Ashley Monroe's new solo album, "Like a Rose," may sound like a traditional country project, but Warner Music Nashville took a different route to promote it, bypassing country radio in favor of online exposure. The strategy helped the album bow at No. 10 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and No. 43 on the Billboard 200, selling 11,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Warner Music Group VP of brand management Justin Luffman says the album's retro leanings, exemplified by the mountain sound of the title cut, would have likely been a tough sell to mainstream radio. "We felt like we had stronger outlets in other places," he says.
Monroe, along with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley, is also a member of Pistol Annies, whose 2011 "Hell on Heels" sold 45,000 copies in its first week (453,000 to date)--though it likewise didn't produce any radio hits.
For Monroe, the label instead focused on online outlets, including AOL's the Boot and CMT.com, to premiere several songs from the album. USA Today debuted the Blake Shelton duet "You Ain't Dolly (And You Ain't Porter)," which promoted an iTunes pre-order (early buyers received the song as an instant download). "The goal was to get the music out there and let people learn about Ashley," Luffman says. "People might have known her from the Annies, but they didn't [know she's] a solo artist."
The online push continued through Facebook and Google Media campaigns and strong social-media word-of-mouth from fellow artists, including Lambert, Shelton and Dierks Bentley. "They were all tweeting about it, which got everybody excited," Luffman says. The buzz fueled a big daily spike in Monroe's Twitter and Facebook followers, which jumped by 184% and 351%, respectively, on street date.
Monroe is doing her part with performances at the Grand Ole Opry and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" in recent days and a trip to South by Southwest. It's been a long time coming for the 26-year-old, whose first LP, Satisfied, was shelved after a brief digital-only release in 2007. "It feels amazing to know that people are relating to the songs," Monroe says. "That's always my ultimate goal as a songwriter-I want people to feel something."