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Is 'Weird Al' The First Artist to 'Pull A Beyonce' Successfully?

"Weird Al" Yanovic Receives First No. 1 Album
 Tom Green Live/AXS TV

"Weird Al" Yanovic presented with the Billboard 200 chart for his first No. 1 Album for "Mandatory Fun" on "Tom Green Live" on AXS TV on July 25, 2014.

With "Mandatory Fun's" No. 1 debut, the veteran parody artist became essential to the Internet conversation.

First, let's make one thing clear: "Weird Al" did not replicate Beyonce's feat in its exact form by any means. Beyonce's album was not announced ahead of its release, while "Mandatory Fun" had a widely announced release date.  Beyonce only sold her album through iTunes, while "Weird Al" went to iTunes, Amazon, and even streaming services like Spotify. Initially, consumers could only hear "Beyonce" by purchasing the album as there were no singles available, while "Weird Al" made his individual singles available for purchase. Beyonce did not allow any of the videos that she released along with the album to be uploaded to YouTube until weeks after, while "Weird Al's" viral clips were on the platform almost immediately. And finally, "Weird Al's" album release wasn't as tactical (or effective) as Beyonce's in his effort to create a perfect window through which to funnel consumers and jack up iTunes sales, as "Beyonce" sold 617,000 copies in its first week compared to "Mandatory Fun's" 104,000 (according to Nielsen Soundscan).
 
So, that's a whole lot of "Beyonce" that "Weird Al" didn't pull. What "Weird Al" did do that was similar to Beyonce was to orchestrate an Internet spectacle that played out within a contained timeframe that online consumers had no choice but to be a part of. This behavior was best characterized in a piece by Grantland's Steven Hyden:
 
"When people rushed to purchase Beyoncé from iTunes this weekend, they weren't just (or even primarily) getting a record (or an experience). They were buying into a conversation. Beyoncé (willingly or not) was exploiting a glitch in the psychology of social media in order to strong-arm consumers into actually spending money on music. People may not be eager to buy a record, but they are eager to feel part of whatever cultural happening is dominating tweets and Facebook posts at this very second."
 
In a video interview with Billboard, Weird Al puts this exact notion into his own words:
 
"If somebody gets sent a link the day after a video premiers people are like 'Oh, that's so yesterday!' So, I know that because of the immediacy of the Internet was to just bombard them with something every single day."

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It's also important to note that the first four of the eight videos released were parodies of songs that have reached the No. 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Happy" (the inspiration for Yankovic's "Tacky") was No. 1 for 10 weeks, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" ("Word Crimes") for 12 weeks, Lorde's "Royals" ("Foil") for 9 weeks, and Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" ("Handy") for 7 weeks. This is no coincidence: by tapping into the appeal of ubiquitous hits, as he's always done, "Weird Al" ensures that his parodies will reach the ears of the broad audience each of those songs has garnered. According to data provided by Twitter, these same four songs were the most-tweeted about tracks from "Weird Al's" new album.
 
The first video released from "Mandatory Fun" that was not a song parody was "Sports Song," an original composition poking fun at the irrational fervor of sports fans. The video debuted with Funny or Die, another online property with its own respective fan base that "Weird Al" has worked with in the past. According to Jason Carden, Executive Producer at Funny or Die, "Weird Al" reached out as he did with every platform involved in #8videos8days with the entire rollout plan already figured out: in exchange for getting the exclusive on one of the video, each platform fronted the production cost of the video.

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"When he came to us with the idea to do it, we were of course on board," Carden tells Billboard. "He had it all planned out in his head, so he let us know what the concept was and we moved ahead from there. He's a comedy institution, and we're a comedy institution, so it's a win-win. It's a good thing for him, good thing for us, and definitely something we were excited about doing."
 
"Weird Al" also reached out to fans by hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything, or in his case, an Ask Me Anything, Again) on Reddit on July 15. The website, which garners more than 713 million unique visitors a year and is the 18th most-visited site in the U.S. according to Alexa, has become a mainstay in dictating mainstream internet pop culture. Not only did this AMA reach the front page, but another post reached the front page, purely organically, encouraging the site's users to go out and buy the album to help support "Weird Al" getting the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.
 
As of Tuesday (July 22), one week after the album was released and the day after the last video was released, there have been more than 477,000 mentions of #8videos8days on Twitter, and more than 309,000 mentions of "Weird Al" himself according to data provided by Twitter. According to Google, his videos have totaled more than 27 million views in their first week, which is 31 percent of the total views so far of "Weird Al's" most popular video on YouTube ever, "White & Nerdy," which debuted four years ago and has over 86 million views.
 
The sheer amount of online traction generated chart success for "Weird Al" outside of his No. 1 album debut. Six of the eight tracks released during #8videos8days hit No. 1 on the Billboard Twitter Trending 140 chart. "Weird Al" Yankovic also makes his first appearance at No. 44 on the Billboard Social 50, a weekly chart that ranks the top artists online incorporating data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Wikipedia that's compiled by music analytics provider Next Big Sound. For the week, "Weird Al" receives a 1,270 percent increase of the amount of fans added across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and a 544 percent increase in reactions across those same platforms. And on Streaming Songs, "Word Crimes" is this week's top debut (thanks to the fact that it was originally released on Vevo rather than an exclusive platform) at No. 6 with more than 5.2 million U.S. streams, according to Nielsen BDS.
 
So then what exactly is "pulling a Beyonce?" "Weird Al" might not have shattered any sales records, but by effectively concentrating his exposure and releasing plentiful, engaging and fun videos, it became mandatory that we all paid attention. He created a moment, an event. Isn't that "pulling a Beyonce," in some regard? In the temporal online media world that's now over-saturated with parody acts parroting his craft, "Weird Al" Yankovic has re-emerged with what might be the greatest moment in his 30-year career thanks in part to this crazy rollout strategy. Queen Bey would be proud.