June 3, 2011 11 Comments
Brand GaGa is in the news again, this time for the new album which is destined to set new records for being the most aggressively and ruthlessly marketed album of all time. This aggressive marketing campaign includes:
- appearing on numerous magazine covers, from Rolling Stone to Vogue
- appearing on every high profile show known to mankind, from Oprah Winfrey to ‘American Idol’ to ‘Saturday Night Live’, as well as her own HBO concert special.
- Starbucks selling her album as well as launching a ‘digital scavenger hunt’ for Gaga-inspired goods
- Google Chrome airing a commercial with Gaga with a track from the album (see video below)
- the online fashion outlet Gilt Groupe partnering with Gaga to offer Gaga-inspired clothing and VIP performances
- Best Buy is giving away the album to anyone who purchases a mobile phone with a contract
- Zynga, creator of the popular online game ‘FarmVille’, creating ‘GagaVille’ which allows fans access to exclusive Gaga songs
- Amazon selling ‘Born This Way’ for just 99 cents as a promotion for their new music cloud service (creating a demand so strong it disrupted the online retailing giant’s servers for a time)
- Disney Mobile Tapulous game ‘Tap Tap Revenge’ giving fans access to the entire album and other content if they buy the game,’Born This Way Revenge’, for $4.99. It’s the first time Tapulous has put out 17 tracks with a game for that price
The seamless integration, and now full on merging, of pop music with big business is fast becoming the new model for both which will presumably result in them eventually become one and the same. And as you can see from this advert, apparently we’re all absolutely lovin’ it.
In addition, the corporate mass media is also telling us that such synergy can only be a good thing. But of course they would say that. They are just as much a part of the whole arts-merges-with-big-business agenda as anyone else. In fact the whole process heavily relies on a mainstream media willing to promote such a corporate culture ie based on marketing (money) rather than art. The mass media is, after all, owned and controlled by about six corporations in the US. And by generally supporting and hyping a select few ‘industry chosen’ acts like GaGa, as well as downplaying the importance of other (perhaps far more talented, original and interesting) artists, they can ensure that brands like GaGa appear to be the hottest thing around by miles… which if course (after appearing on every TV show and on the front cover of everything) they inevitably become.
These hyped acts’ enormous fame and artificially generated celebrity status then becomes their most interesting feature for most people. Their celebrity status (ie our irrational obsession with them) actually generates far more interest than their music or personality alone is capable of generating. (EXAMPLE: if I pay fifty people to crowd around me in a public space pointing at me with mouths open and taking pictures with their phones then that will immediately attract another hundred or more people to start swarming around me. I won’t have to actually do anything).
As a reward for helping the music industry build up its narrow range of pop products the mainstream media (and its advertisers) end up with a bunch of manufactured A-list celebs guaranteed to attract viewers, shift magazines or generate web hits.
But this is about more than just aggressive marketing. We are seeing popular culture being redefined as no more than a tool of corporate advertising. This would be fine if it were being done more honestly, but of course it isn’t. Instead the illusion is maintained that the music and the ‘artist’ are both still authentic even though in reality they are acting as little more than advertising jingles and paid sales reps. This illusion is important to maintain amongst the herd because the whole point is to transfer that illusion of authenticity and ‘cool’ to the product or service being advertised.
The most unfortunate aspect of all of this becomes apparent when you ask the question: how is a kid who has been brought up on a diet of this kind of grotesque manipulative inauthentic culture going to care for anything any more real and authentic?
They won’t know any different. Look at kids today – a lot of them really don’t. (But thankfully some do).
The end result is a youth culture made up of a bunch of totally inauthentic entertainment acts which are all totally corporate friendly and corporate loyal, but promoted to the masses by the music industry and the corporate mass media (and by the acts themselves of course) as if they were the most authentic artists out there.
A lot of people get hung up on swearing, guns, half naked dancers etc in pop music. But that’s kind of missing the point – the more important point being that the whole thing is totally inauthentic. It is contrived. It is created by the most cynical people on this planet and then packaged and sold to the pubic – including children – as if it were the most authentic thing, as if it were real, as if it were all part of some natural artistic/ musical / creative process.
That’s got to be the most damaging thing imaginable, not just to the individual but to society. It means everything that comes out of popular culture (identity, behaviour, relationships, fashion, language, fads, trends etc) has its roots in a contrived cesspit of inauthenticity. It’s a total mind-phuck for anyone brought up on it who can’t seeing it for what it is. It’s pure Truman Show in musical form.
