The idea of my hypermedia project is to look at the ways in which different musical artists use social media in order to advertise their product. In order to do this I will focus on how Lady Gaga, Weezer and Beirut employ viral marketing and social media. I will compare how their use is similar and contrast how it differs.The goal of my project is to understand the uses and benefits of social media and viral marketing in the music industry.
The History of Viral Marketing
As the reach of the internet continues to grow, the power of viral marketing is reaching new heights. To understand what viral marketing is, it is important to first look back at the beginnings of the practice and to understand the basics of the concept. The main idea behind viral marketing is to use social networks in order to spread a targeted message to an audience. Viral advertising takes a different approach from traditional marketing as it is information that is given to a specific group that has applicable interests. In this regard, viral marketing is an a way “smart” marketing as it does not blindly produce advertisements intended for the general public. By refining the demographic intended, viral marketing takes a pointed approach to advertising and is able to produce more efficient manners of advertising.
When viral marketing began to grow, Jeffrey Rayport wrote an article that outlined the very basic ideas of viral practices. In this article, Rayport explains the rules needed for viral marketing to be successful and gives a framework for an efficient viral campaign. Rayport gives six rules that all viral marketing campaigns must follow in order to be rewarding. The first of these rules is a need for secrecy and silence when entering the market. This is the first example of how viral marketing and traditional marketing differ. While traditional marketing relied on in your face ads that blanketed the entire population, viral advertisements are ones that seemingly grow from nowhere and enter into the audiences life. Rayport’s next few rules indicate that while viral advertising is an active process, there is an element of self reproduction involved. Once the message is given out, if the targeting has been done correctly, the idea will spread through pre-existing networks. Viral marketing is at its very core, digital word of mouth advertising. By playing on the ties between people with similar interests, advertisers are able to get the audience to spread the message throughout their networks. The last rule, and arguably the most important rule Rayport gives is the need for dedication to reach the tipping point to where the idea will self propagate and continue to spread throughout society. Malcolm Gladwell concisely explains this position in his book The Tipping Point when he writes, ““The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” When the idea is sufficiently saturated across society, the message will spread and reach more and more audience members, achieving the goal of viral marketing.
The very objective of viral marketing is to promote a message in certain networks that will take on a life of its own and carry on the spread of the message. With this in mind it is of the utmost importance that the audience that is targeted is the proper one to facilitate the spread of the message. Tamar Weinberg explains, “Understand the community. Know who you’re pitching to. Know what you’re getting into.” The use of viral marketing is dependent on identifying an audience and knowing what that target market wants out of a product. This begins to relate to music as there is a sense of networking when thinking of music. By distributing the proper information to the proper people, a message and a product can be spread quickly, efficiently and very broadly. For musicians, viral marketing can be extremely lucrative as identifying the right market can lead to a huge windfall in the spread of the artist’s work. In the age of the internet, this becomes even more applicable as anything can be spread quickly, it all hinges on identifying the right target. Musicians and their publicists understand the need for viral marketing and many strictly advertise through the internet and social media websites. To illustrate this is quite easy, there are several websites that are dedicated entirely to explaining how musicians have used viral marketing to become successful. For example the website musicmarketing.com has an entire section strictly devoted to the explanation of viral marketing. Examples are given here about musicians that have used viral marketing well and shows just how important this new marketing strategy can be and the gains that can come as a result of using these ideas.
The Use of MySpace for a Musical Artist
MySpace has been used by musical artists as a place to release information, multimedia content and to interact with their fans. I will observe how the following artists’ pages are similar and different.
For my first artist I chose to follow, I selected an extremely visible and popular musician in Lady Gaga. I decided that it would be important to follow at least one “mega-star” to understand how the most popular of musicians decide to use viral marketing in their promotional practices. When looking at Lady Gaga’s MySpace page, the first think I checked was the amount of traffic that this website had received. Since 2005 when her page was created, Lady Gaga has received a total of 78,276,644 profile views of her page. Since MySpace gives the option of adding a person as a friend, this was the second statistic that I checked on Lady Gaga’s page. Overall 1,753,857 people have added Lady Gaga as a friend on MySpace. Another important thing to note is that, along with many other professional musicians, Lady Gaga embeds songs onto her page. As of December 4, viewers of Lady Gaga’s page had played her songs a total of 441, 334,452 times which equates to an average of 184,968 plays per day since 2005. Lady Gaga’s page is in many ways comparable to her actual, official website in that it lists dates of events, posts updates and includes multimedia sections for the viewers to browse. At the bottom of the page is a link to sign up for the Lady Gaga newsletter. This website is a perfect example of the basis of viral marketing. The website caters to the fans and gives them what they want. By understanding the desires of the prospective audience, the website helps to create a word of mouth message that people are willing to share. Updating statuses and posting new videos and other new media content on the website keeps people coming back to visit with frequency. Another facet of this site is the ability to buy and download the songs straight from a link on the page. Using the traffic of her MySpace page helps to give more visibility to her product and increases the odds of her product being purchased. This starts to explain the huge amounts of traffic that this website has experienced over the past several years. As I checked this website, Lady Gaga was in the process of unveiling a new music video for her song “Marry the Night”. This was a perfect time to see how the traffic was affected by the release of new material. Previous posts indicated that people were excited for the release of the new video and would be checking back, going to show that this website had gone viral. It continued to bring people back on the site in anticipation of something new that was applicable to them.
