Have you noticed that Lady Gaga’s name is constantly paired with Madonna’s in the news? In fact, if you Google the two names together you get a funny range of results, from “Madonna says she’s very flattered” to “Madonna says Lady Gaga is a copycat.” You have people who claim that Lady Gaga is too original to be imitating anyone, and you have people who claim that Gaga’ s hit Alexjandro is a mix of Madonna’s Vogue and Like A Prayer.
Is imitation really the finest form of flattery?
This whole Madonna/Lady Gaga dynamic got me thinking about this crazy Social Media world. One perpetual fear that haunts bloggers is, “Oh man, someone has probably blogged about this all before.” And yet, a lot of bloggers spend a lot of time offering insights on how they blog, how they get inspiration, how they approach their craft, and how they do a lot of other things successfully. Is it really any wonder that a lot of the same material pops up here and there? Is that a bad thing? Then again, the line between “being inspired by” and “stealing from” can get just as blurry online as it can in the music world.
What’s a blogger to do?
Put on your meat dress and get to gettin’
It’s entirely possible that Lady Gaga purposefully incorporated Madonna-esque elements into her work. The comparisons were already there. Madonna was successful. And hey, there are only so many riffs out there. So what? The fact is that while Lady Gaga may borrow things from Madonna, not to mention other musicians, she is her own entity, and she has put her own twist on pop culture icon.
You can do the same thing in the blogosophere.
I have written on topics directly inspired by other people who blogged on the same topic from a different angle. I’ve linked to peoples’ posts. I’ve even argued with peoples’ posts in my own blog posts. But in the end, the resulting post was mine. My voice, my spin. You can show your influence without being a carbon copy. Heck, that’s how the whole music industry grew and evolved. You think Mick Jagger was accused of being a copycat when he emulated Muddy Waters?
I think not.
Bow to Madonna, remain Lady Gaga
How can you show your influences in your blog posts without worrying about seeming like a copycat? Here are some ideas.
• If you are responding directly to a post or are inspired by a post, include a link within your post to that person’s part of the conversation. This shows your readers that you are purposefully riffing on something that has been riffed on before.
• Absorb advice in this space the same way you learn the alphabet. Everyone learns their ABCs, but boy do we end up doing different things with those letters.
• Don’t cover topics that don’t fit with your mission, even if the topic seems to be doing well for another blogger. Be true to your identity and objectives. Abandoning your purpose for a few more tweets is a sure way to get people mad at you.
• Give credit where credit is due. If you find that you’re having luck with a certain approach or topic that someone else trail-blazed before you, say so. Call that person your muse. Call them your inspiration. Again, let people know that you’re aware of what is influencing you. This allows you to highlight how you are making it your own.
• For more ideas on how to channel Lady Gaga, check out my pal Stanford’s post called Lady Gaga’s 8-point guide to larger than life blogging. It’s an amazing chain of thoughts he has in there.
Are you in touch with your inner Lady Gaga?
Are you building on the resources around you while holding true to your own unique personality, voice, and mission? Are you worried that you might be straying too much towards those who have gone before?
Would Madonna be flattered or would she call you a copycat?
And most importantly, how can I help?