Thankfully you don’t have to dig too deep or think too hard to get past the whole glossy illusion. For all their ‘outrageousness’ most of the acts that are promoted today (the ones given all the media exposure and all the industry awards) are already totally corporate friendly. They all promote consumerism, materialistic drives and owning branded ‘stuff’ (cars, clothes etc) as the only route to identity, free expression and self worth. None of them promote any kind of unique message, philosophy, or even the act of critical thinking at all! And NONE of them ever mention, let alone question, let alone challenge the status quo of the current corporate / establishment ideologies, the current wars, politics, laws, rights, freedoms, causes or indeed anything. Not in any way. All they do is promote consumerism. AKA corporatism. That’s it.
Their job (with or without any additional in-your-face marketing partnerships) is to make consumerism/ corporatism ‘cool’ and turn worshipping the culture of consumerism/ corporatism into the new godless religion for the dumbed down masses.
There was a time, not that long ago, when if the corporate mass media or some faceless coffee franchise said an artist was cool it meant they were actually very uncool. But now more than ever we let them tell us what music to like, and consume.
There was a time when letting corporations use your music to sell totally unrelated stuff was a big no no – that is if you wanted to retain any credibility whatsoever. But now apparently it’s all perfectly acceptable and even something to be celebrated without even questioning.
There was a time when a cool artist ‘selling out’ spelled the end of a career in music, at least one where you are regarded as a credible artist. But now selling out is regarded as the thing which defines the beginning of a career. Selling out is what you have to do today in order to become what’s known today as an ‘artist’. Today we call ‘selling out’ being a ‘fame monster’ and with this subtle rebranding we now regard such behaviour as the height of cool.
There was a time when manufactured bands were frowned upon and ridiculed and putting together manufactured ‘boy/ girl bands’ was something which the industry did in secret. But now they make TV shows about it and we all clap and cheer as the would be sell outs (fame monsters) are harshly assessed for their potential commercial value by ruthless music industry millionaire talent scouts (now professionally packaged as celebs in their own right) before being either rejected or chosen and immediately put through a ‘boot camp’ so that their image and public persona can be expertly altered and made ‘acceptable’ according to the industry regulated standards on cultural homogenization.
It is interesting to note that the merging of the state with private corporations into one giant ruthless machine-like apparatus is one of the core definitions of fascism.
What then are we to call the merging of the arts with private corporations into one giant ruthless machine-like apparatus?
We are to call it ‘entertainment’ of course! – Yes Sir!
No but seriously, those are the rules. We must call it entertainment and we must enjoy it, consume it and in doing so embody its cultural and social messages.
Look, don’t listen to me. Listen to Amy Palmer, senior editor with ‘In Touch Weekly’ as she talks about how this whole corporate advertising carpet GaGa bombing ‘shock and awe’ campaign is clear evidence that these days – like obviously – “the consumer has the power”.
Wrap your little monster minds around her stunning take on reality during MSNBC’s Today program in one of those cosy little TV moments best described as:
‘… just you sit back and relax and let us do all the thinking about this subject on your behalf, and in the style of a completely natural and friendly conversation full of ideas and assertions that sound completely reasonable, provided you’re not paying too much attention or thinking too hard which, of course, you won’t be because you’re watching television …’
Or Watch it here
Transcription provided, for your line by line analytical pleasure:
Alex Witt: A new AP article says Lady GaGa’s landmark blitz from her new album ‘Born This way’ could change the face of music. Let’s get the details with Amy Palmer, senior editor with ‘In Touch Weekly’. Good morning.
Amy Palmer (senior editor with ‘In Touch Weekly’): Good morning Alex.
AW: I can never take my eyes off Lady GaGa when she’s anywhere – She’s riveting…
AP: She’s fascinating, so fascinating
AW: She is.
AP: She is so herself and I think that’s the beauty of GaGa and she really has this amazing message. But in terms of changing the music industry, what she’s doing is she’s going to the consumer. The music industry is no longer linear. It used to be, you had an album, you went to radio, you tried to get radio to play it and they decided ‘OK this is a hit’. Now the consumer has the power. So what Lady GaGa is doing with her team is they’re going to Starbucks. They’re playing the album in Starbucks. They’re going to Amazon. Amazon is offering the album for 99 cents. Google Chrome – I don’t know if you’ve seen this commercial – she’s now the face of Google Chrome. And it’s an amazing commercial because it has Lady GaGa’s new song merged with the Google Chrome emblum and it really shows that these brands are coming together. And I think it’s really touching consumers in a way that’s bringing awareness to Google Chrome and also GaGa’s album.
