Miley Cyrus, Marketing Genius

The headline-grabbing singer does it again—and it's starting to feel like it's all part of a plan

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Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images

Miley Cyrus arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards Aug. 25, 2013, at the Barclays Center in New York.

Today brings another announcement in the long news cycle seemingly dominated by Miley Cyrus—don’t pretend you’re surprised.

It’s been about three weeks since her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards earned her equal parts attention and scorn. It’s been two and a half since a mother’s letter to her daughter, encouraging her not to be like Miley, went viral. It’s been ten days since she was announced as a host and guest on the upcoming season of Saturday Night Live. It’s been nine since her video for “Wrecking Ball,” in which she appears pretty much naked (except for shoes), rocked the Internet again and broke viewership records on VEVO.

Within the last four days, she’s called off her engagement to Liam Hemsworth, was chastised by Cher and scored her first-ever Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit, for the “Wrecking Ball” single.

All this and her new album, Bangerz, doesn’t come out till Oct. 8.

Now there’s more: MTV released a new trailer this morning for the Cyrus-centric documentary, Miley: The Movement, that premieres Oct. 2 at 10 PM Eastern:

The intimate, 60-minute documentary film will capture the full essence and evolution of Cyrus as she gears up for the release of her debut RCA Records album, “Bangerz” on Tuesday, October 8.  The special will chronicle her triumphs and struggles at home, in the studio and on the road, as well as the planning, rehearsals, performance and media frenzy surrounding her 2013 “MTV Video Music Awards” medley withRobin Thicke.

Miley: The Movement

But, while it may not be surprising that MTV and Cyrus are capitalizing on the hubbub with a documentary—and the decision to devote the entire music programming block on the morning of Oct. 2 to Cyrus’ work—one thing from the press release jumps out: “For the last four months, MTV has been granted unmatched access to Cyrus, who will unabashedly take viewers on her whirlwind journey from tween television sensation to one of pop music’s most magnetic and unapologetically controversial artists.”  [Emphasis added]

Since MTV has been planning this documentary for four whole months—four times the period during which we’ve all been non-stop talking about Miley—and has her full cooperation with the project, it’s hard not to wonder whether the world has been, as MTV might put it, punk’d.

Part of the narrative about that VMA performance and all the ado about “Wrecking Ball” is that, despite what may have been hinted at by that racy Vanity Fair photo shoot in 2008, less than a decade ago she was Hannah Montana. We’re all supposed to be surprised that she’s acting in such a blatantly sexual manner. In that version of her story, it feels like she must be breaking from her parents or her handlers or her fans, as she acts out the sexuality that she had been forced to repressed.

In the real world, however, there should be no surprise at all. MTV more quietly announced Miley: The Movement, before it had a title, in July, and must have started filming just about when her summer single “We Can’t Stop” made clear, in June, that Cyrus’ output would at the very least include one hit song with, if nothing else, a soupçon of controversy over whether she’s singing about herself (Miley) or the party drug Molly.

After that July announcement, the documentary got pretty much left out of the Miley news: read about any of the things she’s done in the past month (yes, including stories on this website) and it’s unlikely you’ll be reminded that MTV had that pre-established stake in public interest in the singer. But, when you remember that prior commitment to the Miley story, it’s suddenly a lot more predictable that the network decided to put her onstage with Robin Thicke to sing “Blurred Lines” (the song of the summer and no stranger to its own controversies) and to thus provide the stage for her most newsworthy performance to date.

Even before the documentary, MTV has already had a win, with its signature awards show garnering far more attention than it has in recent years. That mother’s aforementioned open letter to her daughter was predicated on the notion that nobody had said “no” to Miley for far too long, as if the singer just announced that she would be twerking in nude vinyl and none of the network or label suits spoke up about how that would be a bad idea; the writer was likely more right than she knew, since plenty of people had plenty of reason to give Cyrus’ new persona an emphatic “yes”—or, as the cynics among us might believe, to orchestrate the whole thing on her behalf.

To be fair, it’s pretty hard to predict what will go viral and get people to, as Cyrus says in the documentary trailer, talk for two weeks rather than two seconds. But that doesn’t mean that preparation and planning can’t make a difference. Just as “Wrecking Ball” didn’t crush VEVO without some prodding, Cyrus’ sudden prominence, and MTV’s part in it, didn’t happen in a marketing vacuum.

