As I write these words, I'm listening to Romy Madley-Croft's floating, yearning vocals on Angels, the first track of The xx's new album Coexist. It's being streamed though the official site for the album, which I found through a link that a friend of mine posted on Facebook earlier today. Pretty unremarkable stuff, you'd think. But the chain of shares that it took to bring this music to my ears can be traced back to just a single superfan, to whom the album link was released just over a week ago on September 3rd.

Light reflects from your shadow / It is more than I thought could exist / You move through the room / Like breathing was easy

If someone believed me,

They would be as in love with you as I am.
They would be as in love with you as I am,
They would be in love, love, love.

As I write these words, I’m listening to Romy Madley-Croft’s floating, yearning vocals on Angels, the first track of The xx‘s new album Coexist. It’s being streamed though the official site for the album, which I found via a link that a friend posted on Facebook earlier today.

Pretty unremarkable stuff so far. But the chain of shares that it took to bring this music to my ears can be traced back to just a single superfan – to whom the album link was released just over a week ago on September 3rd – and can be precisely viewed through a visualisation tool created in collaboration with Microsoft.

Screenshot mapping shares up to September 11

According to a Guardian article, the band selected the fan on the basis of their activity on xx-related forums and social media. This lucky individual was the only person to listen to the album for a full hour, before sharing and releasing it to other fan sites; within 24 hours of its release the album site crashed, unable to support the weight of millions of users streaming the material simultaneously.

It’s another innovative move for a band who are known for building a buzz through the power of social media, and continues the growing trend for musicians to seek new and more direct ways to engage with their fans. In the new music economy, artists who know how to tap into this kind of virality are the ones likely to cement their places at the top.