by : Business, February 2010

Artists and Their Business: Lady Gaga

Artists and Their Business: Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga knows how to write a catchy tune. She is also irreverent and provocative in her choice of fashion while prone to convey serious meaning in her lyrics. Her music videos pass as examples of burlesque, but their aesthetic quality is high and, artistically, they seem fresh and original with a universal appeal. Her overt sensuality draws the viewer in, but crosses genders. She might be the next consummate entertainer, but seems intent on stretching the boundary between craft and commerce, and art.

So far, and in one year, she has managed to generate four concurrent Nº1 hits,
win two Grammy awards in 2010 (for best dance recording and best electronic/dance album), and release the best ranked selling album of 2009, “The Fame”. In the UK, her song “Poker Face” was the most downloaded. There, she also performed at the Royal Variety Show and was introduced to Queen Elizabeth—wearing only a skin-tight red PVC dress. This is an artist with a strong business sense too. She made her music available for free before the release of her album, and has gone on to break sale records at iTunes and MySpace.

Lady Gaga’s profile is, to some extent, intellectual but she has experience in the music business. She started piano when she was four, and was accepted by the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University when she was seventeen. At about that time, she started performing in different venues around New York City. Before her first album was released, she was employed as a writer for other artists and groups, including The Pussycat Dolls. This led to collaboration with RedOne, a producer who worked with Michael Jackson and who is now one of the keys to Gaga’s futuristic sound
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Lady Gaga has a multiple rights contract with Universal’s Interscope, a major. She understands too the wider context in which music is leveraged today. For instance, she recently accepted a position as creative director and inventor of specialty products for the Polaroid brand. She has also become the spokesperson for M*A*C Cosmetics. Within the music trade, she is a poster child for viral promotion, crossing over from dance and electronica music into pop, and so redefining the boundaries of the genre.

Creatively, she insists on being as absorbed in every aspect of her productions. Rather than relying on hired hands, she appears to complete all her projects herself, using other producers or writers only for their talent and input. Interestingly, the musical aspects of her work are not sufficient in her mind. To her, the performance, inclination, and temper of a song have to replicate everyday life. It is ultimately there where she makes a connection with her fans.

More than a musician, Lady Gaga sees herself as an artist. In fact, she is arguably the best example of a modern DIY (Do-It-Yourself) performance artist. Undoubtedly, hers is a class act. Yet as she conquers the industry, and trades her name, she will need all her intelligence to balance her business endeavors and her creativity.

By Mia Verdoorn

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