The first time I witnessed the names Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet in the same sentence, it was in the sky – on an aerial banner. I see these very often, especially during the summer, so I almost ignored it as I always do. But then I looked up again. First of all this form of advertising is highly unusual for musical projects. And second… Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet? Really?
Lady Gaga sang with Tony for the first time for “The Lady is a Tramp”, a single in recorded 2011. This came his just after Bennett’s “Duets II” album which featured a wide range of artists such as Mariah Carey, Willie Nelson and Queen Latifah. The Bennet Gaga single was a success, so much that this year they decided to release a full length album together. Its called “Cheek to Cheek”, and its quite good. If you are wondering what style of music the two play when they collaborate, it’s all jazz. Gaga sounds very natural as a jazz singer, especially on the track “I Can’t Give you Anything but Love”, which she sings with a strong, bluesy confidence.
This collaboration is actually a terrific idea. Obviously “Cheek to Cheek” hasn’t sold in numbers anywhere near what Lady Gaga usually does, (in the first week it sold 131000 copies – about half of what “Artpop” did, and a small fraction compared to “Born this Way”) but for Tony Bennett, an 85 year old jazz singer, these types of collaborations have proven to be a huge boost in sales. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga gets a boost in respect and credibility for performing with the one and only Tony Bennett.
The brains behind this project? Danny Bennet. The singer’s son and manager, Danny is always thinking of new ways to keep sales rising despite the low popularity of jazz and the prevalence of streaming and illegal downloads. Collaborations have proven to benefit not only domestic sales but also foreign sales with “Duets II” peaking at #2 on the Canadian Albums Chart and at #5 in the UK. Danny also made an effort to increase international sales with the release of the trilingual “Viva Duets” in 2012.
Also to maximize profitability, Danny emphasizes timing and packaging. He makes exclusive distribution deals with retailers such as Target (for limited edition versions of “Duets II”) and Barnes and noble (for “Tony Bennett: The Complete Collection”). Releases usually fall around the holiday season, or just before a major tour. Danny also loves bringing a video camera to the studio, so there’s plenty to check out on Youtube.