Music Marketing

Music Industry Insiders On The Creation Of Lana Del Rey

Lana-del-rey-remixThe debut of Lana Del Rey's "Born To Die" at #1 on many nation's iTunes charts confirms her successful adoption by the mainstream. Yet many still focus on a variety of claims regarding how she came to be and who influenced her transformation from Lizzy Grant to Lana Del Rey. In recent weeks multiple insiders have come forward to share their accounts of the creation of Lana Del Rey.

Interestingly enough, all the insider accounts I'm finding agree that Lana Del Rey was strongly in charge of her image from her days as Lizzy Grant through her evolution into Lana Del Rey and that she is a talented young musician. These voices include 5 Points Records owner David Nichtern, New York hip hop producer Blockhead, rapper and DJ Princess Superstar and Interscope A&R exec Larry Jackson.


David Nichtern signed Lizzy Grant to a multi-record deal in 2007 on his label 5 Points Records. Her full-length debut, "Lizzy Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Rey," was released on January 5, 2010 but then pulled a few months later as part of a separation deal:

"There's a lot of misinformation that I've read that's dead wrong…It's a little bit of a lesson for me. Nobody even fact-checked. For example…that whole thing that she was backed by her millionaire dad is a bunch of crap…"

"We wanted to develop her so we signed her to a multi-record deal. Then we went out scouting for producers…[David] Kahne (Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor, the Strokes) was one of the first few people we reached out to and he responded very, very quickly…We gave him a deal to make the record…[the press] said the budget was $10,000, which is false…It was an all-in budget of $50,000. And we also gave her a significant advance…"

"I laugh pretty hard when someone said she was put into an image. There's no way you can do that with her. She's very headstrong and knows what she wants."

NYC hip hop producer Blockhead worked with Lizzy Grant in late 2009 and though almost every trace of the beats he created were erased in the pop songwriting process, he recently had this to say:

"Now, I can only base this on my brief experience with her, but there is no doubt in my mind that that girl is talented. I've worked with all sorts of people over the years and she was one who stepped into the studio with a game plan and the ability to knock it all out in one take…"Lana Del Ray" was a character and those lips were part of that plan."

"The thing is, I've read a ton of shit about people saying this character was manufactured but that's bullshit. Sure, it's not her real name but the idea behind that person was in Lizzy before I even met her. Hell, just how she was dressed coming into the studio was enough for me to know that. She looked like a pinup model straight out of the trailer park…"

"All the detractors saying she's some made up by the machine pop star are full of shit. While it's impossible to keep the businesses hands out the pop when creating a pop star, the roots of where this all comes from are firmly inside of Lizzy Grant."

Jessica Hopper quotes numerous people including Princess Superstar who worked with Lana Del Rey in early 2010, a year before her deal with Interscope:

"I've never understood this controversy about whether she is real or fake…All artists have a persona…She's not put together by some company. These are her songs, her melodies, her singing — she's always had this '60s aesthetic."

Larry Jackson, Interscope Executive VP of A&R, described their first meeting prior to her March 2011 joint deal with Interscope and Polydor:

"It was very unusual…We sat for an hour and talked, without her playing any of her music. Just conversation, honing in on the philosophy of what she was doing, what she saw for herself – I was captured…The only Svengali in this thing is Lana."

Hopper also steps back and gives a pretty damning assessment of music bloggers' delusional overreach regarding their role in the creation of Lana Del Rey:

"She played daytime industry showcases at overlit venues in Midtown for years, taking meetings at majors since mid-2010. These are the steps you take when you want to get over as a pop artist, not get noticed by Matador. Blogs and tastemaking websites just assumed that they noticed her first, when, in fact, they were two years behind a pack of lawyers and A&R scouts, eager to sign an artist who was pre-formed, a total package."

In closing, as Blockhead put it, "I wish her good luck and think motherfuckers need to let her breath a little."

Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Of course it was. Her billionaire Saudi father actually bought a lot of the negative coverage because haters make you famous, don’t you know.
    That’s the dirty secret of indie music blogs, most of their attacks are actually paid for by pr agencies.
    I’m not sure how they got the above people on record with positive statements. Maybe they forgot to pay them off because a big part of how Daddy Rey-bucks wanted her marketed was through negative attacks to build sympathy. You know, like with Lady Gaga.
    He also paid for a lot of those international iTunes downloads as well as shopping like a freak on Amazon. I hear his NY penthouse is stacked full of crates of her atrocious album.
    By the way, did you know that the link to the chem company you entered doesn’t get spidered by search engines?
    I’m sure you did. You’re only here to support good music and authenticity in personal identity. Yay!

  2. Aren’t all these insiders people who have worked with her and probably have some sort of stake in her success??

  3. I think everyone is jumping the gun on Lana. She’s not a mainstream star yet. Are any top 40 stations playing her music yet? Has anyone ever became a big pop star with no top 40 radio support? The answer is no. How do we know that those itunes sales weren’t manipulated? Is it really a big expense to hire a company to download her album 50,000 times? that would only cost the label 150k and they can claim #1 and get tons of free press of’s a small investment. If she’s still in the top 20 in 8 weeks. I’ll be on the bandwagon.

  4. Indie music detective MattGriff on the job!!!
    Nichtern – yes, but nobody cares what he says and hardly anybody will notice.
    Blockhead – unlikely.
    Princess Superstar – hard to say but, like Blockhead, she’s more credible to me than any blogger in the game.
    Larry Jackson – Of course. That’s why I didn’t look for anything else from Interscope.
    Jessica Hopper – seriously doubt it.

  5. Well if the album was @ $7.99 then it’d be even less expensive to do. Itunes only takes %30 the rest goes to the label.. So you’re looking at $2.40 per album so $120k

  6. And don’t forget that if they bought them all through their own iTunes affiliate links, they’ll get an additional kickback. Not sure what the percentage is, though.
    Funny that no one’s asking how much they paid me! Let’s just say I’m Supersizing lunch every day this week and leave it at that…
    On the real, though, do you think that’s what Paris Hilton did?

  7. Yeah Clyde they probably did 🙂 I didn’t even notice that you posted the same thing I did. It’s beyond obvious this was an “open wallet” marketing campaign.. Hit albums trend upward or at least hold their ground see Adele, Black Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Drake, LMFAO, Jay-Z, Rhianna, Bon Iver.
    In my opinion.. Lana Del Ray is going to be the blue print of how not to market an act. It’s insane to just throw cash around like it’s 1999. You don’t get the big first week payoff like you used too. Make a great album do some marketing, touring, get it out there, but the all out “open wallet” blitz on a non established act is just plan dumb and a waste of money.
    Finally I’ve listened to the album a few times now and it’s not bad at all. I like a couple of the tracks a lot but I’m not sure it lives up to “the hype” I was expecting it to blow my mind.

  8. Jake, I was actually being rather sarcastic in my initial comment cause I saw that coming. But, on the other hand, I recognize that open wallet campaigns are a part of the game.
    I don’t know if that’s the case here and only time will tell how the album will hold up. I mean, it is possible to chart off media attention and she is getting a lot of social network and p2p action at the moment:
    And you can get a strong opening week and then fall off from there. Even well-known acts, especially in hip hop, exhibit that pattern. It’s just hard to say how big a factor open wallets are these days. Though I imagine it’s a better spend than radio payola!
    Hopefully you’ll see this comment. Typepad narrows these responses to an absurd degree!

  9. She has a lot of haters…I think her album is interesting, but not worth the hype. But she polarizes, which will make her huge.

  10. Yes, polarizing the base. That’s something I’ve been meaning to write about. I actually came to understand the concept by studying the work of evil genius Karl Rove!

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