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Lady Gaga Is Redefining How Music Is Sold

Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga and a few others like her are reinventing how music is sold today.  Consider Gaga’s manager Troy Carter who insists that he did not want her fans to originally discover her on the radio.  Isn’t this how it’s always been done, hoping to get played on the radio so that fans will discover the music? 

 
Marketing-conscious restaurants know they aren’t really selling the steak.   They are selling the sizzle.  In other words, they are in the business of selling a dining experience as opposed to a piece of grilled meat.
 
With sales of music on a downward slope, it’s interesting to see old-fashioned marketing principles are being applied.   In this case, Carter and Gaga have figured out that it’s not just the music that they are selling, but also the experience of consuming it.   Those of us old enough to remember vinyl albums remember the excitement of opening up a gate fold album and pouring over the delicious artwork inside.  That kind of experience can’t be duplicated when one merely downloads an mp3.
 
Social media brings back the power of word of mouth.  Carter knows that if a YouTube video doesn’t explode and go viral, then in his mind, something’s wrong and it’s time to go back and rethink.  Sure, a fan base can be built through radio airplay, but to Carter, building the fan base takes a back seat to using Social Media to demonstrate the power of the music:  the artist’s act and identity. 
 
New technology is opening up new marketing possibilities.  While older artists may not easily connect to their fans through social media, it may be true that these strategies are working with younger artists and their younger fans.  “Gagaville,” the Facebook app, let users download unreleased songs from the then upcoming “Born This Way” album by completing certain tasks.  Thirteen million users downloaded songs this way turning her fans into a giant marketing machine.  First there was Farmville, now even Jimmy Buffett has “Margaritaville.”  The album sold many times over BEFORE it was ever released for sale.
 
Carter says, “The reality is that it's going to take time for the marriage of music and technology to work. The tech community and the music community speak different languages and we're working on finding the Rosetta Stone.  In the meantime partnerships will be tested.  Some will work and others won't.”
 
But the message from the cutting edge seems clear:  today you can’t just treat an album as “music” to be played on the “radio,” create a website and hope to generate sales.  The cutting edge is about engaging the fans with social media so that the music is sold as an experience.  Is it any wonder that her next album ARTPOP will be sold as “an interactive experience” with an app?  You can bet that it will be sold song by song in a game-like experience long before the album is released for sale to the general public.

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