltered interview with Howard Stern. He was even featured on 60 minutes. Then on the day the album launched, to finish of his excellent marketing strategies leading up to release, he played a “surprise” concert at grand central station in New York where it was live streamed on YouTube.
I don’t think anyone expected a former Beatle to score a number one album in the year 2018. However, Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station is proof that if you are strategic and smart with any sort of promotional marketing, you can end up with results that blow all expectations out of the water.