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How One Artist Worked On Justin Bieber’s Graffiti Tracklist Reveal

Toronto-based artist Kyle Howard on how he was recruited to create a mural for the Biebs’s impressive marketing stunt.

Earlier this week, Justin Bieber pulled off one of the more unique music marketing stunts in recent memory by turning the track list off his new album Purpose into a global event. Starting on Wednesday, the Biebs started tweeting and Instagramming each song title through shots of graffiti on walls in cities around the world.

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There was “What Do You Mean?” in Stockholm, “Sorry” in Paris, “I’ll Show You” in London, “Love Yourself” in Oslo, “No Pressure” in NYC and a new piece by another artist for each of the album’s 13 tracks. Artist Kyle Howard created the piece for track 10 “Life is Worth Living” in Toronto. Howard says he was contacted late last week by Universal Music Canada and almost turned it down.

“At the time I was hesitant because my wife, Giselle, is nine months pregnant and ready to pop any day,” says Howard. “The Universal marketing manager said that if it’s any consolation the job needed to be done in the next few days because Justin Bieber would be promoting the track list for his new album on Wednesday. When the Biebs comes knockin’ on your door, you answer.”

Howard didn’t have any direct contact with Bieber’s team, just the label. “All I was given was the name of the song and complete creative freedom,” says Howard. “That’s a big part of what made the campaign so cool. Eighteen different artists in 18 different cities with 18 different styles.”

As music marketing campaigns go, Howard says it takes a unique idea like this to make an impact. “It’s hard to stand out in the constant noise of the online world, and something like this gets fans engaged and media talking,” he says. “Max Sawka, who I painted the mural with, and I were at the mural today and saw multiple groups of Beliebers come, take hundreds of selfies, and go. It was great. People are excited.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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