LOS ANGELES -- Pop singer Rachel Farris is far from a household name, but a new spin on marketing could change that.
Her independent recording label is banking on mini-CDs it is embedding in the lids of soft drink cups at movie theaters across the nation and a few theme parks.
Featuring not just a pair of songs that can be heard on regular CD players but also video clips and other content viewable on computers, the so-called enhanced CDs make TV and radio seem passe.
In all, 4.8 million of the CDs promoting Farris will be distributed in a monthlong campaign that began Friday, dolling up - or cluttering, depending on your perspective - drink containers at the Regal Entertainment Group's 530 theaters in 36 states and at two Universal Studios theme parks.
(The straw fits through the hole in the middle of the disc.)
The theaters will also show a three-minute video of Farris before movies.
"The whole industry is in such a state of flux," said Bill Edwards, whose Big3 Records is financing the Farris promotion. "It's kind of a tough situation, especially for an independent label, to get music played, because we're vying against everyone else in the world."
The marketing push by the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based label is unusual for a new artist.
"We know it's a gamble, but we think it's a very good gamble," Edwards said.
LidRock, the company making the discs, pinned costs at several million dollars. The CDs have two of Farris' songs, lyrics, an interview and a video of the singer.
Using such CDs to market musicians is fairly new, but its time has come, said Tena Clark, CEO of Pasadena-based Disc Marketing, which has designed enhanced CD marketing campaigns for companies like United Airlines, Coca-Cola and Victoria's Secret.
Clark said she has received inquiries in recent weeks from both veteran and budding recording artists, but hasn't inked any deals yet.
In the past, music stars have appeared on enhanced CDs mainly to sell a product, not to sell themselves, Clark said.
For example, Clark said, contact lens maker Acuvue used an enhanced CD with exclusive footage and song mixes by Latin singer Enrique Iglesias.
Pepsi used Colombian singer Shakira in an enhanced CD campaign in Spain and several Latin American countries, said Ellen Healy, director of sports and entertainment for Pepsi International. Some 2.5 million CDs were given away as prizes over the past 18 months.
Clark said she had no knowledge of other promotional CDs coming with soda lids.
Edwards, who would not say how much Big3 paid for the unorthodox Farris promotion, said he was inspired in part by the Pepsi campaign.
A photo of Farris covers the CD label though the disc also has commercial clips of "Stuck on You," a comedy starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, and Universal Studios' theme park rides.
Still, the push is focused on Farris.
"I'm just hoping it will (get) a good reaction," she said in a phone interview last week before performing in Westbury, N.Y., with teen boy group O-Town. "It's a totally new idea, and there's always risk involved."
Though Farris said she was initially concerned about cutting into album sales if she gave away two songs, she figured the promotion could get fans "to want to hear the rest, hopefully."
On the Net:
Rachel Farris: http://rachelsmusic.com
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