3 Chart-Topping Lessons from “Weird Al”

It was great to see this morning that one of my personal heroes and role models, “Weird Al” Yankovic, officially has his first #1 album after 30 years in the music business.

Mandatory Fun” is topping the Billboard Charts after Al’s #8songs8days campaign.

Of course I love “Word Crimes”

But my favorite is “Foil” because of the surprise mid-song twist:

The projections I had seen indicated that he would hit #1 if he sold 80,000 albums in the first week; he blew past that with 104,000.

What lessons can we take from this?

  1. There’s no substitute for great content. Al is a comedic genius, and he’s also very musically talented. If content isn’t worth sharing it won’t be shared.
  2. Giving away content is the key to economic success in today’s economy. The two videos embedded above have combined for 22 million views as of this writing. Some of them have had pre-roll ads (which is one way way of monetizing), but anyone could watch and listen for free. Four of the songs on “Mandatory Fun” aren’t offered as free videos, but eight are. Even though he gave away all this content, he sold more than $1 million worth of albums in the first week. Or, to put it more accurately, because he gave away all this content, he sold that much.
  3. Find like-minded collaborators and give them a stake in your success. As the New York Times reported, Al’s record label, RCA, didn’t provide any budget for creating his videos. So he struck up production partnerships with online sites. For “Foil” it was College Humor. Then he gave them the exclusive right to host his video on their YouTube channel. He got the production help and access to their existing audience. They got a lot of new traffic when Al’s video went viral, and when he was featured in traditional media outlets.

Those are three top lessons I see. What do you think?

What else can we learn from Weird Al?

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Author: Lee Aase

Married father of six and grandfather of seven, and the Chancellor of SMUG - Social Media University, Global. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

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