It might be nice to think that musicians are somehow more authentic than the rest of the pop-culture world, that they sing their songs in order to express what’s in their souls, money and fame be damned. In that context it does feel like getting punk’d to acknowledge that Miley Cyrus, while making grand statements about her new identity has an artist, as she does in the trailer above, has been working with a major television network to capitalize on (and quite probably plan out) the controversy she engenders. But, in reality, musicians are also business people—and in that context Cyrus is less a prankster than she is a professional.

(MOREMiley Cyrus and the History of the Wrecking Ball)

(MOREHow To Never See Any Miley Cyrus News Again)

(MORE4 Reasons You’re Still Hearing About Miley Cyrus’ VMAs Performance)

35 comments
KatStanleySakach
KatStanleySakach

The end of "Time" as we know it. Cyrus May be garnering publicity for the moment...but at what cost? Money and fame...well, you can' take it with you. Darn, I just ordered a subscription for Time for my husband's Xmas gift. Will cancel and order Nat'l Geo instead.

21bostwick
21bostwick

A perfect mirror.... Cyrus nailed Wrecking Ball... Underneath the gender war is the desire for love. The video is timely and timeless. The VMA performance -a perfect meta-commentary of the sexualization and objectification of women. Cyrus has got game. Look in the mirror America.

AlexLee1
AlexLee1

You've got to be kidding me!  How embarrassing for Lily Rothman to actually post this article.  Miley who was once cute has now grabbed the worlds attention by behaving like a stripper.  By you, TIME Magazine, promoting this person and her lame attempts at becoming something more than just a child actor / Madonna wanna-be, you're bringing down society's standards one step closer to the bottom of the gutter.  It's not cool, it's not fashionable, it's not good and yes, there is such a thing as "good and evil" .  You're promoting the latter.  Bummer for us. 

DanBruce
DanBruce

Marketing genius? Hardly. Hookers on street corners in any large American, European, or Asian city do the same things every night that Miley has been mimicking to lure customers and/or viewers. The only difference is that Miley was picked up by American media, which is greedy for anything controversial. No genius involved, just the lowest common denominator principle at work once again.

PeterArsenault
PeterArsenault

it's "starting to feel" like it's part of the plan? how naive could you possibly be? 

Let's review: early summer she drops her single which attracts attention for its drug and sex references (as well as controversy over the "racial elements") and boom she gains the attention of the wider public (whereas before she was in league with Taylor Swift, who is showing none of the self-awarenesss that Miley has and therefore is still only cared about by her pre-teen and teenage girl fans). This wins her the attention of college kids who themselves are discovering drugs and sex. Then she hits the VMAs and everyone talks about her-- national news coverage divides people into the for and against camps. The against camps are mostly her younger fans as well as adults who viewed the performance as lewd. This ingratiates her further into the hearts and minds of the rebellious older teenagers and 20-somethings. 

Then she gets Terry Richardson to direct her follow-up video which comes on the heels of the VMAs, still fresh in everyone's mind. This scintillating follow-up further interests her newly acquired demographics (especially the 'best market' of 18-35 year old males) and ostensibly a larger, more diverse market as the video smashes all records for YouTube views and iTunes downloads. I should also like to note that the Terry Richardson credit wins Miley the hipster core, which is the same demo as the 'best market' except with more discerning consumers who generally tend to hate anything corporate or sold pre-packaged (see: Terry Richardson as counter-cultural art icon). This is a very valuable market of kids who read Pitchfork. The only other mainstream artist I can think of to win this demo is Kanye West. It is a very hard market to connect with for major labels. Thankfully, the music is actually pretty good too. 

Anyway the interest is so high in the new Miley phenom by such a large group of consumers that her album is sure to smash any record previously set by any artist.

So good for MTV for betting on Miley and orchestrating her PR moves. I don't know why the author of this piece thinks it's such a nefarious thing to pull off a huge marketing campaign, which is quite obviously what it is. And besides, the author of this piece is writing for Time-- does she really expect us to believe that she doesn't have a stake in this? Miley's the one who got us to click on this article which produces ads to pay her salary (or free-lance check, in which case: ouch). 


