Weird Al’s Album

Ben Sisario wrote the definitive statement in the “New York Times”:

No Joke! He’s Topping the Charts
Weird Al Yankovic Scores With ‘Mandatory Fun’

The most important element of the above article is the sponsorship story. Weird Al didn’t see sponsorship as a way to rip-off corporations to enhance his bottom line, he saw it as a way to broaden his audience.

Al literally piggy-backed on his sponsors, using them to broaden his audience. He got money for videos from partner sites, but most importantly, said videos were featured on these partner sites, bringing him to their people.

What a concept.

This is the future.

And it’s funny that someone seen as a sideshow figured this out.

It’s hard not to like Mr. Yankovic, and the tragic death of his parents always leaves a soft spot in my heart for him. But Al peaked decades ago, and who knows all the songs he’s parodying today anyway? Al was at his most powerful when we lived in a monoculture, when we were all glued to MTV and knew every clip.

And if you believe Al is now a household name amongst the younger generation, you truly believe selling 104,000 albums in a country of 300 million isn’t laughable.

Not that Weird Al is bound by the old paradigm. Unlike most acts his age Al realizes it’s about streaming. The clips for his new album have been viewed 46 million times.

Take that all you acts who still hew to the old model. Not only is Al making coin in the new realm, he’s reaching more people than the old paradigm players. If you want people to pay to discover you’re missing the point. The key is to expose as many people to your music as possible, charging them along the way.

And speaking of streaming, Al had 3,282,937 plays on Spotify last week.

So now that more people know who Al is, are familiar with his tracks, other opportunities grow and appear. Live business jumps and if Al chooses, he can sell himself as a pitchman. His phone is ringing.

Furthermore, notice that Al did this himself, the label didn’t cough up the money. Because labels are financially challenged, and they don’t believe.

But Weird Al did. He took matters into his own hands.

As for the hashtag… The peak was “Sharknado.” As for people hashtagging you into prominence, that’s a dying game, like ringtones. It’s an echo chamber. Beware of the online fad. Not that you shouldn’t use it, but don’t overestimate its power.

And the fact that Al had 575,000 Wikipedia views last week illustrates his fanbase is growing, it’s newbies who go there most.

As for the eight videos in eight days… Never forget that it is primarily video and not music. That Al’s famous for clips that play like television as opposed to being completely reliant on tunes. Al’s selling comedy, will this work for a traditional musical act? Doubtful.

But melding your music with today’s model will work.

Al didn’t bitch that the game had changed, he took matters into his own hands. And if there was a print component, it eluded me. Because Al’s audience lives online. And the key is to get people to click for cash, to watch videos and stream music. When people read an article about you in the newspaper or magazine the publication gets paid, you do not. In other words, you should go directly where the money is!

And the hype began when the music was available! Al didn’t frontload, when he was promoting, people were buying, or experiencing via streams.

And sure, getting to number one on the sales chart is generating publicity, but that’s a dying construct. Notice that Sisario included streaming numbers. And that they were impressive and the sales number was not. Soon no one will trumpet sales numbers, they’re too anemic, they’re nearly meaningless.

So Al has proven himself to be an artist, more insightful than the suits running the labels, as it should be. Creativity should come from the music makers. But over decades the switch has been flipped. It’s the label that puts you together with a cowriter and producer, it’s the label that says you don’t have a single. But no one ever believed in a label, music is all about the artist. And music soars when artists test limits, test preconceptions, when they twist the world to their vision.

Will we be talking about Weird Al’s album a month from now?

Highly doubtful. We may not be talking about it a week from now!

What has legs is original tunes. Too often we focus on the business story not realizing the music game is about longevity, that the most money is made when the press is no longer interested.

Al’s enhanced his cottage industry. He’s paved the way, shone the light on possibilities. In the future musical artists will stop playing the old game of frontloading publicity to generate first week sales and realize it’s all about streaming, bolstered by online publicity.

But don’t expect old acts to follow in Weird Al’s footsteps. They just can’t get over the fact that the game has changed.

If you’re still bitching that you can’t sell your $15 album you’re missing the point.

And the point is you’ve got more tools in your bag than ever before. And it’s cheaper than ever to reach people. And others will help you do this. And world domination is difficult, it’s best to enhance your territory, grow your base as opposed to trying to reach everybody. If you try new things you can get lucky. That does not mean everybody will care, but more people care about Weird Al than have since the turn of the century. And despite being old he looks young and hip. Weird Al won. Can you?

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