By Elizabeth Barfoot Christian
What comes to mind when you hear “Lady Gaga”?
A raw meat dress? Kermit the frog costume? A machine gun bra? Lack of pants? Odds are —even if you are over the age of 35 and male, you can probably hum a few bars of “Poker Face” or “Alejandro.”
And why is that?
Money, honey (also an aptly titled Gaga song)—that’s what comes to the minds of corporate music makers everywhere. In an increasingly collapsing industry, Gaga has succeeded essentially overnight. While veteran performers have failed to sell enough tickets to profit and some even cancelled entire tours, Gaga has sold out repeat performances in mega-arenas across the world.
The secret to Gaga’s success is all in her marketing. And Gaga is the hottest brand going in the pop culture industry these days. Music is just a small part of the product market affected by her antics. Gaga emerged virtually out of nowhere to become potentially one of the biggest brands in history. This could never have been achieved with pre-digital social networking.
Gaga’s carefully crafted creation story of the freakish though friendly outsider makes us all relate and empathize with the enigmatic New York singer/songwriter Stefani Germanotta turned fashionista, hero to gays, and modern-day Madonna.
Through the use of Internet technology, she continually updates her fans with all the minutiae that is Gaga. The pervasiveness of media technology today makes what Gaga has been able to accomplish all the more remarkable, in that she really had no back story to undo in order to create Gaga lore.
To date, Gaga has four million Twitter followers and is the first musician ever to generate one billion hits on YouTube, which she uses to upload her videos to viewers free of charge.
Gaga went from nowhere to everywhere in a span of 18 months, selling 15 million albums and counting, and has six No. 1 hit singles, two Grammy Awards, and many other awards. She was even named fourth Most Powerful and Influential celebrity by Forbes in June 2010, and Time named her one of the most influential people in the world.
And she’s more than happy to play this capitalist-love game. Gaga, ooh la la
Elizabeth Barfoot Christian is assistant professor of journalism at Louisiana Tech University and the editor of Rock Brands: Selling Sound in a Media Saturated Culture.
Look for another posting from Elizabeth Barfoot Christian in the next few weeks: The remaking of a rock god: Bret Michaels.