gaga scratch

This, more-than-somewhat-fawning profile by Stephen Fry, of Lady Gaga, just appeared in the Financial Times. It has relatively little new to say to those reading the big Gaga profiles, but one bit caught my attention. I hadn’t heard that Gaga had financial difficulties on her first tour. Gaga relates that she was $3 million in debt after the extension of the tour, and Fry surmises it was due to her “perfectionism”–that she had a

habit of redesigning, reformatting and revising it from the ground up, all of which experiments and changes she paid for out of her own pocket…

What interests me is not this–relatively common–practice of overspending on production, nor the equally common expectation that headline performers (any performers, really) pay production costs for the tour out of recoupable advances or album/concert profits–but that a pop artist like Gaga would be such an inept business person. Gaga claims that “money means nothing to me” but it is clear that she didn’t overspend on purpose:

it was funny because I didn’t know! And I remember I called everybody and said, “Why is every­one saying I have no money? This is ridiculous, I have five number one singles”…

Gaga’s expectation that five number one singles would provide enough profit to cover constant changes to the staging of an arena tour–or that the profits would extend much beyond her…fixed costs, if you will (staff, standard arena production, travel, her share of promotions, care and feeding of the artist)…is just naive. Read any single music business guide and you’ll learn that artists make money from catalogue sales (selling albums over many years), from merchandise sales, and from personal appearances and the like. Not from record sales, not from concert ticket sales.

Gaga is fastidious about her craft–see Fry:

she works at every element of the discipline that contributes to her persona. The music and lyric writing, the dancing, the costuming, the whole schmear. With her famous team, “Haus of Gaga”, she plans every detail of every video, every album, every tour and the timing of every record release.

This fastidiousness is in stark contrast to her lack of attention to the books. I hope Gaga is not doomed to the same fate as other artists who have been similarly inattentive to learning the business of music.

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