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Paul Buchanan's "Mid Air" Debuts At #3 [Essential Case Study]

Paul-Buchanan-Mid-Air1-335x334Guest post by Tom Allen (@tomallen400) of Essential Music and Marketing via Topspin.

Friends and colleagues at Essential Music and Marketing have detailed their Paul Buchanan campaign which received exceptional results, including the album charting No. 3 in the first mid-week in the UK, finishing the week at No. 14. We love this campaign’s laser focus of providing value to the fans. Read all about it below, thanks to Tom Allen.


The album Mid Air is the debut solo album by Paul Buchanan, the lead singer in the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile had four previous albums, with the last being High released in 2004. This meant that the band had essentially taken most of the web years off, leaving them with a fan run site, no social networks and no mailing list.

Fortunately, three members of the team who worked on High at Sanctuary were working on the release, which gave us some good background knowledge of the fan base. We knew the age group would be 35+ and premium, audiophile product would be key, given the Blue Nile's early releases on high end hifi equipment manufacturer Linn Records.


  • Build Email List – given the age group, email will be key for direct marketing
  • Build Website – providing a central hub for Paul to communicate with his fans
  • Create High End Product Mix – understanding that we have an older demographic who expect quality product, meant we needed to create a product mix to match


With our background knowledge and targets in place, we would now need to plan week by week the actions we would take to achieve these goals. We considered the online marketing mantra 'Something small once a day, something medium once a week, something big once a month'. Since Paul was not a Tweeter or status updater, we felt the once a day approach would be overload and ungenuine, so looked to make sure we had a new piece of content or update each week. Our approach was not to direct marketing to people constantly, instead to give communication a personal touch from Paul.

Our order of service was first to build the email list, second get them interacting, then offer them the preorder opportunities.

Splash Page

In order to build the mailing list, we used the classic Topspin Email for Media tactic. The album was announced through press on 19th March, so to give us full impact, we launched a splash page with a brief outline of the record and an E4M widget that day. Paul wanted to support the British Heart Foundation through this release, so we added an honesty box to the splash page through Virgin Giving, which made over £600 within the first few days.


The E4M widget built the database to over 1200 within the first week, and was embedded on over 25 sites, including Holy Moly and, a French lifestyle magazine.

When we studied the Sharealytics from this first week, we were shown just how strong a fan base we were looking at. I often find that there is far too much importance placed on just numbers on lists and social networks. I have always felt the metric that matters is continuing interactions, which is what we were seeing with Paul.


From this first week there were 93 shares (8% of downloaders), which drove a further 345 people to the site, accounting for an extra 100 fans. By having this sharing capability, we increased our database by an extra 9%. The level of interaction we were seeing with this initial E4M offering gave us a clear indication of what interaction we could expect from Paul's fan base.


Once the email list started coming together, we then needed to communicate to the fans and offer them value of being on the mailing list. We planned out four email blasts in lead up to the album release, and some outline of what we would say. We're still working on optimising these emails, studying the results. On a brief inspection, it appears that links through to others' content, such as reviews or radio interviews provided the biggest feedback.

Product Mix

We had identified our target audience and knew we needed to create some high value products to target this audience. Working with our manufacturing partner Modo, we created a CD box set, which included – the standard CD, exclusive bonus disc with extra tracks and an exclusive booklet, and held together in a 7" size box. We limited the run to 2000 pieces, numbered them, all exclusive for sale D2C. Other products included the vinyl version of the album and lossless digital audio. Prices of these products ranged from £26 for the box, down to £8 for digital, offering a range of options and price points.

We retailed this by replacing the splash page with the offers, positioning the box prominently with an in-depth description as to what the customer would be ordering.


The deluxe box-set sold out on release date, with the vinyl following close behind. This high level of preorder launched the album at No. 3 in the first mid-week in the UK, finishing the week at No. 14. Having sold out all the deluxe boxes, these are now retailing on ebay for £50+.

About Essential: For smaller independent labels, Essential can provide the logistical support of a dedicated label manager to oversee releases. We are also proud to enable a growing number of artists to successfully release their music on their own labels, by working alongside artist managers to provide extensive and flexible project management. Find out more: