Jul 25, 2014

    No joke - Weird Al's made it to No. 1


    AT SOME point last week, Weird Al Yankovic's Twitter account became unmanageable.

    Yankovic, 54, the proudly nerdy song parodist who became an early MTV staple with Michael Jackson send-ups like Eat It, said on Wednesday that he tries to respond to every Twitter message from his 3.3 million followers, but that the volume made even looking at his account seem like "drinking from the proverbial fire hose".

    The reason: the spectacular viral success of the online video campaign to promote his latest album, Mandatory Fun (RCA), which this week became the first No. 1 of Yankovic's three-decade career.

    With 104,000 sales in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, Mandatory Fun is also the first comedy album to top Billboard's album chart since Allan Sherman's My Son, The Nut in 1963.

    His new videos have been watched a total of 46 million times.

    "This is something I never dreamed would ever happen," Yankovic said.

    His late-career success marries the satirical approach to music he has been plying since the late 1970s with the most up-to-date thinking in online marketing - a content bombardment, financial backing by popular websites and a catchy hashtag, #8videos8days

    Yankovic's plan was to release a new video each day for eight days. He started on July 14 with Tacky, a parody of Pharrell Williams' monster hit Happy - complete with silly dance and long tracking shot.

    He followed up with videos like Foil, a play on Lorde's Royals about the uses of aluminium food wrap, and Word Crimes, a rant about bad grammatical habits set to Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines: "I read your e-mail, it's quite apparent, your grammar's errant, you're incoherent."

    Because RCA did not provide any production budget, Yankovic said that the videos were paid for by various partner sites, which brought their own audiences, like Nerdist, Funny Or Die and College Humor.

    The gambit worked. Yankovic's Web stats exploded. On Wikipedia, for example, his profile has drawn 575,000 views this month, up from fewer than 1,000 views last month, according to music data-tracking firm Next Big Sound.

    On Spotify, his music was streamed 3,282,937 times around the world last week, up 785 per cent from the week before.

    The popularity of Mandatory Fun also points to the goodwill that Yankovic has built up among both fans and fellow artists in his more than 30 years in the pop-culture spotlight.

    Generations of fans have grown up with his parodies, and many artists see getting the Weird Al treatment as confirmation of success.

    In a detail that has become part of his standard biography, Yankovic seeks the approval of each artist he spoofs; one TMZ video posted last month purportedly shows his pitch to pop star Iggy Azalea backstage at one of her shows.

    "People consider him a touch point of their lives," said Aaron Borns, the head of pop-rock marketing at RCA.