Interview: Katy Perry is no tech ingenue

At 23, the pop singer cut her teeth on MySpace, and her song "I Kissed a Girl" is a hit on iTunes. Just don't look for her to leave her label, a la Radiohead or Trent Reznor.

"File sharing is inevitable," says 23-year-old Katy Perry, a rising Internet music sensation. Katyperry.com

With her dazzling looks and saucy lyrics about smooching women, it's tough thinking of Katy Perry as a geek.

Nonetheless, the pop singer has immersed herself in digital music, video blogs, and more recently, the Internet-distribution strategies of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails . "I'm Internet crazy," she says.

Perry is the controversy-dogged pop singer who has owned the No. 1 spot on iTunes and Billboard's "Hot 100" for much of the past month. Her hit single, "I Kissed a Girl," has alienated some moral groups as well as Fox News commentators on the way to selling nearly 1.5 million copies.

In the past, lots of readers have commented in my stories that artists and labels have to come to grips with the fact that recorded music will never generate the mega millions it once did. And they should get about creating new business models built on digital technology before it's too late.

Well, here you go. Perry is one artist who gets it.

She is among the growing number of young performers who came up in the age of digital music and doesn't know a world before the Web. At 23, Perry appeals to young and tech-savvy music fans. She was dropped from several music labels early in her career and acquired an education in music marketing from a digital-music hotbed. "I was like all the other people spinning demos on MySpace," she said.

Perry knows plenty of people are resisting the massive sea change occurring in music. She, however, is determined to make the Web work for her.

CNET News spoke to her on Wednesday.

Q: What do you think of the Internet, digital music, and all this futuristic stuff we're seeing?
Perry: It's so Blade Runner. I love living in the future, but I don't know why we don't have hovercrafts yet.

Q: In the digital age, artists like Trent Reznor and Radiohead are proving to some that we don't need music labels. When are you going off on your own?
Perry: I think Radiohead has always been about the future, and have always said 'We don't give a f--k because we're talented enough to do almost anything. But Nine Inch Nails (Reznor's band) and Radiohead have solid fan bases and, for me, I'm a new artist and I appreciate the help I get from my amazing label ( EMI's Capitol Music Group ). I don't think all labels are the same.

I've been through a lot of them and I'm amazed at the respect I'm receiving here.

Q: Does it bother you that you're coming up in the music business at a time when revenues are disappearing?
Perry: For the music industry to avoid becoming a crumbling Babylon, the major labels have to figure out how to coexist with the Net. (File sharing) is inevitable . You just have to find new ways to sell music. The other day I saw some kids wearing bracelets with USB drives hanging from them. Inside was their digital music. You pull the (cap off the USB) and plug it into your computer, and you get the music and some artwork. I thought to myself I could make the coolest bracelets that could be in the shape of a heart and you break it apart to get the music. It could be another accessory you wear.

Q: There used to be a time when artists looked down their noses at commercialism. They considered it selling out. You don't seem to cater to that kind of thinking.
Perry: It's never going to be like it was in '98. If you use your brain and think about yourself as an artist and a full package, there are so many other ways to create revenue, especially for me as a girl. I have a song out called "I Kissed a Girl" (which features a line about cherry-flavored ChapStick). If I want I could create a Katy Perry cherry ChapStick line...but I'm never going to hawk something that I don't believe in.

Q: You seem to really enjoy doing video blogs. Is that a marketing tool, or is it just a way to communicate with fans?
Perry: No, there isn't anyone telling me 'You must blog to sell records.' I'm doing it alone and it's cool because there isn't anyone interrupting me, telling me where to stand, or to do this or that. Web blogging is just a great way to show people who you are. I know if I see a video, I get more invested in someone.

 

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