In anticipation of their new album Reflektor, which will be released on October 29, Arcade Fire painted the town, literally. Using a cryptic graffiti symbol—a grid with jumbled letters ringed by a circle—the indie band hired graffiti artists to build buzz for the album with an international guerrilla marketing campaign.
At the FYF music festival in Los Angeles, fans printed with the symbol were handed out to visitors. The fans also appeared at Lollapalooza in Chicago. In New York, Arcade Fire hoisted a giant flag with the mysterious grid and the "Reflektor" single's release date and time, "9/9/9." Sightings appeared everywhere from London to Austin to Berlin to Rome, and the image began circulating on social media.
Randall Roberts, the pop music critic for the Los Angeles Times, compares this campaign to images of Lady Gaga's paint-splattered face that popped up online and at the MTV VMAs in anticipation of her album ARTPOP, as well as Kanye West's video projections in different cities before the release of Yeezus.
"There's a downside, though," Randall writes. "The Reflektor symbol has now fully dented the brains of music fans, where it lives alongside logos for Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, Jiffy Lube and every other commercial icon"
While Arcade Fire fans around the world posted image of the symbol online, Austin-based Ian Dille, for one, was not impressed with the band's stunt. In a piece called "My Wife Was Vandalized By Arcade Fire" for Slate, Dille writes that the Reflektor symbol appeared on the wall of his wife's frame shop in Austin a few weeks ago. On Monday, the same wall was plastered with posters for the new album.
Dille was turned off by the vandalism, and he felt "betrayed" by what he saw as Arcade Fire's selling out.
"If you’re a talented young artist who considers the urban environment your canvas, by all means, spray-paint a building," he writes. "But if you’re an internationally renowned band that’s defacing public and private property for promotional purposes, maybe go back to the drawing board, and think some more about how you want to let people know about your music."
Despite how you feel about the guerrilla graffiti, it's undeniable that the campaign built viral hype around the album. In addition to their spray paint project, Arcade Fire also played a secret show in Montreal on September 9 at 9pm where everyone had to come dressed in formal attire or costume.