Elizabeth Woolridge Grant and her cat on the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine – finally…

My pussy taste like Pepsi-Cola, my eyes are wide like cherry pies. I got a taste for men who’re older. It’s always been, so it’s no surprise.   -Lana del Rey, Cola (Pussy)

20140714-lana-x600-1405357494Elizabeth Woolridge Grant (born June 21, 1986), known by her stage name Lana Del Rey, is an American singer-songwriter. Del Rey started singing at the age of 18 and signed her first recording contract with 5 Points Records in 2007, releasing her first digital album Lana Del Ray in January 2010. Del Rey bought herself out of the contract with 5 Points Records in April 2010. She signed a joint contract with Interscope, Polydor, and Stranger Records in July 2011.

Del Rey released her second studio album Born to Die in January 2012. It debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200, and was the fifth best-selling album of 2012. A remix of its fifth single “Summertime Sadness”, produced by Cedric Gervais, became her highest-charting track on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 after peaking at number six in the country. Del Rey released her third extended play Paradise that November; three of its tracks were featured in her short film Tropico, which was premiered in December. Her third studio album Ultraviolence was released in June 2014 and debuted as number one on the Billboard 200. Pop critics referred to her as the new queen of pop.

Del Rey’s music has been noted for its references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of the 1950s and 1960s Americana. The singer has described herself as a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra”. Musically, she draws influence from what she deems to be the masters of each genre, including Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Nirvana, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen, and Britney Spear.

After uploading a few of her tracks to her YouTube channel, Del Rey was discovered and signed by Stranger Records to release her debut single “Video Games”. She told The Observer, “I just put that song online a few months ago because it was my favourite. To be honest, it wasn’t going to be the single but people have really responded to it.” The song earned her a Q award for “Next Big Thing” in October 2011 and an Ivor Novello for “Best Contemporary Song” in 2012. The same month, she signed a joint deal with Interscope Records and Polydor to work on her second studio album Born to Die.

Del Rey built anticipation to the album by doing a number of live appearances, such as promotional concerts at the Bowery Ballroom and at the Chateau Marmont, and with performances at television shows such as De Wereld Draait Door, and Later… with Jools Holland.

Del Rey also performed two songs from the album on Saturday Night Live on January 14, 2012 and received a negative response from critics and the general public. Del Rey’s performance was defended by the evening program’s guest host, actor Daniel Radcliffe, despite not having seen her performance. She had earlier defended her spot on the program, saying: “I’m a good musician […] I have been singing for a long time, and I think that [SNL creator] Lorne Michaels knows that […] it’s not a fluke decision.” The following week on SNL, Kristen Wiig impersonated Del Rey where she humorously defended herself during Weekend Update. When asked how long she was able to enjoy her success before she started receiving backlash, Del Rey said “I never felt any of the enjoyment. It was all bad, all of it.”

Born to Die was officially released on January 31, 2012 worldwide, and reached number one in 11 countries, though critical reaction was divided.The same week, Del Rey said that she bought back the rights to her 2010 debut album, and had plans to re-release it in the summer of 2012 under Interscope Records and Polydor.Contrary to Del Rey’s press statement, her previous record label and producer David Kahne have both stated that she bought the rights to the album when she and the label parted company, due to the offer of a new deal, in April 2010. Born to Die sold 3.4 million copies in 2012, making it the fifth-best-selling album of 2012. In the United States, Born to Die charted on the Billboard 200 album chart well into 2012, lingering at number 76, after 36 weeks on the chart.

Most of her fans who bought the album were (are?) teenagers. After all, if Elizabeth Woolridge Grant was “born to die” why not trying to get banged against the American flag and leave this planet satisfied.  Who wouldn’t do it?

It was all about  “fantasy” and “dreams” what made Elizabeth Woolridge Grant a narcissist and self-centered singer, one that thinks “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn’s my mother. Jesus is my best friend. We don’t need nobody ’cause we got each other, or at least I pretend.”

She has been described as a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra” and “Lolita lost in the hood”and her music has been noted for its references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of 1950s and ’60s Americana.  Del Rey has also been called “a torch singer of the internet era” and “the anti-Gaga.” Born Lizzy Grant, Del Rey has attributed her work to various stage names including Lana Rey Del Mar, Sparkle Jump Rope Queen, and May Jailer. Settling on Lana Del Rey, the singer claims she selected the name because it was beautiful. First mention of the name Lana Del Rey came from her Spanish-speaking Cuban friends. Following in the shadow of artists like Prince and David Bowie, Del Rey chose her musical identity because it “reminded [her] of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue.”

