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Whether or not you’re a fan of Katy Perry, her sky­rock­eting suc­cess in the pop music world cannot be denied. Not only did Perry win Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards this weekend, but ear­lier this month the pop star became the first female artist in the his­tory of the Bill­board Hot 100 to have five sin­gles from one album (“Teenage Dream”) reach No. 1 on the chart — joining only the “King of Pop” him­self, Michael Jackson, in achieving this feat. We asked music industry expert David Her­lihy, asso­ciate aca­d­emic spe­cialist in the Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design, to examine how the music industry has changed since Jackson’s five sin­gles from “Bad” topped Billboard’s charts and what this mile­stone means for Perry’s career.

How does Katy Perry’s music career com­pare to that of Michael Jackson’s when he earned five Bill­board No. 1 Hot 100 hits in 1987–88? Why are these the only two artists who’ve earned this accomplishment?

Bill­board Hot 100 rank­ings are based on radio play and sales. The expo­sure nec­es­sary to “top the charts” does not come cheap. Record labels spend mil­lions of dol­lars on coor­di­nated media and radio cam­paigns in order to achieve the ubiq­uity nec­es­sary to reach upper chart positions.

Perry, like Jackson, cre­ates highly pro­duced, dance ori­ented pop music — a genre that appeals to a wide range of people and has a his­tory of suc­cess on the Bill­board Hot 100 Chart. More­over, like Jackson, Perry is charis­matic and telegenic — an essen­tial ingre­dient for mass appeal. As a result, both Perry and Jackson have been top pri­or­i­ties for their respec­tive record labels, and these com­pa­nies pulled out all the stops to achieve mas­sive exposure.

That said, there is a cer­tain “Je ne sais quoi” as to why a given artist reaches a big audi­ence. If more labels under­stood the “spe­cial sauce” to create mas­sive crossover appeal, more artists would achieve it.

What major shifts have occurred in the music industry since Jackson first achieved this feat?

The impact of dig­ital tech­nology has com­pletely dis­rupted vir­tu­ally every aspect of the recorded music industry. Jackson’s chart top­ping accom­plish­ment was achieved during the “top down” enter­tain­ment era, when essen­tially the only way to dis­cover artists and music was to tune in to major media out­lets, such as com­mer­cial radio, tele­vi­sion, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, and the only way to acquire new music was to visit a record store to pur­chase a phys­ical record.

The enter­tain­ment industry in 2011 is exem­pli­fied by a “bottom up dynamic,” in which fans con­nect directly to musi­cians and with each other. The gate­keeping inter­me­di­aries that con­trolled the music industry in the 1980s are no longer nec­es­sary for an artist to reach his or her audience.

Because recorded sales are dimin­ishing overall and radio play is no longer essen­tial for artists to reach their audi­ences, the Bill­board Hot 100 no longer func­tions as a fool-​​proof mea­sure­ment of an artist’s suc­cess or longevity. In today’s dig­ital enter­tain­ment envi­ron­ment, an artist’s accom­plish­ments might be more accu­rately mea­sured by an analysis of social media activity, mer­chan­dise sales and atten­dance at live engagements.

What will Perry’s achieve­ment mean for her career, and does it lend insight into the music industry as a whole and the direc­tion it’s headed?

While Perry’s achieve­ment is cer­tainly momen­tous, achieving mul­tiple Hot 100 Chart posi­tions is not the career guar­antee it once was. Because of the dimin­ishing role of radio and retail in the pop­u­lar­iza­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of music, Perry will need to con­tin­u­ally work harder to main­tain her pri­macy in the cur­rent frag­mented, super-​​niche media marketplace.