Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

HBS Teaches Lady Gaga: She’s No BS

By Shlomo Maital

All we hear is Radio ga ga, Radio goo goo, Radio ga ga, All we hear is Radio ga ga, Radio blah blah, Radio what’s new?   (Queen song, which inspired Lady Gaga’s name)

    After reviewing Stephen Law’s book on Believing BS, I guess it’s a natural to write about how HBS, Harvard Business School (is there BS in HBS?) can take a subject as gripping as Lady Gaga, and turn it into a 43-page sleeping pill (Case A and Case B) * which actually does a great job in revealing the details of Lady Gaga’s success.  For readers who won’t make it through the HBS BS, here it is in brief:

   * She’s very very smart.  Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was one of only 20 students given early admission to NYU.  She quit after 18 months to focus on her music, but promised her dad she’d return to school if she failed. 

   * She’s incredibly hard-working, always has been.  Germanotta composed ballads at age 13,   did open mike nights all around New York at age 14, learned classical piano and trained with a vocal coach. 

   * She never gave up despite early failure.  A label called Def Jam offered her a recording contract, but then dropped her after only three months. “I was pretty devastated”, she said – but she never quit. 

  * She had a terrific ‘back office’ team.  Vincent Herbert, a top producer, auditioned her in LA; she told him, “I want to be the biggest pop star in the world, I’ll be the most loyal and hardworking person you ever worked with.”  She is, and she was, and she is.  He signed her on the spot.

   * Lady Gaga is great at self-marketing, especially digital (Facebook, Twitter) and at building relations with her fans.  She writes her own tweets and no-one has her password. 

   * Lady Gaga leveraged her flamboyant ‘fashion’ which she learned while performing on New York’s Lower East Side to build her brand. 

    * Lady Gaga has a small seven-person creative team that designs her clothing, make-up styles, props and sets for her live performances, a team she leads in person.  She is in charge of everything – she writes the music, video treatments, chooses her photographers, chooses the photos to be used and determines her ‘look’.

  * Lady Gaga is incredibly hard-working and energy-packed.  On her tours, which last for months, she may have as few as seven days off.   Watching her, you understand that she really loves performing.  Otherwise, like many musicians, she would fall prey to drugs and to alcohol.   

  **  Harvard Business School.  Case 9-512-016 Case A, and Case 9-512-017 Case B, by Anita Elberse and Michael Christensen.