Drama Queen Del Rey has stylized her musical sound as “Hollywood sadcore”. Time said the solid core of her sound was “movie music”, with a fairy-dusting of harp and an ominous timpani, laid out over-top a hip hop vocal cadence. Her vocal style has been likened to rap. Of Born to Die, indie music journal Drowned in Sound wrote, “She likes that whole hip hop thing though, has this whole swagger thing going that not many women singers like her got,” adding that it sounded like a poppier Bond soundtrack. In “National Anthem”, “Off to the Races,” and “Diet Mountain Dew”, Del Rey employs this alternative rapping technique. Under the stage name Lizzy Grant, she called her music “Hawaiian glam metal”, while the work of her May Jailer project was acoustic. Attributed to many genres, Del Rey’s sound has been primarily linked to indie and pop, and experiments with hip hop and trip hop genres.

Ultraviolence is the third studio album by Del Rey, released on June 13, 2014 by Interscope and Polydor Records. Despite originally dismissing the possibility of releasing another record after her major-label debut Born to Die (2012), Del Rey began planning its follow-up in 2013. Production continued into 2014, at which time she heavily collaborated with Dan Auerbach to revamp what she initially considered to be the completed record. The project saw additional contributions from producers including Paul Epworth, Greg Kurstin, and Rick Nowels.

Ultraviolence received positive reviews from music critics, who commended its cohesiveness and overall production — as well as the number of copies sold. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 182,000 copies, becoming Del Rey’s first number-one album on the chart and the best-selling debut week of her career. Ultraviolence was preceded by the digital release of four singles, “West Coast”, “Shades of Cool”, “Ultraviolence”, and “Brooklyn Baby”.

After the release of Born to Die in 2012, Del Rey dismissed the idea of releasing another album, because she had “already said everything [she] wanted to say.”  However, by February 2013, Del Rey had started work on an album saying, “It’s a little more stripped down but still cinematic and dark. I’ve been working on it really slowly but I love everything I’ve done. I’ve been writing in Santa Monica and I know what the record sounds like. Now I just have to finish it. Musically I’ve worked with the same three guys.” She mentioned that one of the songs off the album would be called “Black Beauty”. When the demo version leaked in July, Del Rey stated “I do feel discouraged, yeah. I don’t really know what to put on the record. But I guess I could just put them on and see what happens. Each time I write… I’ll never write a song if I don’t think it’s going to be perfect for the record.” She also stated that she was writing “low-key and stripped back” songs and was working with Dan Heath, her boyfriend Barrie-James O’Neill and that she wanted to work with Lou Reed.

In October, Del Rey said about the prospect of a new album, “When people ask me about it, I just have to be honest — I really don’t know. I don’t want to say, ‘Yeah, definitely — the next one’s better than this one,’ because I don’t really hear a next one. My muse is very fickle. She only comes to me sometimes, which is annoying.”

 Ultraviolence is definitely Del Rey’s best album so far, and has put her on the cover of the Rolling Stone Magazine. As usual, RS refers to women pop singers as “rockers”,  labeling Del Rey as a “rock diva”.  It seems like the RS critic did not had the time to do his homework, but just looked at the number of copies sold.


The Truth About Mainstream Success

Music Clout

Ever wonder why so many artists become one hit or one album wonders? Music consumers over the past decade have adopted the idea that the majority of artists are brought to fame using the “boy band” formula. This formula that label executives simply have an idea of an artist molded, find the talent to fill the requirements, and then easily market them to make lots of money sounds like a wonderful idea. However, that rarely is the way that an artist reaches fame. Unless the artist is connected to an already established celebrity, there is a long and sometimes strenuous journey that lies ahead of them and their business partners. This journey is known as the pipeline of events that must happen in making any ordinary musician with recorded songs into a successful main stream well-known artist.

There are many departments and people who will work hard on the development of a successful artist. Much like the many parts used in putting a car together on an assembly line, each part of the music industry pipeline must be properly put in place and work well in order for the ending product to be productive. A new artist, much like a successfully put together new car, must be then well maintained and closely cared for in order for success to continue. If any steps are skipped in the development process or with maintenance, failure is likely to happen. This of which is quite common. Hundreds of artists a year are attempted to be marketed and brought to fame, but fail due to missing or malfunctioning parts in the pipeline.

