Mother Monster: How Lady Gaga Created Her Fame

In a recent study by web-based software company Vocus and digital analyst Brian Solis, the criteria for being an online “influencer” was tested and measured. 237 open-ended comments from respondents indicated that the respondents perceived the difference between influence and popularity as such: “Influence drives, motivates, is steadfast, and causes people to take action, while popularity is hip, perhaps amusing and wanes easily amid a fickle audience.” From very early in her career, Lady Gaga built an impregnable brand by choosing a set of values that she continues to stand for today. For example, she strongly believes in positivity and demonstrates this often to her fans by rejecting negative questions or connotations by the media. She also stands strong against bullying, a problem that she herself faced early in her life (this personal relationship with an issue adds strength and sincerity to her brand image). Though her fashion sense is quite eccentric, her clothing choices are powerful not just because of their strangeness but because of what they represent: being your truest self, and being proud to show everyone exactly who you are.

When asked a question at a Google seminar about her new song about this very subject, “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga said that, “Born this way is about saying this is who I am. This is who the fuck I am.” She went on to say that, “More importantly, the song Born This Way is this, like, gateway drug for the album and trying to say in the most literal and honest way that when I go to the monster ball, I see something so fearless and so special in my fans, but I also see something afraid, something that I was, something that was unsure. I really encourage people to look into the darkness and look into places that you would not normally look to find uniqueness and specialness because that’s where the diamonds are hiding.” These sound like the words of an influencer, not simply someone who is popular. She is fighting for her values, and fighting for her fans.

If you know exactly what your values are and you remain strong in the quest to portray them, chances are that many others will share similar values. This is where Gaga’s fame truly comes from. Just as the Grateful Dead created a culture and community of Deadheads, Gaga has created her massive community of “little monsters.” On the surface, little monsters appear to simply be crazy Lady Gaga fanatics that love her music. But they are so much more. The little monsters aren’t all that different from some infamous radical political groups, like the Nazis or the Soviet Union. They are a large group of people that radically believe in a similar set of values, and in this case, Lady Gaga has set those values in stone.

This is a road to fame that many artists have yet to take. However, it is arguable that Lady Gaga’s path to fame is really no different than anyone’s path to fame throughout history. Most artists who are still remembered today are known not simply because of their art, but because they represent something larger than their art—a system of beliefs, something to stand for. They were leaders of a community like the Grateful Dead, or they were leaders of a generation of political and moral thought like Bob Dylan was in the 60’s.

Gaga is no different. She simply has used different tools to achieve her fame, like the internet—Facebook, Twitter, social networking. And she’s lucky. She now has the power to mobilize her followers whenever and however she wants. Her little monsters network ( is essentially a gigantic home for anyone who believes in what the little monsters represent. According to, Lady Gaga will be releasing singles from her new album, “Born This Way,” through the online game “FarmVille.” also specified that roughly 46 million people worldwide play FarmVille every month, which “might be a social media jackpot for Gaga.” While Kennedy used TV to spread his message, Gaga will use Brilliant.

In the end, it’s not about Lady Gaga. It’s not about Lady Gaga’s music. Lady Gaga has simply turned herself into a leader of a pack, a vehicle for a message, a speaker for her community. She is the president of the little monsters. She is Mother Monster. If we all work diligently to establish our own value system and spread the message as part of our brand, maybe someday we can all become leaders who change the world through with our art.

MAKE YOURSELF FAMOUS: The New Music Industry Is Yours for the Taking

It’s probably safe to say that anyone reading this wants to achieve financial stability. Most of you want to be famous, whether you’ll admit it or not. Well I have some good and bad news.  The good news is that today I’m going to give you a way to almost guarantee financial stability and even greatly up your chances of achieving fame. The bad news is, it will take a lot of work on your part.

