With over 600,000 singles sold in France and Great Britain so far and around 70,000 albums flying off the shelves in France alone, Inna is one of the top rated Romanian artists of the moment. An example of online success, her song Hot has reached almost 30 million views on YouTube, and continues to gain popularity among social media platform users. Business Review sat down with the singer and her management to try to discover the secret of her success and plans for the future.
Dance music has been fertile territory for performers of Romanian origin for quite a while now. O-Zone proved it in the early 2000s, and former member Dan Balan (aka Crazy Loop) continues to do so, the Cheeky Girls improbably did it in Great Britain and Morandi are making quite a few waves beyond Romanian borders to name but a few.
Inna shot to fame in 2009, when her first single, Hot, became one of the most played songs on TV and radio channels, shortly reaching number 1 in the national Nielsen Airplay Chart and later attaining airplay in places such as Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia, Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands. The singer is now the winner of a Platinum Disc in Spain and a Golden Disc in France, where she has sold over 50,000 records and been invited onto several radio shows to perform unplugged versions of her hits. In Romania, however, the situation could have been a lot better. Inna’s sales were respectable, but “the majority of sales and gains came from abroad,” say Global Music Management officials.
The 24-year-old from Mangalia (a town on the Romanian Black Sea Coast) started studying music at eight years old and had a pop-rock project before dabbling in dance music, which she gave up as it brought no success. She cites Pink as her inspiration. Inna attributes the Romanian music industry’s lack of international headway to insufficient promotional budgets, as well as “the lack of constant results on an international level.” But she hasn’t given up hope. “Romanian music has grown considerably in recent years, it can be heard all over Europe. But we still have a lot of work to do.” Constancy appears to be one of the singer’s secrets, as Inna has quickly launched one new song after another, without making major changes to her look or sound.
In the United States, after being signed by the independent Ultra Records label in 2009, the Romanian recording artist soared to the top of the Billboard chart, the Hot Dance Airplay section, with Hot. At the MTV Europe Music Awards 2009, Inna won the Best Romanian Act section, while at the Romanian Music Awards she took 4 of the 16 gongs. The independent label from New York that signed Inna has a portfolio that includes Armin van Buuren, Dannii Minogue, Fedde Le Grand, Kraak & Smaak, Morcheeba, Panjabi MC, Paul Oakenfold, Paul van Dyk, Tiësto, Timo Maas, Tom Novy, as well as Romanians like Akcent and O-Zone.
Image is also very important in Inna’s promotion. Her sweet and daring persona presents a friendly and warm side to her fans. While Lady Gaga has set the trend for out-in-the-open and controversial sexuality, Inna’s sexy outfits are less shocking and more playful. At the MTV European Music Awards, on November 5 2009, in Berlin, Inna got quite a reaction on the red carpet, thanks to her tight red pants and transparent top, hogging the spotlight for several minutes and delaying the entrance of other artists, according to her official website. Such controversy may seem premeditated, yet Inna argues that while “image is a very important aspect of any public figure, artist or not,” she has not put very much thought into it. However, she admits to having been helped by her looks and outfits. Inna’s image has been the focus of many of her videos, created by internationally acclaimed directors. The video for 10 Minutes was filmed in London, directed by Paul Boyd, known for his work with the likes of Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Tina Turner and Kylie Minogue.
From the outside, Inna’s success seems like an overnight and almost fairytale happening. In the eyes of the singer’s management team, however, what lies behind the singer’s popularity beyond Romania is “her very good voice, excellent stage presence and passion for what she does. Inna is an artist who helps you very much with her promotion”. The singer says she earned her fame through constant work and always aiming higher. As she puts it, “These results only make more ambitious to attain more.”
An effective online promotional campaign boosted the singer’s career in the era of virtual communication. “Social networks have helped us gain direct contact with fans, see their reactions and get closer to them. We offered them constant content, through pictures, videos or simple updates regarding Inna’s career, as they appreciate this kind of thing,” Global Music Management representatives tell Business Review. Although the singer says that she does not have her own Facebook profile, “I do send messages to my Facebook and Twitter pages,” adds the chanteuse. So far, Inna has attracted over 835,000 fans on Facebook, almost 30 million views on YouTube for Hot and around 10,000 comments on the same video.
Behind the singer’s success is an enduring collaboration with Romanian composers from Alba Iulia, Play & Win, made up of Sebastian Barac, Radu Bolfea and Marcel Botezan, who have also written for other top Romanian artists, like Akcent, Activ, Andra and Sistem. Inna’s Romanian origins have not affected her road to fame, she says, while her management argues that they have been an impediment which they have managed to overcome. Political tensions between Romania and France, for example, have not stopped the artist from being invited on several shows in the country and also receiving a Golden Disc for her record sales. The singer’s favorite performance abroad so far was, however, in Novi Sad, Serbia
Each success story brings some criticism, and Inna has not been spared. Many commentators say that more talented artists showing less skin do not receive the same degree of attention or that the artist should perform in Romanian, her native language. But she counters, “If you want an international hit, it must be in a language of international circulation.” O-Zone’s Dragostea din Tei (or the Numa Numa song as Americans call it) “was an exception,” concludes the singer.
Inna has announced that she will most likely release a new album in 2011, although it may be too early to talk of her follow-up disc, as her first album has only just been released in some countries.
Inna in numbers:
- Years active: 3, since 2007
- Estimated fee for a concert in Romania: EUR 4,000*
- Estimated fee for a concert outside Romania: EUR 8,000*
- Singles sold in France and Germany: 300,000
- Albums sold in France: 70,000
- Number of fans on Facebook: over 835,000**
- Number of followers on Twitter: over 20,000**
- Peak position on Billboard Hot Dance Airplay chart: 1
- Views on YouTube for Hot video: almost 30 million**
- Views on YouTube for Sun is Up video, one week after launch: over 1,000,000**
*data from Roton Music Label
**not including unofficial fan pages/posts
Picture taken by Edward Aninaru