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The Libertines

Pioneering a web community for a band at the height of their fame.

Project details
WhatPrototyping, design, Flash, community building, brand and identity, UX and UI design, front-end, information architecture, CMS
The Libertines website screenshot from 2006

Most folks in the UK will be aware of The Libertines and their rough around the edges but strangely beautiful and very English songs. Darlings of the music press, chaotic live shows, a number one album, and in Pete Doherty a frontman so desperately ill through drug addiction that he was barely even in the band for half of the time. While we were putting the site together, he was on the front pages daily, owing to his fraught relationship with Kate Moss and his complete state of hedonistic disrepair.

Community first

The Libs had probably the most insanely devoted and passionate fanbase of any bands at the time, and the group was adept at making use of the internet to strengthen that bond. Building on this relationship, we gave The Libertines fans a whole host of lovely membership features, exclusive downloads and means of interacting with the band and crew — a good year or so before the Arctic Monkeys grabbed all the credit for their online activities.

My favourite addition was the Discography, with a dedicated interactive page for each track, plus guitar tabs, lyrics, cover artwork and much more. This feature was vital to getting the fans involved, and just one of the devices we used to keep them coming back.

Thankfully, the fine folks at Creation Management saw the worth in giving the fans free reign. At the time, most music sites limited interaction to heavily moderated forums. With the new Libs site, fans could give their two-penneth about any news item, gig listing, record, or even external links. They could swear as much as they like, and we all loved that. The Libertines were very careful to treat their fans with respect, and there is little distance between the two. The site had to reflect this.

Total control

Before our involvement, some bedroom rando was updating the site manually, working at his leisure. It was vital to hand full control to the Libs team so they could edit anything they want, keep content fresh and debate lively. We hacked and hacked pMachine CMS (and later switched them to Expression Engine) to get the job done.

Our version one was rushed out in August 2004 to coincide with the release of their eponymous second album, and we finally relaunched with everything finished and up to standard in November that year. We continued to work on the site for 18 months, and also designed and built the website for Libertine Carl Barât’s new band, Dirty Pretty Things.

Total fix

In 2005, the site was nominated for the NME’s Best Website award. The winner? NME.com. Imagine how pissed off we were.