Lady Gaga's Use Of Free Music

from the don't-knock-it dept

While Beyonce and Taylor Swift may have outshone Lady Gaga at the Grammy’s, it doesn’t change the fact that Gaga has become quite a music industry sensation. But similar to what we saw with Mariah Carey, the details behind Lady Gaga’s business model success shows how even today’s superstars are embracing more nuanced business models that make use of free music and focus on selling unique scarcities. When it comes to free music, apparently that’s been a huge part of Gaga getting attention:

In fact, much of Gaga’s audience got her music for free, and legally. They have listened to free streams–by the hundreds of millions–on YouTube and the other online services that Gaga currently leads, according to research firm BigChampagne. On MySpace, Gaga has had 321.5 million plays. By contrast, singer Susan Boyle tallied only 133,000 plays, despite scoring the No. 2 selling album of 2009.

And while she has been able to sell music, she’s also making a ton of money from live gigs and corporate deals, including Polaroid and Estee Lauder — which are examples of Gaga selling the attention of her fans, as well as some tangible goods (such as makeup, similar to Mariah Carey).

Again, nothing about this is revolutionary at all. But it again shows that even today’s megastars are figuring out how that just selling music isn’t the only way to make money these days, and, in fact, having the music available for free can often be quite helpful in getting even more attention in ways that aid the other parts of the business model.

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Comments on “Lady Gaga's Use Of Free Music”

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The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wow, you would have to be massively far out of the loop to not realize that Lady Gaga is pretty much a Perez Hilton production end to end. I suspect many of those myspace views come directly off his site. He only mentions he on average about 3 times per day, promotes her like crazy on his radio bits, and has generally jammed her down everyone’s throat when she could barely get arrested.

Her luck is that she has a gimmick that is working and connecting, and a record label that has pushed her work all over the world and opened up many markets for her. She’s probably near the end of the 15 minutes, but it has been impressive while it has lasted.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I hate celebrity culture and have never listened to Perez Hilton. I would never have heard of him if it weren’t for people bitching about him online, in fact. However, I did manage to hear and enjoy a few of Lady GaGa’s songs. I was introduced to her music by listening to some remixes of her music in clubs I frequent and then by getting a few free legal downloads, including a track on Tap Tap Revenge.

Maybe this grew from her initial push from Hilton, maybe not. But, it doesn’t negate the fact that her MySpace and other new media exposure was a big part of her success, and a total antithesis of what is usually claimed by industry apologists like yourself about the value of free promotion.

As for “a gimmick that is working and connecting”, I notice you’re not attacking Susan Boyle, who is clearly a gimmicky product of a TV talent show and probably wouldn’t have been looked at twice due to her age and looks had she not gotten such a reaction from the audience that night. Talk about successfully connecting with your potential audience, and not a single person who watched the original broadcast, nor those who watched it on YouTube, directly paid a penny before the CD was released.

Why do you attack one “product” and not another? Especially since you apparently choose to listen to Hilton’s radio shows.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I don’t attack one product and not the other, we are discussing one product and not the other here.

Susan Boyle is one incredibly talented singer, the specific proof that a singer can get over on singing talent without her ass hanging out of her pants (and thank god for that). She is an example of a remarkable talent that swept the world because she is a remarkable talent.

Lady Gaga? “Talent” is a relative term here, unless you are talking about the talent to create an image. Having seen some videos of her pre-fame when she was just another lounge singer (in between stints as a stripper) she is average at best, a reasonable singer like about 10,000 others I have seen in my life. Nothing to write home about. However, once she started being the Gaga persona, with her butt hanging out and such, she took off. It’s a triumph of image over content.

As an interesting side note, it has been reported that she spends so much money on image that her tour isn’t particularly profitable, as much of the money is put towards maintaining the image and trucking around a huge amount of her personal stuff.

Like I said, a triumph of image over content. Between Gaga and Doyle, I know which one can actually sing, and which one is depending on her hot looks to keep people interested.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Lady Gaga sells records. She, like Susan Boyle, has an image and talent.

How’s Ashley Simpson doing with the whole image but lack of talent? See, that’s the future of music right there.

Authenticity. Some talents will be purely authentic while other talent will be weirdly authentic.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Ashley Simpson has less talent and a whole bunch less image, which makes it pretty hard to sell.

Her sister Jessica is a great example of how image and boobs can get you places, for a while. These days, Poor Jess seems to have a hard time getting attention, her move into country music didn’t do anything for her career.

