a short site about The Divine Comedy

French version

Absent Friends – France

Absent Friends

Released in France on March 30th, the album Absent Friends was available in two formats: a regular CD album, and a two-CD editions. Even though it was referred as a ‘French limited edition’, it seems it was actually distributed by EMI in other countries such as Switzerland, perhaps Belgium, and maybe in UK but with limited availability; while in France it was to be found in almost every record store.

Both versions came with sticker on the release day… These stickers were made by Labels who were in charge of promoting the band, and who used to call Neil Hannon an ‘Irish crooner’. They feature logo from sponsors OUI FM and Rock & Folk; both interviewed Neil Hannon during his promo. They also warn the buyer that the discs are Copy Controlled, and so may not be playable on some audio systems.
But the most curious is the presence of a website address which is not exactly the official website. That website was actually part of the marketing strategy of Labels who had a deal with a MusicNetPlanet. The company use to build similar websites around the same concept: to create a ‘community’ of fans around the album, and tells a lot about how things changed in the cyberspace at the time. The site offered some contents such as a biography, photos, track previews, wallpapers, and a forum. But the essential part of the game was a competition for gig tickets, signed discs or merchandising. The first prize was a backstage pass for the Grand Rex and was won by a press photographer. To take part there was a photo competition and gamification where fans were asked to put on banners, or sending e-card. The site was criticized for many bugs about how the links worked and counted the points (and let’s not talk about data privacy!), and the results were certainly biased. Once the competition finished, the community died, and after a year the website was closed (personally, the signed CDs never arrived).

The regular version


The regular version is actually the international print of the album, which, unlike the UK version features the Copy Controlled system. The first-day release featured a yellow sticker.

The limited edition


The limited edition comes in a double-disc jewel box, and features a bonus disc, entitled Absent Friends Companion. Originally it came with an orange sticker.
The back cover states ‘Includes companion CD, featuring four bonus tracks’, hence a slightly different positioning of the tracklisting. Apart from that, it has a similar design to the simple Copy Controlled edition: it features the EMI frame regarding the Copy Controlled system, and featuring the serial number (a different one for this release, also printed on top with the bar code, and in the copyright notes), and the French price which is PM 520 instead of PM 538.
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The other side of the inlay is similar to the international print, featuring a vertical Copy Controlled logo in addition to EMI’s statement in the middle.
On the other hand, the background picture on the back is dark as the UK version, unlike the simple Copy Controlled edition.
The booklet is also more similar to the the UK release, showing much details at the bottom of the picture. However, it’s still a specific booklet, featuring the limited edition serial number on the last page.

The album disc is in all point identical to the simple Copy Controlled edition, featuring its serial number (7243 5 77260 2 3). And the second disc is the Absent Friends Companion which is Copy Controlled too.
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Acetate CD-R

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Image An acetate CD-R was edited by Labels. It comes within a PVC sleeve and features a simple insert.
Both CD and insert features the title, Parlophone and Labels’ logos, The Divine Comedy’s website address and the mention ‘Promotional sampler, not for sale. Not for broadcast’. Additionally the insert also features the release date and tracklisting.

In store displays

Image A couple of advertising displays were issued for record stores. One is a small double-sided vertical display. It was meant to be displayed along a listening station of the new album that was provided as a promo CD.

The second one is a bigger model. Like for Casanova or Regeneration it is a two-parts mobile to be suspended from the roof. It comes within a plastic shrink-wrap and features a sticker with the serial number.
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The pre-order voucher

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Times has changed a bit, unlike the previous vouches, which came as folded cardboards, this one is a paper cut from a catalogue. The top of the page features reference number, page number, and the pre-order dates. Then, it features the album artwork (actually the promo CD cover), and a frame advertising the fact that Yann Tiersen is guest on a track from the limited edition.
It shows the sponsors, a little description of the album, and lists the forthcoming events: the Black Session and the Grand Rex show, both in Paris.
The other side is far more interesting. It shows off all the media plan with press, radio and television. Regarding the marketing aspects, it says that radio adverts on OUI FM were produced for a cost of 50 000 euros! An advert was featured on the Libération newspaper. And posters were displayed in France: one for the French tour (see below), and another called ‘trouser inserts’ which I’m not really sure about: it’s possible that it refers to the long rectangular poster advertising the Grand Rex show (see below).
But the most interesting is it advertises the French website describing it as being viral, and federating of the fan-base. By these words they mean that they can use the fans to do some promotion costless for them…
Finally the voucher shows the bar code for the Limited Edition and the two in-store displays (see above).


A couple of posters were issued to promote the albums and the tour. One is a vertical poster with the announcement of the Grand Rex show. The other is a generic tour poster for the French tour.
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French tour flyer.


A couple of magazine adverts in France. One with the new album announcement and the Grand Rex show, and another with the French tour dates.
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