Florence & The Machine: The Billboard Cover Story
Florence & The Machine: The Billboard Cover Story

"Florence did her job. She delivered a masterpiece. Now it's on us," Universal Republic's Lipman says.

To that end, the label is taking nothing for granted, shifting the record's street date to stand in line with the rest of the world. (Its North American bow was originally set for Nov. 15.) "There's tremendous interest built into the release and there's a strong fan base out there and a certain anticipation that you can operate within and capitalize on, but we still have to hit the marks," Lipman says. "We have to be aggressive and make sure we seize every opportunity."

The first of those markers came Aug. 23 when a video for setup track "What the Water Gave Me" debuted on the band's website. The previous night, Welch alerted her 83,000 Twitter followers (@flo_tweet) to "pop over to my website at 5pm tomorrow for a peek at something very special." The response exceeded all expectations, says Island Records marketing manager Tom March, who says the video drew 1.5 million views in two days. Despite its five-and-a-half-minute running time, radio has given the song a warm welcome, with the track receiving plays on a number of alternative stations, including strong support from Los Angeles' KROQ, according to Lipman.

The radio push, meanwhile, begins with first single "Shake It Out," a rousing pop-rock number in the spirit of "Dog Days Are Over," which Lipman envisions as "an anthem in every gym in America a year from now." Due for domestic release Oct. 11 (the same day as the preorder album release), "Shake It Out" has been serviced to top 40, triple A, alternative and R&B formats.

Video: New Single "Shake It Out"

It is at R&B radio where Universal Republic has succeeded in breaking idiosyncratic British female pop singers. Several years ago, it was R&B that first jumped on Amy Winehouse. After all, "there's no station for choral, gospel chamber pop with heavy tribal drum stylings," Welch jokes. Internationally, "Shake" is already making waves. In Australia, it's playlisted at Triple J and Nova, with strong airplay in Scandinavia, Italy and Canada, according to Universal.

TV spots will additionally form a major element of the domestic push, says Lipman, who cites the artist's strength as a live performer as a key sales driver. "The greatest catalyst to sell Florence & the Machine were her TV performances. That's what ultimately broke Florence," he says.

The Weeknd Remixes Florence + the Machine's 'Shake It Out': Listen

To that end, Welch will visit the United States on three separate occasions this year to do TV, press and radio promotion. Exact details are still being scheduled, although the artist is confirmed to appear on CBS' "Sunday Morning." International TV spots include "The Late Late Show" in Ireland and "Skavlan" in Norway and Sweden, with many more to follow. "This is a wonderful album that has the potential to explode Florence internationally, and we are targeting platinum in all markets," Universal U.K. director of international Chris Dwyer says.

An extensive international live plan is also taking shape, with Universal hopeful that "Ceremonials" marks the point where Florence & the Machine step up from theaters to larger venues. "That's what we're all striving for," Lipman says. "I know someone like Florence could certainly play somewhere like [New York's] Radio City Music Hall. It's just a question of how many nights." Confirmed live dates for 2011 include a run of U.S. radio shows and a solitary U.K. concert on Oct. 25 at London's 1,700-capacity Hackney Empire.

"I love playing live and I love making music, and where that takes me is what will happen. I'm not really doing it for another reason," Welch says in friendly, self-deprecating tones. "Things just happen the way that they happen. I don't have a goal." Quizzed on how her self-confessed love of fashion and distinctively bohemian visual style influences her creativity, the singer's relaxed, jovial exterior momentarily slips, if only for a second.

"Music to me is so internal. It's physical and it's emotional. Whereas fashion is so much about the external that it's almost like a break. It's not inner turmoil. It's total escapism," says Welch, who counts Anna Wintour among her many fashionista fans. In return, Welch personally sent her a copy of "Ceremonials" as soon as it was finished. ("She really liked it," Welch says.) Karl Lagerfeld, meanwhile, collaborated on the press shots that will dominate the forthcoming campaign.

"Music is so much about the battling out of two sides of yourself, and with fashion you can put something on and you feel a certain way," Welch says. "You're not trying to exercise a demon." So what demons is she addressing? "I'm just being overly dramatic," she adds. "I'm not really possessed. Maybe I am? I don't know. I'm still figuring it out."