Kanye West on Twitter: promotion and PR

On: September 11, 2010
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About Erik van Bemmelen
I am a student of the New Media Master at the University of Amsterdam. My main academic interests are the new online business models around production, distribution and consumption of culture in general and music in particular. My goal is to make a living out of downloading music.


A couple of weeks ago, producer and rapper Kanye West joined Twitter. Although this fact alone is not all too remarkable, as Kanye West has been a fervent blogger for some years now, he has found remarkable ways to put this medium to use. On the one hand, he uses it as a way to distribute and promote his new songs, posting a new song every Friday from now until Christmas. Around that time, his new album is supposed to be in stores. This idea is an example of a trend we’ve seen for years now: the waning importance of the release dates of records. For that matter, even physical records are becoming, or have become, outdated. It has been quite common for records to leak fairly early, sometimes surfacing on the internet weeks before the actual records will hit the stores. In the beginning, artists and record labels mainly complained about the devastating effect this would have on record sales. In 2010 more and more artists luckily realize that trying to stop (illegal) downloading is an exercise in futility. In fact, they start to fully utilize the opportunities the new media present them.

In comes Kanye West. He makes his comeback after a troubled year following his famous rant during last years MTV Video Music Awards. During this award show he stormed onstage to express his displease with Beyoncé losing out to Taylor Swift in the category of best video – inadvertently spawning the “I’ma let you finish“-meme. Immediately a stream of criticism flooded Twitter. Even President Obama weighed in, calling him “a jackass“. A year later, Kanye West looks for ways to make peace and change his public image using Twitter. He repeatedly stresses that this is him directly communicating with his fans (he actually uses his own faulty grammar as proof that the tweets are really written by him).


Kanye West has found a way to use Twitter for two causes. First, it provides a very direct way of promotion and second, it provides a way to improve his troubled public persona. After a year of relative rest, he’s trying to show the world he has become a better man, filling Twitter timelines with his extensive rants on how the media tried to destroy him. His tweets feel like a nonstop interview, except that there’s nobody editing his words. In between these public relations efforts, he posts a new song every Friday, putting him in a different kind of spotlight. Because at the end of the day, there’s nothing like a good hit record to make people forget they hated you and make them love you again.

2 Responses to “Kanye West on Twitter: promotion and PR”
  • September 11, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    […] Masters of Media » Kanye West on Twitter: promotion and PR […]

  • September 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Of course, on Twitter could be written a whole book, but I just want to say something shortly.

    Twitter is a great channel to communicate. Especially for ‘famous’ people, it gives their audience the feeling of a more personal relationship when they Twitter about the most daily stuff.

    When Twitter is from a commercial source like Kanye or any other artist, that is fine.
    But what I want to point out here is Twitter from politicians and especially in relationship with democracry and journalism.

    Increasingly I see that politicians start to Twitter, potentially to increase their audience, but for most to inform their audience. They use Twitter to give information, their opinion and their vision. And surely they will give information about themselves aswell. This is the tricky part.

    What I see happening is that the role of the journalist as the ‘watchdog’ of democracy (not sure if this is the right term in English, translated from the Dutch ‘waakhond’, but you’ll have an idea of what I mean) or the guard of the political game is diminishing or even starting to disappear.

    It becomes a dangerous situation when the audience/civilians are in a way, and I mean in a naive way, starting to rely and believe Twitter messages from politicians without taking in mind that those messages have ideological agenda’s. The intermediate between the politicians and the civilians is disappearing, giving the politicians a direct and personal channel to, obviously, ‘indoctrinate’ their audience. The role of the journalist was to check and guard the politicians. When using Twitter, the politicians found a way to pass their guards.

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