Lady Gaga SXSW Keynote: After Doritos Sponsorship, Artists Shouldn’t Sell Out, but ‘Sell In’
By Shannon Carlin
Lady Gaga is a woman torn. She likes the power of being a pop star who can affect change in those around her, but does not care for all the corporate politics. Unless, of course, those same corporations can help her spread her message, then she’ll make an exception.
As a follow-up to her vomit-inducing performance at South By Southwest last night (March 13), Gaga sat down with Fuse’s John Norris for the festival’s keynote speech to talk about what it’s like being a major pop star and why in her heart she’ll always be that young struggling musician trying to navigate the New York City bar scene.
During the chat she also revealed a few bits of news. She’ll be releasing a new unspecified video next Saturday (March 22) and she’ll also unveil the custom stage built for her upcoming ARTPOP Ball, which kicks off on May 4 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, sometime next week. She also said there is a part two to ARTPOP, but she has no plans to release it any time soon. “It’s just fun to have records that me and my friends listen to that we don’t care about what anyone else thinks,” she said.
But the interview was really a vehicle for Gaga to express her differing views on music and commerce and how corporate sponsors fit into the mix. And sometimes how vomit can unite the two.
When asked why she invited renowned “vomit painter” Millie Brown to come puke up Mountain Dew on her while she played the ARTPOP track “Swine” last night, Gaga said she wanted to see what it could lead to, referencing other visionaries whose weird instincts eventually lead to greatness.
“Martin Luther King thought he could start a revolution without violence. Andy Warhol turned soup cans into art,” she explained. “Sometimes things that are really strange, really wrong, can change the world.”
“Not saying vomit will change the world,” she said smiling. “But the idea, that moment where it’s truly what we wanted to create and do to gain respect as artists, is enough to be worth it.”
Gaga isn’t one to follow the rules–she noted that even when she was a school girl she never liked having her skirt measured–and would like to free herself of the status quo. “The truest way for us to obtain the music industry,” she announced, “is to put the power back into the hands of the artists.”
Which, leads to the question, how can Gaga team up with a corporate entity like Doritos? Well, according to Mother Monster, the brand is different because they get what she’s trying to do, which Gaga made clear by telling a story about the CEO of Frito-Lay coming to see her after the show, crying over how great it was, vomiting and all.
Gaga also said that Doritos offered to donate money to her Born This Way Foundation. The singer chose not to directly address the recent allegations that her foundation isn’t giving back much at all during this speech. Perhaps, because she made her feelings clear yesterday, via her social networking site.
She did however have some strong words for those who have bashed her for teaming up with the brand, explaining they “don’t know f–k about the state of the music industry.” Later remarking, she’d done her time on the club scene: “Nobody f–king knows how many clubs I’ve played. How much p–s I’ve stepped in.”
For her, it’s okay to team up with corporate sponsors as long as she shares the same philosophy as the company in question. Gaga, does in fact, strive to be as bold as Doritos. Both the nacho cheese and the Cool Ranch kind.
“Truth is,” she told the crowd, “without sponsorship, without companies coming together, we wouldn’t have these festivals. Record labels don’t have any f–king money.”
After saying all this, Gaga returned to her idea of “creative rebellion” urging young artists to not let any record label tell them how to be a star. They need to rely on their talent, and their talent alone, to get by.
“At the end of the day, nobody’s going to remember what you tweeted when you die. Nobody’s going to remember your web content for the week,” she said. “What people are going to remember are those magical moments, which you helped create by bringing the artist community together to breed compassion and love.”
Mother Monster made it clear throughout her speech that what you see is what you get. No one will tell her how she will look or act. Especially, if they’re telling her to be more like Katy Perry. “My music’s so different,” Gaga said of the Perry comparisons. “I don’t fit in pop music. I came in through it, but I like to think I changed it in some way. Made you all feel like you don’t have to fit into the mold.”
Gaga’s always fought against her critics. Those who said her show was too gay or that she needed to look more beautiful. “I refuse to compromise. I refuse to have my talent monetized. I will stop, quit, retire from the commercial market if I can’t be myself,” she said, quickly adding. “I will be myself ’til they f–king close the coffin.”
In the end, Gaga decided to leave the SXSW crowd with a bit of advice. “Be careful what type of business you’re selling,” she said. “If you’re selling anything other than talent, anything other than good songs, you’re in the wrong business.”
“Don’t sell out to this business, sell in.”