I decided to use Weezer as it is an extremely popular band, yet caters to a different demographic of consumer than Lady Gaga does in general. This would help to illustrate how different bands market similar products to different audiences. Although Weezer is still considered to be an extremely popular band that is well-known and well liked, their profile has a total view count of 21,896,878 views, about 51 million less views than Lady Gaga’s website. Also of note when thinking of this statistic is that Weezer has been a member of MySpace since October of 2004, more than a half a year longer than Lady Gaga has been a member. Since the creation of the website, Weezer has gone on to have only 565,770 friends confirmed on the website, 1/3 of the total amount of friends on Lady Gaga’s page. Similarly to Lady Gaga’s page, Weezer’s page gives the user the ability to listen and purchase songs straight from MySpace. A total of 57,663,750 plays had been recorded on the page since 2004. These numbers add up to 22,263 plays per day. Of the three artists examined in this project, only Weezer has more page views than songs played. With these statistics, it is evident to see that the profile of Lady Gaga is a more popular and more visited site. This MySpace page, when compared to Lady Gaga’s is more complementary to Weezer’s main website and does not truly fill the role that the official site does. On Weezer’s official website there are more focused forums, a more expansive store and more frequent updates about events and promotions that Weezer is currently scheduled for. In this case we can see that the audience of Weezer may be more focused on the main website instead of their MySpace page. One possible explanation for this is that Weezer was formed as a band in 1992, many years before the creation of MySpace. When Weezer was hitting peak popularity, the internet community was not fully formed yet and the basis of Weezer’s fan following may have been founded before the explosion of social media. Weezer’s MySpace and official website both give tons of multimedia and have original content that the band has produced, including sketch comedy and promotional ideas. Once again, the websites understand what the consumer wants and in turn produces that desire.
Beirut’s MySpace Page
Beirut is an independent band that has a much smaller following than that of both Lady Gaga and Weezer. I chose to follow them as they are somewhat well-known for putting content out through social media and have depended on the internet for nearly all of their success. It is evident to see that Beirut is a band with a smaller audience than the previous two artists mentioned as their profile has only 7,057,632 total views in almost the exact same amount of time as Weezer’s page. The band Beirut has accepted 102,456 other MySpace members as their friend on the website. Along with the previous artists, Beirut’s page has the option of playing music straight from the site. While this is consistent with the previous performers, Beirut’s page only allows a few of their songs to be downloaded whereas Lady Gaga and Weezer allow a majority, if not all of their content, to be downloaded from MySpace. Beirut has amassed 9,324,425 plays over a span of 7 years which averages out to 3,594 plays per day. Beirut’s MySpace page is the least updated of all the artists in this study which indicates that either the band is not as dedicated to their popular musical careers (they are known to have other careers, musical interests) or that they are not dependent on MySpace to promote their product. We can argue that Beirut’s MySpace page has not yet reached the tipping point of saturation, and as such their page is the smallest of all these artists with the lowest leves of traffic.
The Use of Twitter for a Musical Artist
Twitter has recently become one of the most popular social media websites in the world. It is a site used for quick status updates and a way to share information quickly.
Lady Gaga’s twitter page is similar to her MySpace, yet it takes on a different pace of use. On December 1, Lady Gaga updated her Twitter account 13 times in one day. This is to be expected as twitter is mainly a way for people to have updates on people they follow almost by the minute. Her updates focused on her own material, specifically the release of her new video referenced in the section on MySpace. An interesting fact to point out is that most of her points that are not specifically promoting her new video are also relaying information of where else a consumer can get updates about Lady Gaga. She explains that she will be on a talk show in some posts and that she will be performing on other shows. This illustrates how Twitter is an extremely powerful agent with regards to viral marketing. By saturating her networks with news about herself, Lady Gaga is pushing the conversation of her to the tipping point. As more and more news about her is released, more and more people will share it, creating that self-sustaining word of mouth movement that is necessary for a viral campaign to strike gold. Gaga has 16,630,380 followers on Twitter, an amount about 16 times larger than her friend following on MySpace, indicating the popularity of Twitter and furthering the idea that this website can be hugely influential in viral marketing.