Lady Gaga has some talent and a ton of image. Susan Boyle has a ton of talent and some image. Both are within the curve to actually sell.

Colg says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Of course she has an image.
It is unattractive.
We have been so conditioned to beautiful female voices issuing forth from beautiful female faces that watching Susan sing is like listening to a cocker spaniel recite Shakespeare.
It’s Bloody marvelous.
That my friend is a marketable image.

I’m curious TAM, and I apologize if this has been answered before, but have you obtained permission from the copyright holder to use Mike’s image as your avatar?


Colg says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I would agree.

However TAM’s history suggests that he would disagree were it not his own use that was in question.

I could be wrong about that, I don’t bother reading the comments all that often but from what I have seen he seems to take a hard line in favor of copyright holders with little concession to fair use doctrine.

I can understand the discrepancy if he posts only for the drama. His choice of name goes well with that.

If however he is speaking from personal conviction I would like to hear the explanation for the hypocrisy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Are you serious? Susan Boyle is only famous because of her looks. If she was a good-looking young adult, she would’ve been swept straight under the rug.

Hundreds of opera house singers are just as good, if not better, than her. The only difference is that they are expected to be good, while she was expected to suck.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Nothing you said actually refutes the idea that both are products. GaGa is a product of the record industry’s normal way of thinking, Boyle is the product of a talent competition that got some buzz. Both have benefited from free advertising via avenues that the record industry have been trying to either shut down or force payments of millions of dollars from.

You personal musical taste means absolutely NOTHING in this argument. Your argument that a single promotional avenue, that virtually nobody outside of the US listens to, was solely responsible for GaGa’s success, is silly as is your typical ignoring of the fact that Boyle’s entire career is based on free exposure and her being a product as much as any other Simon Cowell “discovery”.

“As an interesting side note, it has been reported that she spends so much money on image that her tour isn’t particularly profitable, as much of the money is put towards maintaining the image and trucking around a huge amount of her personal stuff.”

So what? As I said I don’t give a crap about the “celebrity” side of the music but who cares if she decides to waste the money she earns on the tour? That’s between her and her business manager.

“Like I said, a triumph of image over content. Between Gaga and Doyle, I know which one can actually sing, and which one is depending on her hot looks to keep people interested.”

Please cite the era of pop music where this was not true of a majority of popular artists. (Hint: there isn’t one)

Besides, one of these artists has co-written most of their big hits while one of them only records songs written by other people. Boyle is as dependent on other people’s songwriting as GaGa is on her image.

Benjamin Wade Inman (user link) says:

Re: Thank You

Thank you for clearing the fact that the two demographics of Susan Bolye and Lady Gaga are very different. One demographic will buy the physical product, while the other relies more on the digital format.

It’s too bad the author doesn’t understand basic music marketing.

Benjamin Wade Inman
Managing Partner
ZONG Music Partners LLC
Nashville, TN

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Mixed messages and the music industry ....

Yet another reason why the record labels are doomed…

One really major thing you have to do when you raise a child or run a business is be consistent. I see artists like Lady Gaga as sending a mixed message the record labels cant afford. She is a big time artist giving it away music for free to the youth of all nations. Training and conditioning them to expect free. While artists like her give music away for free there is no way for the labels to get the majority of people to pay for music online. As time goes on more and more artists will follow this free download business model and corrupt the youth into expecting free downloads.

It doesnt bode well for the labels …

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Mixed messages and the music industry ....

“She is a big time artist giving it away music for free to the youth of all nations. Training and conditioning them to expect free.”

There is nothing wrong with that, whatsoever. The “problem” is that the labels have built their business around needing to have every track paid for (which has never actually happened 100% anyway).

Nothing immoral about getting free stuff when the owner gives you permission to do so, even after having had over a decade to adapt.

“corrupt the youth into expecting free downloads.”

They already expect that, and have done since Napster became an overground success. The labels only have themselves to blame for not building a business around the clearly stated demands of their customers.

“It doesnt bode well for the labels …”

Oh well, so what? They were only ever middlemen in an era when physical media was the only way to distribute music. They’ll never totally disappear, but the labels who depend 100% on people paying for 1s and 0s on discs and files will definitely not survive. Those who build a business around the current realities of the marketplace will thrive.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mixed messages and the music industry ....

The “problem” is that the labels have built their business around needing to have every track paid for (which has never actually happened 100% anyway).

Incorrect. They built their business around selling music. What you are saying is that they should give their product away for free, and then sell, well, nothing.

Not very logical, is it?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mixed messages and the music industry ....

