Lady Gaga vs. Katy Perry: Fall's Pop-Star Showdown
This story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A coming showdown pits Universal Music Group against itself as two global pop stars under one corporate roof vie for bragging rights. Lady Gaga's ARTPOP album is due Nov. 11 on UMG's Interscope label, three weeks after Katy Perry's Prism is released Oct. 22 via UMG's Capitol Music Group.
While both stars made their debuts in 2008, their standing has seesawed in recent years, with Perry overtaking Gaga for the most Twitter followers in July and outselling Gaga's Born This Way by 700,000 units (Perry's Teenage Dream has a to-date tally of 4.6 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan). Gaga counts more YouTube views and Facebook Likes, but her new single "Applause" trails Perry's "Roar," which sold 557,000 digital tracks its first week, by about 339,000 units ("Roar" comes in at No. 2 on this week's Billboard Hot 100 chart; "Applause" lands at No. 6).
Having two marquee acts roll out new music simultaneously can be tricky. Although marketing and promotion budgets are not shared across labels, there is competition for shelf space in big box stores and for radio play. There are bound to be "interesting conversations within the company," notes Jim Donio, president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), as release dates and TV spots "have to be navigated." (Both will appear Aug. 25 on MTV's Video Music Awards.) But ultimately, the double dose of star power is a good thing, he argues, because "it becomes larger than the sum of its parts. It becomes an event."
Event-izing the showdown could help fix early buzz. "Neither tune is a blockbuster," says DJ Angie C of Boston station Mix 104.1. "Gaga's lyrics seem thrown together. Katy's song is very catchy but so similar to Sara Bareilles' 'Brave' that it seems an odd choice to release as a first single. ... I expect more from both artists and hope these are just appetizers and not the main course."