Lady Gaga just got her billionth hit on YouTube. Does that make her the most powerful person in music?
—P.L., via the inbox
She has indeed tweeted something about scoring a billion YouTube views. Says the milestone happened over the weekend. We know it's Gaga, too, because she used the word "monsters," and she is physically unable to post anything online without adding that word.
But does 1 billion video views give her power? You mean, like, Bieber power? Well...
If by power you mean popularity, then, yes, this is a major deal, says J.P. Clement, head of The Marketing Distillery.
"Views, just like fans and followers, do not mean much, except that an artist, or a brand, is very popular," Clement tells me.
"That's mostly because these metrics are not a good gauge of engagement, and without engagement, there's no behavioral change, and therefore, little impact on things like sales."
In other words, people like to watch Lady Gaga clad in a pair of sunglasses made entirely of burning cigarettes—as long as it's free.
But those fans don't necessarily want to do much more than that. They don't necessarily want to post comments, or contribute reviews, or, most importantly, buy a single.
And the ultimate measure of an entertainer's power isn't popularity. It's money.
"Many studies have shown that Twitter followers and Facebook fans follow a personality first and foremost because they are expecting deals and news, and only secondarily because they want to show their support," Clement explains. "We can extrapolate that, similarly, the behavior of watching videos doesn't directly (or even indirectly) translate into buying the music."
Still, the billion-hit mark may translate into a small financial upgrade for Gaga and her Haus of Das Fabulous.
Some of Gaga's videos have ads; "Alejandro" has a commercial for Virgin Mobile preceding it, for example. And more eyeballs on said video could equal more ad dollars, says Lisa Jenkins, an independent music marketing consultant.
"Those Virgin ads are part of a huge sponsorship deal Gaga has," she says. "It may be that for future sponsorships the label or artist can negotiate more money based on how strong her video views are historically."
So that latest billion may not translate into a new mansion, but it might let Gaga upgrade her meat dresses from skirt steaks to filets.