How Lady Gaga's One Billion YouTube Views Changes the Music Industry


The Influence Project

Which metric more fully captures Lady Gaga's global superstardom: the 15 million albums she's sold to date, or the one billion views she reached this week on YouTube?

Though CDs are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, replaced by digital music, physical album sales still remain the gold standard for the industry. Isn't it time that metric is updated to include the wealth of ubiquitous digital platforms? "The notion of tracking sales and correlating that to success is a bit antiquated," says Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff. "There's no single indicator you can look at now—you must look at everything."

That means measuring not just physical but digital album and single sales, and pulling data from a variety of non-traditional platforms. The record industry must track downloads on iTunes and Amazon, fans on Facebook, followers and mentions on Twitter, streams on Pandora and MySpace, views on Vevo and YouTube and MTV, ticket sales on Ticketmaster—to name a few.

"When you look at Lady Gaga hitting a billion views, I think that's a very positive wake-up call for the industry—that we need to think about the metrics of success differently," says Joe Fleischer, CMO of media measurement firm Big Champagne. The Beverly Hills-based company recently developed Billboard rankings for the digital age. Called the Ultimate Chart, Big Champagne culls data from as many digital portals as possible to provide a more real-time portrait of an artist's success.

"The right way to understand success is to include all of those points of contact that are meaningful into the charting environment," explains Fleischer. "Just look at gold and platinum awards from the RIAA. When an artist like Disturbed reaches No. 1, are they now bigger than Taylor Swift? No. It means for just that one week they've sold more albums. It's one component of success, but it does not give a consistent, undistorted view of the market."

Indeed, after one week atop the Billboard charts, it's common for artist sales to plummet 60% to 80%. But that doesn't mean their success or popularity has experienced such a drop. Fans still watch videos on Vevo; they buy tickets for concerts; they follow artists on Twitter and post messages about them on Facebook. In other words, the artists are still relevant, regardless of their position in the Top 100 physical album sales.

It is those rankings which have become irrelevant.

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  • vidal4senate

    With 16,000 Youtube views for 1 song (here comes the night), I have a smaller community of music addicted YT tribe members but I internetwork faster, lighter, with all due respect for another MTV star (with an unique beauty!).

  • max

    Austin, I feel for you and others like you. BUT, until creators learn about unity these things (peer2peer file-sharing) will be siphoning off our lifeblood (creativity) forever. They (the p2p community) are smarter about technology than those that think ‘blocking of sorts’ will ever be productive.
    Brazil has got it right. They are in the midst of monetizing peer2peer on the Internet.
    DataRevenue.Org has got it right. They are in the midst of monetizing peer2peer via MMS.
    Now ask yourself…have we supported any of these initiatives to monetize p2p in any form? Oh but no - let’s block them and just discard the largest marketplace known to man.
    So there you go. This is the real problem. New revenue streams from new systems don’t just pop up. You’ve got to get smart and fight for these things!

  • Gwen Holt

    I agree that monetizing p2p is the way to go. Wouldn't it be nice if the whole globe could get united about it? One method, one software ...

  • Michael Senchuk

    Totally agree in terms of "popularity" or whatever term you'd like to use. At the end of the day, though, the artist and their label both want the all-mighty dollar. Perhaps we should start tracking $$$, like we do for movies, rather than physical or digital album sales. One number, total dollar sales for that artist, including albums, individual songs, officially-licensed merchandise, and concert sales. Now *THAT* would be interesting.

  • Gwen Holt

    I totally agree. Add up the total dollar sales to get the big picture -- the real financial picture -- and to compare apples to apples.