DumbNiggero3
DumbNiggero3

This book was written in 1905 by a russian who saw the grand scheme and documented. Since then Jews all over the world have attemtped to discredit this work (View on Wikileaks and tell me you ever seen anything denied this much.) There are many other sources and revelations pertaining to the protocols, but most important is the text contained within them, and for this reason, the same copy contained in my book, will also be archived here.  It is my hope that many visitors here will actually take it upon themselves to sit down and read through this disturbing text, because without absorbing this knowledge, one can not be expected to fully understand the enemy and their plans.

SYNOPSIS OF THE PROTOCOLS

Goyim are mentally inferior to Jews and can’t run their nations properly. For their

sake and ours, we need to abolish their governments and replace them with a single

government. This will take a long time and involve much bloodshed, but it’s for a

good cause. Here’s what we’ll need to do:

Place our agents and helpers everywhere

Take control of the media and use it in propaganda for our plans

Start fights between different races, classes and religions

Use bribery, threats and blackmail to get our way

Use Freemasonic Lodges to attract potential public officials

Appeal to successful people’s egos

Appoint puppet leaders who can be controlled by blackmail

Replace royal rule with socialist rule, then communism, then despotism

Abolish all rights and freedoms, except the right of force by us

Sacrifice people (including Jews sometimes) when necessary

Eliminate religion; replace it with science and materialism

Control the education system to spread deception and destroy intellect

Rewrite history to our benefit

Create entertaining distractions

Corrupt minds with filth and perversion

Encourage people to spy on one another

Keep the masses in poverty and perpetual labor

Take possession of all wealth, property and (especially) gold

Use gold to manipulate the markets, cause depressions etc.

Introduce a progressive tax on wealth

Replace sound investment with speculation

Make long-term interest-bearing loans to governments

Give bad advice to governments and everyone else

Eventually the Goyim will be so angry with their governments (because we’ll blame

them for the resulting mess) that they’ll gladly have us take over. We will then

appoint a descendant of David to be king of the world, and the remaining Goyim will

bow down and sing his praises. Everyone will live in peace and obedient order under

his glorious rule.


miasteven22
miasteven22

Miley Cyrus is just a puppet. She is controlled by egomaniac designer Marc Jacobs. His best buddy Terry Richardson directed her latest video clip which was the idea of Jacobs. He is a cruel manipulator who has a great influence on stars like Lady Gaga, Kanye West. He told Miley to act like that at the VMA. Read the truth on: http://www.styleangelique.blogspot.com/

AmandaApplegate
AmandaApplegate

Two words that should never be used in the same sentence are "Miley" and "Genius"...

EstradaDeNada
EstradaDeNada

more than one spelling mistake. get it together TIME mag

MaryDtn9
MaryDtn9

Celebs like Miley, Rihanna, kE$ha, Avril, Justin, Chris etc are all pushed and push back.
These forward thinking celebs are poking fun at the Media, Paps and haters everywhere.
Who can blame them! So what's in it for them, freedom, fame and "$$$$$", that's all!
It’s a jungle out there; there will be casualties, and a lot of collateral damage.
Don't let stuff upset you. Fame is fleeting, and every once in a while, so is life.
Hang on to your hat. Sit back, enjoy the ride. Things are about to get very contoversial.
The naked body, no big deal. It’s all been done before. DONT JUDGE. DON'T HATE. BE KIND.

Magrit
Magrit

I could have suffered through all of the machinations, but when she introduced the tongue I saw the coating and my stomach turned. Difficult to find her even remotely credible. By the way, splendid article.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

A talentless bimbo, desperately clutching for the brass ring at any cost. No real talent or songwriting ability, so she has to "shock" us into thinking she has anything to offer. Not that attractive, to be honest, and if you have to take your clothes off to get people to look in your direction, what do you have left to offer further down the line? I've never listened to her music and never will. See you on "Dancing With the Has-Beens" in a few years.

cricketlane1
cricketlane1

I hope there is another mass cleansing of the music industry much like the arrival of Nirvana in 1991.  

cricketlane1
cricketlane1

I miss when it was about music not gimmicks. We are a reality show train wreck society. Bread and circuses. Money justifies everything now, and I mean everything. Honey Boo Boo and computer created soft porn music. Where's my time machine.

mfan2
mfan2

Good article, but my understanding is that MTV regularly does these follow the music stars type specials.  That beng said, MTV has wanted to be in the Miley business quite some time, and why not?  When supported with some resources, she has always made lots of money for the people she associated with.  Miley4Ever

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Most people are just laughing at her, not a way to sell more music.

