“Weird Al” Yankovic rose to fame in the 1980s when his satirical takes on popular songs simultaneously confused and amused top 40 music listeners. He’s sold approximately 15 million albums and won four Grammys without ever taking himself seriously. Here are four lessons you can learn from Weird Al.
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The man who made his bones mastering satirical clones with names like Eat It and Like a Surgeon did something amazing in 2014. His latest album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. It was his first number one title, and it came 30 years after he entered a recording studio for the first time.
Yanokovic couldn’t have achieved this triumph without maintaining relevance as a musician. He didn’t do this with his vast polka knowledge, either. Instead, he stayed informed on music trends. He knew exactly what was popular at the time, cleverly mixing his own style with popular songs like “Happy” by Pharrell.
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Beyond that, he also paid attention to the changing nature of music dissemination. When Weird Al started, MTV still played music videos. Today, the only way he could get on the channel is by staring on a reality show.
Yankovic adapted to changing marketplace behavior by releasing his videos in the perfect forums for them. Sites such as Nerdist and College Humor fit better with his style and his target audience. If he’d simply dumped a bunch of videos on YouTube, his new work wouldn’t have stood out. By marketing cleverly, people appreciated it as a memorable audio music recording.
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Historically, when Yankovic wanted to create a parody song and accompanying music video, he did so. He understood that United States copyright law protected his work. Over time, he became popular enough that he felt confident simply asking performers for their permission. TMZ even recorded video of one such encounter with pop star Iggy Azalea.
By setting up a licensing deal ahead of time, Yankovic provides incentive to the artists he is satirizing. They have a financial gain if his music does well. Since they have social media platforms that rival and, in many cases, dwarf his own, such agreements prove mutually beneficial to Yankovic and the original artist.
Music Is Forever
One of the strangest aspects of Yankovic’s bizarre career trajectory is what it represents. Take, for example, Azalea. She wasn’t even born in 1989. That’s the year that Yankovic starred in his own movie, UHF.
People born to her generation are still familiar with his work, because that’s the power of music. Once something becomes part of the culture, it gets played repeatedly. Children grow up learning about music production, whether it’s via an FM radio or a smartphone app. As one of the true survivors among performers from the 1980s, Yankovic now qualifies as a music statesman to an entire generation of new pop stars. They want him to parody their music, because they know it’s a demonstration of respect from one recording studio master to another.
“Weird Al” Yankovic has mastered many trades during his time as a famous recording artist. If you want to record similarly great music, follow the tips above, and then visit The Carriage House Connecticut recording studio to learn more about recording your own music.