The social media-powered blitz connected to this week’s drop of Lady Gaga’s new album, “Born This Way,” is bordering on epic, with partnerships ranging from Starbucks to FarmVille, and virtual giveaways of the album’s 17 tracks. It also represents the kind of bold, new business model that could help rejuvenate a deflated music industry.
Gaga announced on November 26, 2010 during the Monster Ball in Gdansk, Poland, that the album could have up to 20 tracks, and promised that it would be the album of the decade. The album was released on May 23, 2011, by Interscope Records. Preceding its release, the album’s eponymous lead single “Born This Way” debuted on February 11, 2011, the second single “Judas” was released on April 15, 2011, and the third “The Edge of Glory” on May 9, 2011.
Promotion for Born This Way began through a performance at the 53rd Grammy Awards on February 13 in Los Angeles where she performed the album’s title track and first single “Born This Way”. Gaga already had a slew of magazine covers, from Rolling Stone to Vogue, and appeared on every high profile show, from Oprah Winfrey to “American Idol” to “Saturday Night Live,” as well as her own HBO concert special.
But she hasn’t stopped there. Starbucks — typically home to easy-on-the-ears artists like Emmylou Harris — is selling her album as well as launching a “digital scavenger hunt” for Gaga-inspired goods; Google Chrome debuted a commercial with Gaga with a track from the album; the online fashion outlet Gilt Groupe partnered 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; and Zynga, creator of the popular online game “FarmVille,” created “GagaVille,” which allowed fans access to exclusive Gaga songs.
As if that wasn’t enough, on Monday, Amazon sold “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.
And it looks like the campaigns are paying off: Gaga’s album is estimated to sell anywhere between a half-million to a million copies when the top album charts are revealed next week.
Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard, calls Gaga’s promotional efforts “more of a landmark campaign” for the new music industry.
“There’s nothing about Gaga that’s subtle, so I don’t see why her marketing campaign would be any different,” he added.
One of the more unusual promotions was Amazon’s decision to sell the MP3 version of Gaga’s album for 99 cents on Monday, the day of its release, as part of its Amazon Cloud Drive, which gives consumers personal digital storage space on a remote network or cloud; 20 gigabytes of cloud space came with the album. However, there was such a demand it caused delays for Amazon’s customers, a spokeswoman said.
Though some people questioned the decision to basically give the album away, Carter wasn’t concerned at all, calling the promotional idea “incredible.”
“I am more concerned about piracy and people stealing the music. If you can get somebody to experience the music at that sort of price for one day only, I think it gets a lot of attention for the album,” he added.
Werde said that’s key in an age where album sales are deflated and serve more as a promotional tool for the artist’s other money-making projects, including touring, in an industry more focused on what is called the 360-model of generating revenue.
“It’s one of first big superstar releases that really grasps the potential of the new music business that everybody is talking about,” he said. “For a superstar artist like a Gaga, the sale of recorded music – not the quality of the music, mind you, but the sale of recorded music – really gets sort of assumed as a marketing cost to drive this 360-engine.”
Born This Way was well-received by most music critics upon its release. BBC Music called the album a “marvelous record” and commended Gaga for “actually putting a bit of effort and imagination back into pop.” Rolling Stone praised Gaga’s vocals and musical style, saying, “There isn’t a subtle moment on the album, but even at its nuttiest, the music is full of wide-awake emotional details…the more excessive Gaga gets, the more honest she sounds.”