There aren't any live plans for the band in 2010. But otherwise Universal is treating the album like a new release rather than a catalog reissue, with what Davis calls a "front-line release strategy that crosses radio, TV, online, mobile, retail and merch."
Key to the initiative will be a weeklong Stones celebration on NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" beginning May 10 that will feature a number of high-profile acts performing songs from "Exile," including Keith Urban (May 11), Sheryl Crow (May 12) and Phish (May 13). The week culminates with NBC's May 14 U.S. premiere of Stephen Kijak's documentary film "Stones in Exile," mixing "Exile"-era footage with current band member interviews. In the United Kingdom, "Stones in Exile" will premiere on BBC 2, although an exact airdate is to be announced.
Universal is also ensuring that the new tracks get as wide an audience as possible. "So Divine (Aladdin Story)" will make its global debut as a synch in the May 2 broadcast of CBS' "Cold Case" seventh-season finale, while hot on the heels of "Plundered," "Following the River" will be serviced to U.S. and international radio up to two weeks ahead of the album's bow. Its accompanying video-newly edited from archive footage-will premiere on the band's relaunched website (rollingstones.com) around the same time.
Orla Lee, London-based GM of Polydor U.K., says the campaign will feature a "two-tiered approach" aimed at attracting a "young, new audience" outside the existing fan base. This includes an increased online presence, with the Stones' recently launched Facebook page already attracting more than 813,000 fans.
Despite the absence of a tour, merchandising constitutes a major part of the "Exile" campaign, with Universal's merch arm Bravado producing more than 100 new product lines to coincide with the album's launch. These range from button badges to a variety of limited-edition boxed sets in addition to the standard deluxe issues. The top-priced set, which contains signed lithographs and exclusive limited-edition clothing, will retail at approximately $2,500.
Although the vast majority of merch will be sold direct to consumer via the Stones' website, Bloomingdale's will also host an "Exile" store-within-a-store in several U.S. outlets that will feature 16 lines, including T-shirts, hoodies and leather jackets.
"It's not often that merchandise companies really try to tie into [record] rereleases, but very few records have been this big or this meaningful, historically speaking," says Bravado CEO Tom Bennett, who, like others in the Universal camp, calls the "Exile" campaign a "long-term play."
Universal is in talks with the band about finalizing the next project, with the label keen on one or two major reissues per year. Universal's deal covers the catalog from "Sticky Fingers" onward, and Andrew Daw, marketing director of the Universal Strategic Marketing division of Universal Music Group International, cites next year's 30th anniversary of "Fingers" as one possible project with strong commercial potential. Meanwhile, this fall will bring the release of a remastered collector's boxed set of all 14 post-1971 studio albums on heavyweight vinyl, although future plans will ultimately be dictated by the success of "Exile."
"It's important for us to do really well with this," Daw says. "If this was to flop badly, then the incentive for the band to invest time into doing future ones isn't as attractive."
"There's a very strategic, mapped-out five-year plan to highlight all the incredible albums and time periods," Davis says. "Every arm and facet of Universal Music Group is working this project to ensure its success."
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield in Los Angeles and Paul Sexton in London.