You’ve probably heard of the artist Moby. I recently watched a video of his in which he said that, “People are becoming a lot more self-reliant and autonomous, which I think is great. I think the actual quality of music has been a lot better because a lot of people are putting out records just for the love of putting out records and not hoping to sell millions of copies.” Moby is describing a key change in the way the music industry operates today. The typical path to recognition is now completely upside down.  The way it used to work is that you would cross your fingers and hope that the right agents, managers and labels picked up your music and made you a star. Today, you get to make yourself into a star. And Moby is right.  I think because of all the power that has been given back to the independent musician, music itself is becoming more high quality again.

So how do you make your career successful? The answer can be summed up in a few words: connect with people.  With the advent of social media, it is now easier than ever to find the most influential people in your industry and connect with them on a personal level. One of the biggest myths of social media is that you should go onto Facebook, Twitter or whatever medium you use and blast out information about what you do. How many of you have wanted to smash your computer with a bat simply because of all the event invitations you get on Facebook? Marketing has become much more about personal relationships.  As Seth Godin says, “You have to stop worrying about how to get one more fan and start worrying about how to please the fans that you already have.”

I like to think of it like going to a party.  If you go into the room with your chest held high and go from person to person bragging about your incredible talent and the wonderful awards you’ve won, you will have effectively by the end of the night created an angry mob of important people who hate you.  You don’t want to be “that guy.”  Instead, you want to be the guy who goes to a party and mingles with people. Be nice, be genuine and have a good time. Drummer Mark Schulman once said, “Try to leave every conversation with the person(s) that you are talking to feeling better about life and themselves.”  If you do this, by the end of the night, you’ll have a gigantic happy mob of people who want to spend more time with you and tell everyone about the cool new guy they met.

Up-and-coming artist Amanda Palmer raised over $1 million using Kickstarter.  How did she do it? She’s the life of the party. She spends up to five hours a day on Twitter and Facebook interacting with fans, making them all feel special, giving them free stuff and giving them opportunities to be part of her crew. When there is a group of cool people at a party, wouldn’t you love to go stand with them and be cool yourself? She gives everyone the chance to do this.

Marketer Ted Cohen said, “I did learn quickly that some of the things you might refer to as a digital stunt— getting a feature on MySpace music or getting a feature on iTunes— those things are all great individual moments, but if you don’t string them together correctly, it’s just a firecracker going off somewhere that doesn’t really mean anything.”  In other words, you can’t just expect fans to come to you and stick around when they see a big picture of your face in a magazine. That’s not how it works anymore. When people first notice you, you have to notice them too and you have to create a relationship with them, a personal one.

The world has become a word-of-mouth business, and social media is a giant party. So join the party, start schmoozing and leave everyone wanting MORE of YOU.

To conclude, use social media to make real, personal connections. Interact with people and track down influential onliners in your industry. If you spend 5 hours a day connecting with fans and striking up conversations that create NEW fans, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a devoted fan base. Even if it’s small, you’ll probably have enough fans to be financially stable. And if YOU work HARD, and dedicate a lot of time to making friends (i.e. fans), you might get even further than you could ever have imagined.

Advanced Ear Training – Relative Pitch Exercises Part 1

In this video, we will go through some advanced ear training exercises that will train your relative pitch to  a point where you no longer have any trouble learning songs by ear.  Many people do not understand that ear training, just like training any muscle in your body, is a process that requires diligence and persistence. However, in many ways, ear training is also easier than many people think. If music is a language, and music theory is grammar, then ear training is like opening up a dictionary and memorizing words. Learning to hear and remember new sounds is much like memorizing these new words that you are adding to your vocabulary.

The way this exercise works is that we go through a fairly tough series of chords. I give you the starting pitch of “C” and then you have to name the notes in the chord from bottom to top. This is tough ear training, so if you nail this you’re in great shape and you should have no problem learning music by ear!

If you found this post helpful, please go to the top right of the homepage and click “subscribe” in order to keep track of when new posts are added to the blog. Also, please comment with any questions or suggestions that you might have!

How to Improvise – Major Block Chords for Jazz Piano and Arranging

Here is another video about a key jazz tool for both pianists and arrangers called major block chords. Below you will find the video as well as a PDF of the block chord exercise written out in all keys. Don’t forget to go to the top right of the home page and “follow” the blog for more free info!

Free Sheet Music – Major Block Chords