Music has always been one of those few things in the world that has the power to bring together people from all walks of life. Some might say all you need is love. I say all you need is music. And beyond a little bit of talent, all musicians need is a great publicity team behind them.
Most artists who compose, write, or sing do not get famous – though that depends on your definition of fame. The music industry is incredibly competitive and few will make it onto the charts. For many, simply packing the local bar with fans on a Saturday night could be the pinnacle of success. What is it that catapults artists to superstardom? How do some artists bring together millions of fans, while others spend decades trying to get discovered?
Other than having the right people, being in the right place at the right time, or having the drive, motivation, and determination to ramble on through rejection after rejection, I think PR plays a more significant role than people realize.
An artist’s PR team can make or break them. Case in point? Look at the careers of superstars like Madonna or Britney Spears. How good are their PR machines? Look at today’s hottest artists – Lady Gaga or Kanye West might come to mind. What do they all have in common? They’re always in the news. Good or bad, they know how to dominate the media.
PR generates value far above and beyond album sales though. Once artists build an audience, they have influence. And influence, in any walk of life, is power. How many causes have consumers adopted because of the support of artists? Nobody would have known of the little red bracelet that represents Cabalism without Madonna, right? Madonna had reach and influence, so we learned.
Madonna and Britney Spears have stated that they knew exactly what and who they wanted to be at a young age. Both women wanted to be musicians, performers, and show-stoppers. With their drive and determination (and exposure to the right publicity team) their dreams have become a reality.
The public relations department in the music industry is known as the publicity team. The publicity team at a record label is the tight-knit team of smart, savvy, creative individuals who help create and build an image of an artist. This image will change from time to time as the artists grow and become better known throughout the world. But the main factor of the publicity team is to always keep the artist’s fans, asking and wanting more of the artist.
Making it big in the world of music is all about, the image you present to the audience. With the right elements in place, at the right time, with the right people, Madonna and Britney Spears were able to become notorious legends.
The similarities are oddly coincidental of Madonna and Britney’s publicity campaigns. Both women were the first artists, to emerge during the peak and rise of the genre of pop music.
Madonna’s career began when MTV Networks, initially launched, which today is the most recognizable media outlet for emerging artists. Britney emerged when pop music, was becoming the most popular genre of music in the 90s after rap had begun to decline. Both of the pop stars’ initial music videos appeared as innocent young ladies, but have an underlying hint of raw sexuality. This underlying sexuality presented by both artists is what gave them the spark they needed to have the world wanting more.
I believe the world likes innocent naivety, but when you can sense there is a mysterious side to someone, it feeds into you wanting more. That is exactly what both of their record labels relied on to keep their artists in the public eye.
Madonna’s music video “Like a Virgin”; she donned a white wedding dress and pranced around in a very sexual manner, opposite of what should be done in a wedding dress. She screamed controversy. She was pushing the lines of the original meaning of a crisp white wedding dress. The original symbol is purity and virginity, the Madonna symbol is controversy, and pure raw sexuality.
Britney Spears’s first video was “Hit me Baby One More Time”, where she tied up her catholic school girl outfit to show her midriff, and flaunt her chest. Both women eventually became endorsed by Pepsi. Only a true super-star would be able to attain such a lucrative endorsement deal.
Of course, being a superstar has its complications. The personal lives of both women have been filled with chaos, from the men they chose to date to the unplanned pregnancies. These unplanned events only brought more attention to the artists, which many times the fans and press became obsessive about both women’s personal lives and music careers.
Some of the events Madonna and Britney partake in were planned, some were not. However, any event that happened in either artist’s life was branded in such a manner by the publicity team, to bring attention to the artist. The innocent image of both women and then the polar opposite image of sexual and cutting-edge, both women have perfected. The two images are what may be known as a public relations dream campaign, and the press, the media, and the audience will never lose interest in either women’s personal or public lives.
I believe the record labels and publicity team of both the superstars, knew exactly how they were going to brand both women, and knew exactly that both these women would follow with the idea. The events, the endorsement deals, and the personal chaos of Madonna and Britney’s lives have turned them into superstars. Public relations and branding are the elements that turn ordinary artists, into living legends.
Editor’s Note: Jaqueline Akbarian was a participant in Journalistics’ first guest blogging internship program this past summer. She was one of several students to capitalize on the opportunity first announced in “Do You Need an Internship to Get a Job.” This is the second post-Jacqueline has written for Journalistics this summer.