In this pipeline there is the Artist, Artist and Repertoire, Marketing, Distribution, Retail, Publicity, and Media personnel, all of which are working to get the artist efficiently to the consumer. Each member of the pipeline needs to stay well informed, and aware of the current status of the developing artist. Any malfunction in the communication process could lead to failure. Even Jimmy Iovine, chairmen of Interscope Records once said “if this company (Interscope) is about anything, its about discipline and staying focused”.

The first step an upcoming artist must take is to get noticed. There are millions of bands in the United States, from little jam bands who have never played in public, to huge top selling artists that are featured on covers of Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines. On a yearly basis, each of the major record labels and their imprint labels (Sony, EMI, Universal, and Warner) receive over 10,000 demos of aspiring artists. Of these 10,000 artists, only between 5 to 40 of them will actually be signed. The job of finding and sifting through these artists would go to the Artist and Repertoire person or team, depending on the size of the business. Since the 1960’s, it has been the sole purpose of the A&R personnel to research artists, go watch the artist perform, talk with the artist, the artist’s manager if they have one, and get an overall feel for them. The A&R person is looking for an artist that shows potential to be able to endure the process of becoming a successful part of a label’s roster. These attributes include, having an already stable fan base and marketability at the grass roots level, some sort of history in successful touring and recorded music, and the overall determination to cooperate and work hard with all the departments in the pipeline. The last point is very important. This being because once the A&R person finds an artist they believe is worth their time, they then must work hard in convincing the label executives they work for, and every member of the pipeline that this musician will be an asset to the label.

Looking from the artist’s point of view, the search to getting signed is a grueling and nerve racking process also. Some artists get so caught up in the idea of being signed that they will do anything to get a record deal. Many young aspiring musicians, who haven’t had any experience in the industry and are naive to contracts, sometimes find themselves with the record deal that has a ball and chains attached. Kevin Czinger, the founder of Volcano Entertainment said “In this business, the first rule is, never act out of desperation, because there is always someone out there looking to sucker you.” Many bad contracts will take away all rights of the artist to their music, and leave them with little to no credit or money for their hard work. But let’s say an artist was spotted by an A&R person from a credible label, was offered a decent record deal, and they accepted.

Now with that process over, the real path to success begins. From the A&R department the artist is handed over to the marketing team. The marketing team has the biggest steps to take in getting the artist up and going. The marketing team will analyze what the artist has to offer, what they have already accomplished, and what they are capable of in the near future. The marketing team is responsible for making the artist seem extremely appealing to distributors, retailers, radio and other media. The biggest factor in making an artist look like an asset is to show that they will make the business money. For retailers money means the artist will bring in sales and increase store customers, while for radio it means that the artist being in rotation will increase listeners. For other media like magazines newspapers, and online outlets it means the artist will create a buzz, and increase readers, hits and again sales. The marketing team can always make the artist seem more appealing by giving incentives to the businesses by adding deals, discounts, and promotions if they agree to take on the artist.

While the marketing team is working hard, they will usually hire an image consultant to work with the artist or band on creating an image that will catch the eye of their demographic. Ever since the debut of MTV and large color music magazines, the image and style of musicians has become one of the most valuable and important selling points. Many artists will despise yet go along with image changes and adopt certain character traits to fully create the persona their label and image consultant believe will work best for them.

Once an artist has their image ready and a solid album recorded, the next step is to physically get the artist out to the public. This process is much more difficult than most would think. It involves an important middleman, the distributor. Most major labels have a distributor of their own, and many smaller labels as well as independent labels, will rely on the distributors of the majors because it is not an easy job. When a label has a completed album they will send the master to a duplication factory with an order of how many pressings they need. That factory will then pass the CDs on to the distributor. The sole job of the distributor is to hold the albums safely in their warehouse and to efficiently ship out albums when a retailer requests them It comes back to the marketing department whether or not there will be a demand from the retailers for the albums. If no stores want the albums they will sit in the warehouse collecting dust and the label as well as the artist will loose a lot of money.

