Eric Church
Eric Church
Universal Music Group Nashville with permission

When Eric Church was announced for his performance at the CMA Awards, Carrie Underwood said that he was performing a new song from his album that was released that day. Following his performance, there was a national television ad for the new album, Mr. Misunderstood, and that was the first notice that the album was for sale. Billboard reported on Monday that Church's manager John Peets said that the entire process was a stealth plan to surprise all Church's fans.

It worked. Despite no advance notice and no advertising until the day of the album's release, it still sold 71,000 units, 70,000 of them digital sales, and finished third on the Billboard 200 behind only Chris Stapleton Traveller and Carrie Underwood's Storyteller. The most impressive thing is that those sales were from only a day and a half of sales. According to Peets, that was the hard part - getting the album sold without spoiling the surprise.

Peets said that the hardest part was getting the album into stores like Best Buy and Target without telling them that a new Eric Church album was on the way. Luckily, Peets has a good relationship with the companies that send out the albums and they just told stores that a country Christmas album was coming and it would likely sell about 200,000 copies. That allowed the spots to open on shelves and then they sent the Church album.

The next step for Church was to reward his fans. Church has a ton of members of his online fan club. Those fans got a special surprise. Everyone who paid to be a member of his premium fan club received a free white vinyl album plus the CD of Mr. Misunderstood. The second tier fans, also a paid option, received free digital downloads of the album. That gave 15,500 fans the album for free on Nov. 2. Finally, the free members were allowed to stream the album for a couple of hours.

Then, the next day, the rest of the world learned about Mr. Misunderstood. Knowing that the Country Music Awards was the best place to spread the word and watch it go viral, the announcement, performance of the new song, and advertisement on how to buy the album was released then. Immediately after the announcement was made during the CMA Awards, the Eric Church album went for sale on iTunes. Finally, the street teams hit and the album skyrocketed.