Lady Gaga is pulling no punches. The pop diva went on Oprah’s Next Chapter early this year to denounce all further ties with the media, saying that she will not entertain any more media enquiries, questions and photos. For someone with more than 24 million Twitter followers, she clearly needs no interviews or news articles to promote anything: she even has her own social network now to share news – albeit in a Pinterest-like style – to her legions of Little Monsters.
Her Singapore appearances were also go-miss opportunities. First, there was news of a photocall for select media (we were one of them), then rumours about her flight time came up before flight time went hush-hush and the photocall was cancelled by Gaga’s management. Following that, rumours of a press conference began circulating and Twitter went crazy with retweets, only to have her record label representatives in Singapore deny such an incident happenning. So, photgraphers desperate for a glimpse of a picture were left with only one option: stake out Changi Airport’s elite airport terminal JetQuay and wait for Gaga to appear in her car. What happened was a rarity in Singapore media: photographers clamouring for every single angle they could find of Gaga, with the hunger only served for the most seasoned of paparazzi. Some Little Monsters went berserk, with one wearing a pink shirt allegedly hitting his Gaga calendar on her head in the car. However, a few fans spotted Gaga looking a little different, with one speculating that the one in the car was her makeup artist made to dress up like her so Gaga could escape via another route once tailgating her decoy began.
Wait, I’m not done.
Gaga was then sighted heading towards Mandarin Oriental and the media caught wind. Photographers rushed down the scene and began furiously snapping as her car made its way into the hotel drop-off. Gaga had her burly bodyguards to thank for helping to manoeuvre past the shutters into the hotel. One of her dancers tweeted a picture overlooking Marina Bay Sands and the Float at Marina Bay, which confirms the hotel stay. Fans began tweeting the next day that Gaga had been moved to another secret location “for security reasons”. (It was widely rumoured that she stayed at the Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa. Ironically, she kept tweeting about a bird’s chirping during her stay here.) The New Paper released a scathing article about the supposed frustration many Gaga fans experienced due to her now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t appearances.
Wrong. The media were talking about themselves, even if they did so unkowingly.
Think about this: if you had a legion of dedicated followers on Twitter and are one of the most powerful people in the world, who needs some random news organisation to publicise your stuff? Madonna realised it, and only promoted her current album MDNA by social media and a Facebook live video chat with Jimmy Kimmel. The media has a knack for being excessively intrusive in the veil of professionalism and the responsibility of letting the people know – even if snapping Mark Wahlberg hanging out on his hotel’s baclony in his underwear is a quasi-bastion of journalistic pride for Just Jared and Jezebel.
Gaga made what was seen as an irrational move at first: no media near me, I’m going to do my own promotions because I don’t need you to do it for me. She took ownership of her own brand. She cannot stop the media from talking (including this article), but she could go one-up: she could frustrate the media. By limiting what they know and what they don’t, even the most docile of media will spring into action to get something, anything that will supposedly help generate sales and pageviews. It may seem subversive, but Gaga was playing one of the oldest marketing strategies in the book: if you can’t beat ’em, cut ’em off and do you. Monopolistic, one may say, but that was how early media succeeded anyway, isn’t it? Gaga stood up and is now her own media brand.
When frustrating the media isn’t enough, grab a mirror
Foiling the media’s plans can go to some extremes. In Hong Kong, the media were not given review passes at all – some had to buy tickets to watch the show to review it. Gaga’s intellect and slightly creepy wit proves strong once again: by taking away all the privileges and perks of being part of the medium responsible for reportage and chronicles, the media were essentially being stripped of their veil of professionalism. Suddenly, having 100 reporters and camera crew was not important anymore. Your media company was of no value, your standing in the community snatched away and you were reduced to being a (dare I say it) commoner. Yes, the bloke who calls himself a “journalist” now has to stand in line and buy tickets. Just like a fan. A cryptic way for Gaga and her team to say: “If you want to review my show that much, why don’t you queue up like everyone else and buy a ticket? If you really want to see it, I’m sure you’re a fan, right? Don’t fans buy to support artistes?” There really is no such thing as a free lunch in Gaga’s world – not even her meat dress was going to be for Thanksgiving dinner.
