Why Saturday’s “Secret” Dead Weather Concert Isn’t As Radical As It Seems

[from The A.V. Club Chicago / May 20, 2010]

As first reported elsewhere this week, alt-rock supergroup The Dead Weather will be playing a free, first-come, first-served, “secret” (their quotes) show this Saturday at a location to be announced via Facebook literally hours before the concert. Could this unorthodox rollout mark the brave new future of secret shows and social-media marketing? The A.V. Club doesn’t think so, and here’s why:

It’s really just part of a product-launch campaign

The forward-thinking little start-up behind this idea, Microsoft, already pulled the same stunt with a N.E.R.D. concert last week in San Francisco to promote its new mobile communications device. Perhaps the company has bowed to these hard economic times, forgoing the excess that greeted past Microsoft product launches; or maybe the folks from Redmond would simply rather talk about the mostly well-received Sea Of Cowards than respond to the torching their new social-media toy has received in the tech press. Whatever the case, remember: no matter how fun it looks, it’s still an advertisement.

Tell your friends—and strangers!

Considering how much people hate Facebook for its abhorrent privacy practices these days, it’s an odd choice of platform for promoting a product built to advance the benevolent side of social media. Hats off to Microsoft for trying to show it’s hip to what the kids are doing these days, but does the feared tech monster of old really want to brand itself alongside the feared tech monster of new? But that could be the point: If you post about the show in your Facebook status, anyone can read about it—seriously, anyone.

Even in quotes, “secret” still violates the code of secrecy

Be it Nirvana billed as Pen Cap Chew at Seattle’s Crocodile Cafe or that episode of The Wonder Years where the Rolling Stones played at Joe’s, “secret show” says two things: no announcement, and fans are on their own to find out about it. No press releases, no asking people to stalk strangers on Facebook, and, perhaps most importantly, no ignoring how easy information travels these days—a quick look around town, for example, reveals House of Blues to have a nice little hole in its calendar that night. But don’t tell anyone.