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To successfully publicise “Out Among The Stars”, Johnny Cash’s very last posthumously released album, we aimed to come up with a campaign that really grabbed people’s attention. We were keen to tap into the artist’s life-long commitment to social justice. The CD was to be made accessible to a new audience and to forge an emotional association with Johnny Cash's music and life journey. The musician’s legendary prison concerts inspired us to link his new album “Out Among the Stars” with a literature competition in prisons.
Johnny Cash was an icon. And following the release of his “Folsom Prison Blues” album in 1955 he also became a star among inmates, who wrote countless letters asking him to perform in prison. His prison concerts were world-renowned and made Cash, already a major star, even more famous. So what could be more appropriate now than to link Johnny Cash’s latest CD with his popularity among prisoners: inmates were given the opportunity to take part in a literature competition and asked to express their hopes and dreams for when they have served their time and are “out among the stars” again. In this way a target group was involved and attracted that is traditionally hard to reach via the media.
For the launch of the new CD “Out Among the Stars” inmates were invited to take part in a very special campaign: “Write about your hopes and dreams for your time after prison when you are out among the stars.” The first challenge we faced was persuading Germany’s prisons to take part in the initiative. But the response was overwhelming! 14 penal institutions said that they were prepared to get involved. The campaign was covered in numerous media reports while radio stations broadcast interviews with the inmates. All made reference to the campaign website www.letters-from-prison.de, where the public had the opportunity to share and like the letters. The album “Out Among the Stars” reached number one in online retailers’ charts and became the best-selling album during the campaign period. The public became the jury and had the opportunity to share in the anxieties and dreams of the prisoners. And Johnny Cash had once again become a mouthpiece for inmates. Naturally every participant in the literature competition also received a copy of the new CD. The inmates whose letters received the most likes were also given a special limited edition of the CD. These were presented to them recently as part of a performance by the tribute band “The LineWalkers” in one of the prisons.
But most important of all was that attention had been drawn to something that Johnny Cash had strived for throughout his life: to be the mouthpiece of a society behind whose walls very few people pause to take a look.