For decades, artists are considered successful when a dozen or more radio stations have picked up on their songs and plays it for a couple of times throughout the day. However, that former status has started to transition to the artist’s level of exposure on the Internet. More evidently, social media has become a more practical platform for artists not only to boost their new songs but to also keep it in the top charts.
There’s no better song to compare this trend than with Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road,” which has been number 1 in Spotify US Top 50 charts for a couple of weeks now as well as Billboard’s Top 100 charts. Other than the catchy, country-infused trap, and banjo-filled song that easily stuck with its listeners, Lil Nas X or formally, Lamar Hill, had something else to thank for his single’s quick rise to popularity.
“Old Town Road” started as a meme on TikTok and generally joined the #YeeHaw craze where it materialized the younger generation’s cowboy and cowgirl fantasies. This isn’t the general path big artists would take but for someone who’s just starting to break through the crowd of rappers and trap singers out there, Hill knew that he had to go viral.
“I was doing Facebook comedy videos, then I moved over to Instagram, and then I hopped on Twitter,” the 19-year-old says to Rolling Stone. “That is where I really was a master. That was the first place where I could go viral.”
Hill released his single December of 2018 and was picked up by radio stations but that didn’t do so well for him so he started to introduce the single on Twitter and used it as a backdrop for memes on TikTok and it exploded from there.
Millions of TikTok users used “Old Town Road” as a soundtrack to transform themselves into cowboys and cowgirls. Moreover, there are about 67 million videos out there with the hashtag #yeehaw, most of which feature Hill’s song.
“I knew the way I was going to have to push the song to get it to hit more people’s ears,” Hill says. “I promoted the song as a meme for months until it caught on to TikTok and it became way bigger. I was pretty familiar with TikTok: I always thought its videos would be ironically hilarious. When I became a trending topic on there, it was a crazy moment for me. A lot of people will try to downplay it, but I saw it as something bigger,” he told Time.
From TikTok, videos are often compiled into one bulk of videos and reuploaded on YouTube where it gets another hundred of thousands of views, if not by the millions. Hill just then realizes that his song had a life of its own and passed by all the other songs on its way to number 1.
“I should maybe be paying TikTok. They really boosted the song. It was getting to the point that it was almost stagnant. When TikTok hit it, almost every day since that, the streams have been up. I credit them a lot,” Hill tells Time.
Today, Snapchat is looking to secure more deals with label companies like Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group to license songs for users to embed in posts, according to aWall Street Journal report.
It’s not going to rival TikTok but it would allow that social media platform to compete along with other platforms like Musical.ly, Facebook and Instagram. From the artist’s perspective, this could be another way to let their fan base enjoy their music from their own form of entertainment just as how “Old Town Road” did.
On the other end of the story, video creators on YouTube are still struggling with copyright issues over covers and mere mentions of songs on their videos from music labels. That fact simply hinders artist’s from getting mentioned or gain exposure when a video giant like YouTube gets discouraged because of issues like these.
Nonetheless, the future of music will definitely be determined by how well it is received on the Internet. Whether or not Lil Nas X would be able to push through with future songs in the same matter is still a question that’s needed to be answered.