Yesterday Lady Gaga hit 11 million followers on her Facebook page (congratulations, number 11,000,001, you get a two-minute shopping cart dash round her wardrobe). Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, as she is known to her mom and dad, is not the first artist who uses social media and the Internet to push her product to consumers, but she's the consummate performer of the medium. So it's worth comparing her to Prince, who yesterday proclaimed the Internet to be "dead."
Rumors of the Internet's demise are very much exaggerated, as all of you know. We are all users and abusers of it, amusing, educating and enriching ourselves often. So is Prince's pronouncement wild posturing guaranteed to get everyone talking? Probably—he's an artist who knows the power of shock (a concept Gaga is no stranger to, either).
This is not a post to say that Gaga is right, Prince is wrong. Granted, he's got serious issues with copyright and seems to view the Internet as a milking machine that will steal your ideas, your money, and probably your girlfriend into the bargain.
So, let's delve into the on- and offline presence of both artistes.
Prince has sold around 100 million records worldwide, according to his Wikipedia entry. Gaga, on the other hand, has managed 15 million in album sales, and 40 million single downloads. It's taken her a couple of years to do that—Prince, on the other hand, started in 1976.
Only the music Prince made while under contract to Warner Bros. is available on iTunes. But we know he's not a fan of the online store. "I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it," he said yesterday. Gaga's 40 million singles speak for themselves. Older artists, such as Pink Floyd may gripe about how their music should only be heard in album form (it's a journey, right?), but kids understand the power of a single.
Gaga's manager has admitted that the singer's music videos are made with YouTube in mind. And no wonder, with "Bad Romance" clocking over 240 million views on the site. Interscope, the singer's record label, takes most of what little revenue comes in, from pre- and post-roll advertising, and Gaga is left with the "boring" old rest.
You are more likely to find a rainbow-farting unicorn in your cutlery drawer than a Prince music video on YouTube. He's forced YouTube to remove all kinds of content with him—after Coachella a couple years back, his lawyers protested at his cover of Radiohead's "Creep." An intervention by Thom Yorke et al. ("It's our song, let people hear it.") allowed it to go back up.
On Facebook, compare and contrast Gaga's 11 million-plus, versus Prince's tragic community page with less than 250,000 followers. There is nothing but Prince's Wikipedia entry on it.
Gaga's got four million-plus Twitter followers (by her count). Closest we get to seeing Prince on the site is this (and it's obviously not him—I like to think he's a better speller than that, and, for a prolific artist, one tweet is not enough). He did, briefly, become a trending topic yesterday, however. A rather snarky, but very accurate tweet appeared: "Prince: 'The Internet is dead'. The Internet: 'Who?'"
After yesterday's storm, All Things D's Kara Swisher used the controversy as the peg for a thoughtful post on why the tech leaders can't work out a way to keep the talent happy. But as new media as Lady Swisha is, she forgets that some talent is very happy with the way things are. Because, if Gaga's monsters can create stuff like this that goes viral...
...compared to the sort of stuff you find when you're searching for Prince...
...then one can only feel sad that someone as dynamic and out-there as Prince once was is clinging to the idea that a small disc that reflects rainbows ("Whoah") is the only way forward.