Have you heard? Kanye West’s Swish is due out February 11. Oh, you hadn’t? Well, get ready to hear about it every week until then. Yeezy season has returned, and so, it would seem, have G.O.O.D. Fridays: following up the release of “FACTS,” and “Real Friends,” over the weekend Mr. West bestowed us with the full-length version of “No More Parties in LA,” a clinic on dropping bars co-hosted by the precocious OG Kendrick Lamar. Over a filthy Madlib beat built on a Junie Morrison sample, Kanye and K.Dot wax poetic on the luxuries and trappings of being rich in Los Angeles.
G.O.O.D. Fridays was the promotional vehicle West used at the end of 2010 to promote the artists on his G.O.O.D. Music imprint, as well as the release of his upcoming LP My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. From August through November, he released one track each Friday; it was as if he turned a promotional mixtape into a TV show, releasing new episodes every week, making it impossible to avoid or even ignore him. The songs weren’t always final, and most never made it onto the album. But it kept his name in the blogs and in the mouths of those most invested in his work; the fans, and the media. This time around, the interesting part of G.O.O.D. Fridays return had little to do with Kanye himself, rather, it was the way it was announced — via his wife’s Twitter account.
Although it’s difficult to compare the marketing plan of an outlier like Kanye to the rest of the industry — at this stage in his career, anything he does is ravenously consumed, liked, retweeted, and aggregated, and his publicist isn’t clogging email boxes with cold pitches to feature his work — he’s nevertheless very much attuned to the state of the game. And he knows as well as anyone: celebrity sells records. It’s why pop stars do guest turns on The Voice, it’s why they agree to reality show appearances and date other celebrities. The attention is profitable. And no one monetizes attention quite like the Kardashians.
Artists pay a lot of money for publicity; if no one knows about your music, how can they hear it? For a mid-level independent artist, graduating from DIY publicity to professional PR can often help them break through the noise and get their music in front of larger and larger audiences. But at a certain level of celebrity, it’s just not necessary. Kanye is at that level. But even he can’t keep up with the Kardashians.
Think about it: why would you even bother dealing directly with an independent media outlet when you can speak directly to millions of your fans in an instant, with no filter? And as many fans as Kanye West has, when it comes to social media, even he takes a backseat to his wife. It’s hard to deny her social media expertise, and when things go wrong (as they inevitably do), it’s hard to think of a better spokesperson.
Kim Kardashian’s Twitter is likely one of the most valuable properties in media right now. She has more followers than the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, combined. The value of a Kim Kardashian tweet/Instagram may not be known to the public, but it’s certainly quantifiable (just ask the brands who’ve paid for placement in her selfies). And with the balance of power in media shifting from the outlets to the biggest artists, Kanye’s merger with the Kardashians is a consolidation of considerable power. As an artist, you probably couldn’t pay for the kind of publicity a Kim Kardashian tweet generates. Lucky for Kanye, he doesn’t have to.