BugMenot
BugMenot

@21bostwick Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! You actually believe what you wrote.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

@21bostwick 

Another millennial hipster chugs the Miley Kool-Aid. You need to look in the mirror if you think anything this chipmunk-cheeked, tongue-lolling, third-string "artist" is doing anything but filling her pockets while emptying yours. Wise up.

BugMenot
BugMenot

@PeterArsenault Same league as Taylor Swift? I assume you mean in demographic appeal. Certainly not success. Taylor sold 1.2 million "Red" albums in the first week it was released. She reportedly bought a mansion this May for $17M and paid in cash. I don't think Miley's antics necessarily endear her to college students and 20-somethings. Most of the people downloading her songs are most likely longtime "younger" fans as they make up most of the "for" crowd too.

AmyBee
AmyBee

@MaryDtn9 That's fine as long as they are honest about being in it for the money.  If money is your bottom line, then so be it.  It really shouldn't matter what you are selling if the end result is to make it rain.  Just don't sell me your funky junk and lie to yourself that you're selling me art.  

toppestlel
toppestlel

Uhh yea tell that to Liam Hemsworth who is probably still thankful to all the Divines that he has dodged a meteor with this one. By your definition Liam and Justin Timberlake (who was also in a similar situation with Britney before) are judgmental haters, but no time has proven that they are just successful and intelligent men. 

mfan2
mfan2

@SukeMadiq "...not a way to sell more music."  Your comment is nonsensical.  It's the very extremely competitive music industry that makes promotion so important.  An artist has to stand out.  Whether that means gyrating your hips like Elvis, donning a huge campy wig like Dolly Parton, taking off your clothes like...all the most successful female artists, or whatever.  I recommend the book, "Positioning: the battle for the mind", by Al Rieis, Jack Trout, and Philip Cotler.

21bostwick
21bostwick

You know I recognize the forces of marketing behind this launch... But what has inspired me to defend and support this young woman is the complete lack of reflection in so many people's response... There seems to be a knee jerk hatred and total lack of understanding that this performer is a part of, symptom of and actually a messenger about the double standards that women endure. Yup I believe what I am writing.

21bostwick
21bostwick

Thanks Buffalo.. I am 48, an educator, an artist and not falling for anything. The knee jerk hatred of a 20 year old product of a sexist culture that undermines girls and women by limiting their options through insidious boys club privileges... is the culprit. Direct your hatred and sexism there and not at the successful marketing, artistry and YES Akward expression of a post Disney character. Cheers

BugMenot
BugMenot

@mfan2 @SukeMadiq 

I read, "Positioning: the battle for (your) mind" decades ago. The notion is that companies need to own an attribute in the mind of consumers. So BMW stakes out "performance," Volvo "safety," etc.

Adele is seen as a great "singer-songwriter."

Miley is seen as a big  "train wreck."


 


AmandaApplegate
AmandaApplegate

@mfan2 @SukeMadiq  Except Elvis and Dolly had actual talent. Miley does not. So she resorts to shock value as a pathetic attempt at hiding her voice...Also, I think it is hilarious that you called the above comment "nonsensical". It made perfect sense to me. Most people really are just laughing at her. That is not the way that I would want to become famous. I would want people to respect me for my talent.

toppestlel
toppestlel

@mfan2 @SukeMadiq 

If you finished reading that book and think artists have to do whatever it takes to grab public attention to sell their product, then you have misinterpreted it.


21bostwick
21bostwick

Buffalo, I am afraid you may be too shallow and rude for a decent open discussion? But let me assure you Cryus is a reflection of where we are NOW...not where we were then. I am so pleased to hear your respect for a great American, Joplin, but your harsh judgments, inability to open your mind and appreciate Cyrus' context make you a bit out of date.

It can be disturbing to see a woman and her team blow it out all the way to the bank... Perhaps Katy Perry's "Roar" is a better fit for you. Google it, watch it, and get back to me. Another huge success and very timely commentary. -Long in the tooth and living in the present. Cheers

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

@21bostwick 

Yawn. A little long in the tooth to be hitching your wagon to this "marketing genius" aren't you? I'm sure if you look in your record collection you could find several women that have stood up to the knee-jerk reaction of even their fellow artists, by performing  and writing their own music and not depending on gimmicks and alligator tears about their "limited options" GOOGLE Janis Joplin and put on your headphones. Miley Cyrus couldn't carry her sheet music.