Singapore is somewhat lucky. Only selected media got 1 review pass to review the concert (we were not one of them). No photography is allowed and no event photos will be e-mailed to the media the next day. The publicist advised media personnel to “bring their own fancam”, according to a few reporters. That’s right: who cares if you have a flashy pass belonging to one of the biggest media companies in the country? You had better stand amongst the masses, take out your bloody camera and goddamn shoot whatever you goddamn had too. (Bet Gaga would have cursed more if she had said that statement.) It is degenerate to think that not only do the media not get any pre-event opportunities to latch on to public buzz, they were now reduced to a single person blending into the crowd. At face value, they could be a fan. An avid concertgoer. Your mother, maybe. What is certain is how vaguely amusing such a scene many be. Take a look left and right, and suddenly not having a media pass as a badge of honour matters when fans are all decked out in costumes and look like they clearly made more effort than a sad reporter grappling with the age-old mantra of reporting what fans already know about the event.
All this may sound highly dramatised and inflicted with a tinge of pain, but the ugly truth is what Gaga might be alluding to: that the media only need to be reductive to bring out the nosey parker behind the camera/pen/tablet PC/choice of medium to inflict linguistic prowess upon. Imagine Gaga doing Step 1 of frustrating the media, then taking a huge mirror and shining it on people with over 10 years of experience scrambling helter-skelter for bits and pieces of a story gone wrong. Then, Little Monsters on the outside get to peer into the chaos and laugh at the sheer stupidity of the situation, while Gaga affirms once again that she did the right thing. For years of being mocked upon, taunted, doubted and torn apart by a salacious media doubting her songs to her sexuality, now was the time to turn the spotlight on the newsroom and make them tomorrow’s headline. Paws up.
Do it like everyone else: organically and without self-importance
Pardon the somewhat ironic sub-headline (considering we would like this article to be somewhat important) but it is exactly the changing face of the way in which artistes interact with fans and generate sales that are beginning to make the media less relevant as fanbases grow stronger and m0re independent. Twitter user @per_phat_ion has some very intelligent conclusions about Gaga’s actions based on what she’s seen and heard, and in a community of saturated fans, would you trust an informed fan or an irrelevant newspaper article? Pictures are being shared around social media, hashtags are bounced back and forth and news breaks within seconds. Wait for the media to reproduce a Reuters article the next day? Screw it. Fans want the news now, and they will only wait for a few seconds to get their fix on Twitter. So, now what? Should entertainment titles just pack up and leave?
No, not really.
Spin or Bin Music did what the media outlet of the future should look to endeavour in doing: be part of the organised chaos. By not separating themselves from the fans, they were able to interact directly with Singapore fans through social media, give them tipoffs to Gaga sightings and essentially be their right-hand man from the moment Gaga landed to the moment she said au revoir. We did hear the voice of a very passionate Little Monster behind the newsblog’s Twitter account (we guess it could be writer Dyan Hidayat) but Spin or Bin Music made no mistake that they were not privy to an entitlement that separated themselves from the masses. They took control of the fact that Gaga was only going to pander to fans, so fans they became. They served the loyal Monsters with as much excitement and heart as Gaga would have done.
You may question a media outlet’s objectivity by transforming to be part of the organic equation. We live in an age where discernment is strong: people can tell if you are pulling a fast one under the rug. For dedicated fans, they make no mistake that editorially-independent opinions are important but what gets them talking is when 1) they vehemently disagree with an opinion, or 2) they feel connected to a media organisation that understands them. It does not take away the fact that news and opinion can still stand on its own, but a media outlet that stands by its audience and does not throw a tantrum when asked to shirk their pedestal will see gains. Self-importance is healthy, but being one with an audience is an important trait that Lady Gaga has taught all media: you cannot live alone if all that is going to be perpetuated is a distance from the fans.
Lady Gaga continues her world tour through Australasia and will begin her Europe, South America and North America tour legs in August 2012, end 2012 and January 2013 respectively.
Featured image: Splash News