Modern Music Promotion: How Songs Go Viral

by The Cowl Editor on October 31, 2019

Arts & Entertainment

Exploring the Impact of Social Media on Song Popularity

by: Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff

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In today’s society, everything we do is driven by social media in some way. Similarly, social media has had an enormous impact on the music industry when it comes to the promotion of songs and the way that artists interact with fans. 

Social media has also changed the way music is produced, distributed, and sold through streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. The personal connection between artists and fans has been a direct source of boosted music sales in recent years. According to BuzzAngle’s 2018 Report on Music Consumption, on-demand audio stream consumption increased by 41.8% to 534.6 billion streams in 2018.  

Additionally, social media has the power to make a song become an overnight sensation through shares on Instagram stories, retweets, or viral memes. Drake’s “In My Feelings” was immensely popular in 2018, as the viral “In My Feelings” dance challenge hit the internet. #inmyfeelingschallenge on Instagram has over 790,000 posts attached to it. The global movement consisted of people getting out of their car to dance to the song. Odell Beckham Jr., Ryan Seacrest, Will Smith, and countless other celebrities with an enormous following posted their version of the “In My Feelings” challenge on their individual accounts. 

This trend boosted Drake’s song to  No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100  chart for 10 weeks. “In My Feelings” broke the streaming record for the most streams in a single week with 116.2 million streams, and the viral trend over Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram was responsible.  

Record labels no longer have to invest the same amount of money into promotions, as artists’ interactions with fans over the internet can be even more effective than classic radio promotions. 

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One of the biggest hits of 2019, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” did not blow up over radio airwaves, but on the video sharing app, TikTok.  On the app, millions of creators used the song as a soundtrack to their video which made “Old Town Road” a viral hit. In an interview with Time magazine, Lil Nas X said, “When TikTok hit it, almost every day since that, the streams have been up. I credit them a lot.”  

Viral social media trends have boosted songs without the artist spending a dime on promotion as artists and record labels strategically use the power of social media to boost streams and revenue.  

Another example of this was Lizzo’s song “Truth Hurts.” Her song was released September 19, 2017, but took almost two years for it to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on September 3, 2019. “I just took a DNA test,” the opening line of her song, went viral in Netflix’s movie Something Great, prompting millions of people to stream her song, and boosting her to the top of the charts. 

 The ability to share songs, albums, and playlists on social media platforms has changed the music industry entirely.