When I found out that Taylor Swift's new album, Red, would be available via Papa John's Pizza delivery, I pretty much had the same thoughts that I had upon hearing the first single off of Red: The fuck? Followed by: Mmmm. Tasty.
Modern record labels are working hard to find new ways to get the product to a paying audience. From free promotional downloads to bonus gifts to direct crowd-sourcing, there are many inventive ways to advertise and distribute new albums.
Nobody wants CDs anymore, they want exclusives and some kind of novelty factor. Swift's freaky-smart management recognizes this and promoted accordingly. In addition to the Pizza Party plan, this album is offered up in multiple formats by many different vendors. Four singles were digitally released in advance of the album, with some setting download records. The version of Red sold at Target includes six bonus tracks and a different cover photo. (This model also served well for Swift's last album, Speak Now.) And even Walgreens is in on the action, selling everything from Taylor Swift notebooks to branded guitar picks, and all of this is available 24 hours a day.
And while I celebrate every hustler, this pizza thing has gone beyond slick and into just... weird. Still, I decided to play along. I called up my local Papa John's to get the details and place my order. My Papa John's worker, Melanie, seemed more than a little confused by the whole thing. She said that I was only the second person to order the Swift pizza/CD combo from her location.
When my driver arrived, I tipped him well and asked him a few questions about delivering the CD. In broken English he said, "Oh, yes, I deliver all the time! Everybody love it!" I'm not sure who to believe, but I think that he thought that I was flirting with him.
I brought the pizza inside to my waiting friends, and we got right to it. They gave me two pizzas even though I only ordered one, so we thought our party was on. As it turns out, Papa John's pizza is kind of disgusting. Still, we chewed and we listened, making quick judgements on each song as my underused CD player kept stalling and threatening to skip.