Weezer is another artist who is active on Twitter, using their page in order to disseminate information and to provide links to other media that their followers may enjoy. Because Weezer has not pushed out any new content very recently, a majority of their postings are about purchasing new merchandise and linking back to old memories. Also, many of their posts relate to their new concert that is coming up, a cruise on which they are performing and bringing in many other similar bands to play with them. Clearly Twitter is used for a sense of self promotion, as the posts that are uploaded generally are aimed at increasing people’s awareness of Weezer in the social circle. By continually reminding audiences of themselves, Weezer’s Twitter account helps to keep the band in the consciousness of their audience and keeps the conversation of them moving. Viral marketing has the goal of keeping the product in the audience’s mind, and increasing their awareness of it, Twitter is able to do both of these things and is an important tool for any musical artist. Weezer currently has 574,926 followers on Twitter.
The Twitter page for the band Beirut is an interesting departure from the previous pages mentioned. Beirut’s page is very seldom updated and when it is updated, it is often done in either Portuguese or French. According to the website, the lead singer of the band, Zach Condon, had been in Brazil working on a new album and the band had just finished an international tour. The lack of activity on their Twitter account actually may indicate how important the use of Twitter can be. As the artist with the least amount of Twitter and MySpace activity, Beirut is also the band with the smallest followings on each of the sites. By improving their use and being more active on these avenues of social media, this band could benefit and receive more popularity. They have not yet reached the tipping point, where their product becomes saturated in society. As a result, their audience is limited and their reach is significantly smaller than the other artists. Beirut has amassed only 10,219 followers on Twitter.
The Use of YouTube for a Musical Artist
YouTube has become one of the most popular avenues for musical artists to spread information and media content that they have produced.
By uploading music videos for her singles, Lady Gaga’s YouTube channel has obviously been one form of her use of viral marketing and the use of social media. YouTube has grown as a social website and is no longer strictly for video hosting, there is a sense of community which plays in to the impact that viral marketing can have. Lady Gaga’s YouTube account is entirely devoted to her musical performances and her music videos. Since 2008 she has received 55,543,895 views of her channel alone. When looking at the media she has uploaded, she has had 161,279,657 views of her videos to date. A combined use of YouTube and Twitter is almost the ideal channel for viral marketing. By using Twitter to keep her in the mainstream and in the public’s awareness, Lady Gaga will always be culturally relevant. Using that increased public awareness to link to YouTube, her product is consumed and her fame is reproduced. When videos are shared or embedded, they are the perfect way to market a musician’s product. Lady Gaga understands this and uploads videos on a fairly consistent basis and does not limit her videos to official music videos. Including live performances also ups her involvement on the website and keeps her readily available for public consumption.
Weezer’s YouTube page is slightly different from Lady Gaga’s, yet it still maintains the values of viral marketing through social media. Once again, a majority of the videos posted through this account are music videos and performances that Weezer has created. However, Weezer promotes their cruise event once again with several comedy videos in a departure from Lady Gaga’s strategy:
Weezer’s channel keeps their audience even more updated by providing comedy, news and musical entertainment at the same time. Because Weezer understands their audience, they are able to undertake certain strategies to keep themselves visible. In fact Weezer created a video that was entirely dependent on the use of viral videos. The song, titled “Pork and Beans” takes several of the most popular internet meme characters and brings them together in a music video intended to entertain any fan of the interet:
Weezer identifies with their audience and uses comedy as well as their music to stay relevant. Weezer’s channel has 2,905,567 total views, with their media products receiving 35,956,662 views.
While Beirut does not have an active YouTube account, they are still known for their musical performances in a wide array of video styles. Beirut were active participants in a video blog that promoted smaller, independent bands called La Blogotheque and their main video style “Take Away Shows”:
Beirut has also produced their own videos filmed in similar styles:
Beirut’s limited activity on the three sites listed has helped to partially explain why this band has seen a limited amount of popularity. If the band were able to reach the tipping point and have their music saturate specific social networks, their work could become much more visible and widely accepted. As they do not currently have a YouTube Account, statistics were unavailable for their traffic.
Three Successful Viral Music Videos
The band Ok-Go has become famous for their creative music videos that spread like wildfire across the internet. The video for “Here it Goes Again” has received over 10 million views, while “White Knuckles” has been seen over 11 million times. These numbers are also strictly from the official version of the video hosted by YouTube.
Kina Grannis’ video for the song “In Your Arms” has recently garnered high levels of popularity due to its creativity and quick spread across websites. The video is a stop motion film, with the background made entirely out of jelly beans. See the making of the video here. “In Your Arms” is quickly approaching 4 million views, a huge amount considering it was only just released in early November.
By examining the levels of activity across MySpace, Twitter and YouTube; it is clear that viral marketing plays a very important role in the advertising of a musical artist’s product. By keeping the audience in contact with the artist at all times, the musician’s work is constantly at the forefront of the audience’s mind. When the proper audiences are targeted, the product will be spread from network to network, gaining in popularity and notoriety. The use of viral marketing is becoming necessary for musicians to become and remain a popular cultural figure.