AW: You know what – you talk about the authenticity of GaGa and last night I happened to be channel surfing and I saw a one hour documentary that was recently done because she had the black and white hair and the black mole – it’s one of her recent looks – and it was talking about Lady GaGa on the outside …. inside on the outside….
AP: It’s an MTV special…
AW: Exactly! And she is so real there. But I thought for a moment ‘Uh Oh!’ we’re going to get a little bit of over exposure and yet for some reason I don’t instinctively think that’s going to be a problem for her.
AP: It’s not because she’s really authentic. I mean she’s a breath of fresh air and you know in the past with music we’ve seen so much autotunes – auto syncing with these artists. Are they really singing? Are they really talented? With GaGa you know she has an amazing voice and she’s so unique and if you follow her story – I mean she’s just a girl from New York City who had a dream.
AP: She’s twenty five years old and she’s brilliant because she ‘gets it’. And that’s why she uses social media to reach her fans. That’s why she’s using these companies in a way that’s different than has ever been done before – I mean Starbucks, the gilt groupe which is an online fashion destination, they had a ‘GaGa day’ where everything was inspired by her. She’s understanding where the consumers are at and then her album is being promoted that way and she’s on track to sell over a million albums in the first week and in this climate and in this industry right now that’s really unheard of.
AW: And you know all the promotion and publicity in the world would not matter were she not talented and were she not putting out a good product. She might have a flash in the pan thing, but this album is good.
AP: It’s a great album. Every single that you hear you say ‘this is a hit’, ‘this is a hit’. And companies are using these songs to showcase their own products and what that’s saying is ‘we believe in Gaga. We believe in this message’. And so it really elevates both of them. You know because there is this synergy between them and I think that that is the new way for music. If you talk to music industry insiders they’ve been saying for the past few years ‘we have lost a third of our value since 2003. How are we going to make up for it?’ And I think this is it. It’s the merging of companies with art.
AW: Yeah. Well I don’t think it will work for everyone but it sure does work for GaGa.
AP: Sure it will I mean she is really….
AW: – Limitless ..
AP: I mean for the rest of our lives we’re going to be watching GaGa – like we watched Madonna.
AW: Yeah. Very true. I absolutely agree with you. Amy Palmer, make it a great weekend. Have fun.
AP: You too Alex…
And so there you have it.
If you were thinking that the problem with popular music was something to do with it being more commercialized than ever before, and as a result being more formulaic and homogenized than ever before, with plummeting sales reflecting this fact and necessitating the increasing use of aggressive marketing, gimmicks, shock factor and manufactured hype to generate interest, which in turn only creates a further downward spiral of dumbing down, devaluing and ultimately the decoupling of the ‘music’ part from pop music …… leaving just ‘pop’ (hype, fashion, marketing, advertising, gossip, celebrity) – then you are obviously quite mistaken.
The mainstream media ‘truth’ of the situation is actually the complete opposite – that music today is AMAZING and all those people who complain about music all sounding the same now and being totally rubbish are wrong. And those plummeting sales figures have nothing to do with the stifling and homogenizing effects of a music industry which cares only for quick profits and doesn’t even care remotely about actual music any more. It is all just down to a lack of proper marketing and strategic product partnerships!
And all those people who think now might be a good time for both artists and music lovers (AKA consumers) to distance themselves from the more corporate side of the industry in order to save music are in fact misguided. So what if we all have the internet now? Quite clearly the best thing for popular music (and youth culture in general) is for popular music to actually get even more involved with profit orientated corporations and mass media in order to form more symbiotic relationships of mutual benefit…… using the word ‘mutual’ here to mean you’re all hopeless, dumbed down, consumer slave, celebrity enchanted idiots, of course.
Look, just forget about music as having anything to do with ‘creative artistry’ OK? Marketing, branding and advertising are the new creative arts! Oooh La La!
Cynical corporate advertising/ branding / marketing defines the new vibrant youth culture. And you will love it because we will advertise the fact that you love it – and you will believe that you do. GaGa!
Mass media / multi media advertising and marketing with an almost totally monopolized media and entertainment industry is the new consumer power. And no one in these heavily monopolized and integrated industries is ever going to contradict this statement. Ra Ra Ah Ah Ah!
War is the new peace.
Freedom is the new slavery.
Conformity is the new uniqueness.
Selling out is the new rebellion.