It becomes very apparent how closely linked each department in the pipeline is and how much one effects the success of another. Now the demand from the retailers, that is go greatly wanted, will depend on the overall success and growing popularity of the artist in the public spotlight. A retailer will not buy a bunch of CDs from an artist just for them to sit on their racks, take up shelf space, and eventually make the effort to send them back. (In which, yes, retailers have the right to send back albums that do not sell, and for a full refund too.) Therefore a buzz in the media that is reaching the consumers must be on going. No matter how big of a scale or little of a scale the label is working on, the artist should be doing interviews for press, magazines, and newspapers on whichever level they are in. For example if a major label is working with the artist on a big budget, appearances and interviews could be done on widely known media outlets like SNL, Billboard Magazine, late night shows and big radio stations. For a smaller budget and label, local newspapers, smaller magazines, and college radio stations should be having coverage, as well as an efficient online campaign.

The media is a very important factor in an artist’s success in the mainstream world of technology today. A growing attribute in media has been the Internet. The Internet has become the most popular medium for consumers to receive information as well as find music and videos. This transition has also brought the record industry into a different realm for the first time since physical recordings could be mass-produced. The digital recording or the mp3 originally gave the record industry a big scare with significant decreases in sales. This was due to large amounts of illegal downloading, allowing consumers who usually would have paid anywhere from 15 dollars to 25 dollars for a CD, acquiring the same material completely for free. This left the record labels with less income from sales and many distributors piling up returned or unsold albums. The industry has since found ways to use technology to receive a handful of new streams of revenue. Sales in cell phone ring tones, online mp3 stores, such as iTunes and Amazon as well as many online streaming radio formatted stations have become extremely helpful in making up for lost sales. Atlantic Records back in 2007 even announced that, “more than half of its music sales in the United States are now from digital products, like downloads on iTunes and ring tones for cellphones.”

The online streaming stations like Last FM, Pandora, and AOL Radio offer thousands of popular as well as upcoming artists for consumers to listen to and also offer spotlights and capabilities of purchasing songs listeners like. Along with the Internet buzz importance of an artists personal website as grown as well.

Two departments, some that work right within the label, and some who are independent and work on retainer for a label are the Promotion and Publicity companies. Both of these companies are two more important factors deep within the pipeline. The job of a Promotion company is to get radio stations to add artist songs to their rotation. In theory, but not always, it is suspected that a largely played artist on the radio will bring in lots of revenue by touring. The publicity company has what could be a never-ending job. Their duty is to dish out human interest stories, some a little stretched from the truth, and enlarge the public buzz of an artist. As an artist becomes more famous the demand for insight into their lives and their background will grow. Sometimes like we have seen in cases like Britney Spears, the demand can grow to an unacceptable level.

If every member of the pipeline has worked hard and the artist has received a profitable release of an album, a following of more singles being released and music videos will usually occur. Along with a successful release will also usually come a large tour with big ticket sales. Once all of this has happened, the artist and the label will then turn into the maintenance part of the pipelines job. Maintenance is a crucial part in any artists career and will indefinitely determine the longevity as well as the stability of it. Along with this new success an upcoming artist will experience a change in personal relationships with friends and family as well as adapt to the new relationship with their newly found fans. Artists will work closely with their publicist as promotions team to make sure everything stays on track.

Soon after the tour or even sometimes during, the artist will start to work on their next album due to the fact that most contracts bind the artist to a three to four album contract. In most cases this is to ensure that royalties are being paid and all recoupables have been fulfilled. Recoupables are the monies that an artist owes back to the label. The majority of albums will cost thousands of dollars start to finish. The label will pay for everything upfront, but once revenue from the album starts to come in, the artist will usually not receive any more money until all the debt has been paid. In the meantime the artist will usually have received an advance of money when signing the record deal and hopefully was smart enough to ration the spending of the money until they could ensure the album would be profitable.

Royalties are monies earned from songs or sound recordings that will come in from many sources like CD sales, digital sales, and synchronization to commercials and movies. Royalties are given to the entity with the copyrights to a song. In most cases the label will demand that they hold ownership of all songs recorded; however many musicians that are also songwriters will fight for their right of ownership to their music. The RIAA, the Record Industry Association of America is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry in Washington. Their mission is to manage and enforce US copyright laws and to make sure the owners are receiving the proper income. Almost 90% of all professional sound recordings produced and sold in the United States have been created, manufactured or distributed by RIAA members.

The function of maintenance will be ongoing for the rest of the artist’s career. They must now keep a good relationship and work with their managers, publicist, and label to sustain a solid career and credible view from the public. Main stream success is almost impossible to reach and even more impossible to maintain through the years, with so many eyes watching, people pulling for their side to have the biggest say, and struggle over rights, it is definitely not a joke. As your grandmother always said be careful what you wish for!