Why You Couldn't Escape Weird Al's Marketing Blitz
People with internet connections have probably noticed a lot of Weird Al Yankovic songs popping up in their feeds lately.
Every day for the past seven days, the reigning king of pop parody has released a new music video, each produced in partnership with a different content studio or artist, to promote "Mandatory Fun," his first album in three years.
Some videos were produced with some of the largest content portals on the Internet, including College Humor, Funny or Die, Yahoo Screen and Nerdist, which worked on "Tacky," the star-studded parody of Pharrell's "Happy." Others, like "Word Crimes," were produced by independent artists like Jarrett Heather, whose work Mr. Yankovic admires.
In each case, the partner entity footed the bill for production, and in most cases gets to keep any ad revenue the video generates.
Today, the last video of the bunch, "Mission Statement," goes live, capping off a promotional push that's worked out tremendously well for an artist nearly 30 years into his career -- the videos have piled up more than 20 million views in just a week's time.
"I think I kind of stumbled on my formula for the future," Mr. Yankovic said.
Music videos have been tremendously important to Mr. Yankovic's career. His parodies of hits like Michael Jackson's "Bad" ("Fat") were mainstays on MTV during the '80s and '90s, and fan interest in that side of his work has endured; to date, Mr. Yankovic's Vevo channel has piled up more than a quarter billion views, or about a hundred million more than modern viral video masterminds OK Go.
So when Mr. Yankovic's label, RCA, informed him that it was unwilling to pay for videos to promote "Mandatory Fun," he realized he'd have to find partners willing to help create them instead.
He started looking early. So early, in fact, that when he reached out to the comedy content hub Funny or Die about partnering up on a music video, he didn't have any parody songs completed. In fact, he barely had any lyrics written.
"As soon as I had a concept for the song, I'd reach out," Mr. Yankovic said. "For the 'Sports Song' video, I think I might've at best had a demo.
Mr. Yankovic chose to work with numerous content partners rather than just one for a number of reasons.
"I've got relationships with lots of portals," Mr. Yankovic said. "I thought it would have overburdened one portal to be responsible for all of them."
"Not only is it sort of hedging my bets, but it allows me to involve as many people as possible."
Even though he didn't have a finished product ready, and even though he'd be sharing the work with lots of others, content providers lined up to work with Mr. Yankovic.
"He comes to the table with an incredible amount of credibility," said Aaron Borns, who handles Mr. Yankovic's marketing at RCA.
Not getting a cut of ad revenue is an arrangement that Mr. Yankovic is familiar with. He has never seen a dime of the ad revenue some of his most famous videos have generated now that they live on the web, and he never will. Those videos are the property of his label, RCA, and the label takes that ownership seriously.
"I get a cease and desist notice when I try to put my own videos on my YouTube channel," Mr. Yankovic said.
Moving forward, Mr. Yankovic said he will be looking to build a more robust video presence on his own YouTube channel.
But as he embarks on this next phase of digital content creation, would he consider producing songs or videos in partnership with a brand?
"I don't wanna draw a line in the sand and say I'd never do it," Mr. Yankovic said, "but that's nothing that I'd actively go after.
"Some bands that I respect quite a bit have done it," he continued, "and I don't think any less of them for it."