Who cares if they built their business around selling music? If the music sales along are not enough, they need to change the business model, no matter what they used to do in the past. Nintendo used to be a playing card manufacturer, but I don’t see them bitching about the downturn in that particular industry. They innovated, adapted and thrived.

Trying to count every track that’s downloaded as a “lost sale” is a pointless and doomed exercise. They need to recognise that free, unauthorised promotion has been a part of their industry since the very beginning, and leverage that into more sales be it sales of music or other merchandise.

Eric Londaits (profile) says:


I’m against record labels destroying the public domain, enforcing DRM and horrible legislation and criminalizing the general public…

… yet, I’m not particularly fond of artists having to peddle stuff to make a living. Their choice, but I respect a bit more those artists who actually refuse to have their work used for ads, like Tom Waits.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mmmmm...

I’m not particularly fond of artists having to peddle stuff to make a living.

Nothing wrong with artists peddling stuff if that stuff happens to be an experience. The days of sitting on your artistic ass and waiting for the money to roll in are over. There is a ton of competition and an audiences time is limited. This means that artists have to work, just like everybody else.

As an artist, this can only be a good thing for the arts.

Jeff Bridges says:


Ha, It’s great that the world and it’s cousin has the time to talk utter shite at any given moment about any given subject at any point in time. To all people that leave ‘comments’, well you’re just so cool! I bet the internet is like having a 10 inch extension on whatever it is between your legs. And now surprise, surprise I have just become what I despise the most. G’day sports fans and fuck you very much. X

The Mad Hatter (profile) says:

Even the Adult Entertainment Industry has caught on

I saw an article in the Huffington Post about a young lady named Katie Michaels, who is a stripper, and has been in several ‘adult’ videos. She took out an ad on Craigslist, apparently she had tickets to the January 30th Coyotes vs Rangers game in Phoenix, and for $500.00 you got the opportunity to take her to the game. If you want to check out what she looks like, go to her website. She’s rather pretty, and does the splits really well.

Taking out a Craigslist ad to offer a fan a chance to take you to a hockey game. That’s what you call a valued added marketing approach!

But then she appears to be pretty bright, she uses a Mac.

BBT says:

Susan Boyle is a mediocre talent (compared to professional singers, not to you or I). She is just as much a product of image manipulation as Gaga. People buy her music and think it’s great precisely because of the narrative manipulated by American Idol. Were they to listen to her without that narrative, she wouldn’t be seen as anything special.

Juan Johnson (profile) says:

I agree

One can not fight the times. People used to think the music industry would be over when Radio became available publicly. People will always need music and people will always adjust. The main thing is that if you’re making good music period , there will always be a fair compensation unless you are just a total whore. Free music is a must no matter how small or big you are.

Jaded says:

aww mann

If only you had listened to me about a month ago when I told you how Lady Gaga was using rtb & cwf. I guess it looks better when you come up with these ideas on your own. I thought you were a leader not a follower. Oh well.

BTW I was willing to pay $350 for the pre show meet/photo op but they were sold out. How many album sales does it take to make that?

Sasha (user link) says:

I like Lady GaGa and I think she should have been one of the stars of the Grammy awards.

While, I love Taylor Swift and have been listening to her since the “Tim McGraw” days, I think a lot of her popularity is due in part to the Kanye West incident. It is what it is.

That being said — I think people like Lady GaGa because she’s different and makes very likable music for a very vast audience.

Yes, Perez Hilton promotes her like crazy, because they are friends. But I don’t think that that’s the the only reason she’s as popular as she is. I know quite a few people who can’t stand Perez Hilton, don’t read him at all and could care less what he has to say — but they are diehard GaGa fans. For different reasons, they like her music, her style or that she’s a New Yorker. There are lots of reasons, but that’s not a reason to discredit her achievements because someone thinks that her success is due in part to Perez Hilton.

He wasn’t blogging about her when “Just Dance” hit the radios in Europe before it hit mainstream US radio. He came into play after the fact, after Z100 in NYC debuted her music etc. etc. etc.

Her business model simply shows how grassroots styled marketing can really work as well as social media. On her own, GaGa’s Twitter is very active and she even tweeted from the Grammys where she won two awards from the non-televised part of the show! and I quote to her “little monsters;” a play on her album title ‘Fame Monster.’

Her engagement with her target audiences has no boundaries. THAT is a MAJOR part of how she became successful.

In terms of Susan Boyle — I bet we’ll be seeing a lot of her at the next Grammy show in 2011.

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