Mumford and Sons

Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane of Mumford and Sons performs on the main stage at Leeds Festival at Bramham Park on August 29, 2015 in Leeds, England.  

Andrew Benge/Redferns

For 12 hours between the evening of Oct. 5 and the morning of Oct. 6, La X 103.9 FM, a popular top 40 radio station in Bogota, Colombia, almost completely interrupted its programming.

Instead of playing the all-English hits it’s built its loyal audience on, it aired sleep-inducing music interspersed with the ominous ramblings of a deep voice that every few minutes proclaimed: “Turn on your radio. We will no longer air music on La X. No more concerts. No more shows. No more songs. No more music.”

Reaction on social media was swift and furious. By midnight, the hashtag #lamusicahamuerto (the music has died) was a global trending topic, exacerbated by the fact that no one at La X was posting any messages and the station website, plus all Twitter profile photos from the station and its DJs, had been replaced by a logo that read #lamusicahamuerto.

Had La X really shut down?

“Hoping for the best but expecting the worst,” posted one follower on Twitter.

As it turns out, La X didn’t shut down and the music didn't die.  

The static, messages and interruption of regular programming for 12 hours straight were all part of an elaborate campaign to drum up attention timed with the announcement of the lineup for Estéreo Picnic, the yearly festival that brings top rock, indie and pop talent to Colombia for three days in March.

Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Snoop Dog to Headline Colombia's Estereo Picnic Fest

It worked. The next morning, when La X and its personalities started tweeting at 7:50 a.m., it became a global trending topic once again, this time with the hashtag #LaXesUMD (La X is a different world).

By 8 a.m., when the station went live again with the Estereo Picnic lineup announcement (headliners include Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Snoop Dogg, Walk the Moon and Bad Religion), the campaign had been deemed a success.

It was an extremely risky gamble, admits DJ and host Camilo Guzmán.

“We’ve never done anything remotely like this,” says Guzmán. “In fact, I think this is the first time something like this happens in the country, in the best War of the Worlds style,” he said proudly.

While there was no threat of alien invasion in La X’s  “La musica ha muerto” campaign, the whole endeavor was indeed hatched and executed in complete secrecy and maintained within a very small group of people, even though La X belongs to radio conglomerate Todelar Radio. Not even the owner of the station knew what was going on.

Planning started months ago, when Estéreo Picnic organizers met with La X, a longtime media partner, to strategize their headliner announcement. By then Estéreo Picnic’s marketing campaign had been designed, featuring an “evil,” dictator-like cartoon character.

La X director Alejandro Marín decided to emulate Estereo Picnic’s visual strategy over the radio. There would be an evil “dictator” who spoke in an ominous voice. Because La X’s slogan is “Más música” (More Music), the dictator’s message was all about “killing” the music. At a deeper level, the point was to force listeners to think what life would be about without music and to elicit response and interaction.

La X’s strategy extended into its digital realm; its website looked as if it had been hacked, as did all its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Of course, a lot could have gone wrong, including loss of listeners, advertisers and followers. But the morning after, the only reaction on social media was positive, ranging from kudos for the headliners to kudos for La X. Or, as one follower posted: “You need to have some balls to do a campaign like La X did.”