Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lady Gaga's Lessons for Legal Academia?

You never thought you'd read about Lady Gaga on these pages, did you? The WSJ has a nice article on Lady Gaga's lessons for success containing themes that transcend the music business. Here are some snippets:
Underneath Gaga's haystack wigs is a case study of what it takes to succeed in the music business today. Gaga, 23 years old, has made shrewd use of new digital platforms, while still leveraging the clout of a major label, an institution deemed obsolete by many proponents of DIY culture. She is a product of a new kind of recording contract which goes beyond just selling records to encompass everything from touring, merchandise–even her make-up deal.

And here's a message for many traditionalists (particularly in Europe) on the importance of open access to material:
In fact, much of Gaga's audience got her music for free, and legally. They have listened to free streams—by the hundreds of millions—on YouTube and the other online services that Gaga currently leads, according to research firm BigChampagne. On MySpace, Gaga has had 321.5 million plays. By contrast, singer Susan Boyle tallied only 133,000 plays, despite scoring the No. 2 selling album of 2009.

This is particularly salient for law publishers. Legal journals in Europe continue with their outdated policies of preventing electronic access to articles without payment. They and their authors are the true losers because most of the really good stuff is available electronically for free on databases like SSRN, and scholars will ignore material that is not easily accessible when there are superior alternatives. Sensible authors are more interested in being read (and cited) and rarely submit to journals with closed access and contractual terms preventing them from uploading articles to free databases like SSRN. This battle was lost by US law journals many years ago, but I was shocked to find out recently that it continues in the UK. Given the low rankings that UK law journals hold, they do not have the ability to move the market, and must move with the times.

Back to Lady Gaga, on the changing music business:
The business needs more Gagas. The upheaval of the last decade has forced the major record companies to cut their work force by 60%, according to a recent report by the Recording Industry Association of America. Within the last week, dozens of Universal Music Group employees were laid off.

On the need to cater to a global audience:
RedOne, Gaga's primary producer, hails from Morocco and has an outsider's take on American music. "The songs have to be lyrically simple and easy to sing along to, even for people in the world who don't speak English," he says. Studio pros like Grammy-winning mixing engineer Manny Marroquin are being hired to replicate her chopping synths and densely-layered sound. "Everybody's saying, 'Make it like Gaga,' " he says.
Read the full article!