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 For that matter, even physical records are becoming, or have become, outdated.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 BeyoncĂ© 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.

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