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 sendups like “Eat It,” said 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 viral success of the online video campaign to promote his latest album, “Mandatory Fun,” 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” also is 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.
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Yankovic’s late-career success marries the satirical approach to music he’s 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 July 14 with “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell Williams’ monster hit “Happy” — complete with silly dance and long tracking shot. He followed with videos like “Foil,” a play on Lorde’s “Royals” about the uses of aluminum food wrap, and “Word Crimes,” a rant about bad grammatical habits set to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”.
Because RCA did not provide any production budget, Yankovic said, the videos were paid for by various partner sites that brought their own audiences, like Nerdist, Funny or Die and College Humor. The gambit worked. Yankovic’s Web stats exploded. On Wikipedia, 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.
To some extent, the achievement of “Mandatory Fun” is a function of the music industry’s woes, as the number of copies sold to reach No. 1 keeps getting smaller. Yankovic seemed acutely aware of the industry’s struggles and planned his marketing blitz accordingly.
“For the last decade and a half, the music industry has been in sort of a free fall, with everybody trying different things to see what works,” Yankovic said. “I just thought this is a good idea that makes the most sense. Let’s give it a shot and see if it works.”