May Book 2020 May 2020 - Page 16

EDITORIAL What’s the secret to going viral? by Gareth Shute It seems to be a regular occurrence these days that a young artist suddenly finds themselves doing huge numbers on a streaming service like Spotify or getting a spike in views on YouTube. Where did these millions of streams/ views come from? Clearly, if there was an obvious route to success, then everyone would be taking it but there is still some preparation you can do to give your music the best chance of pick- up online. PLAN AHEAD From the outside, it might look as if some tracks just randomly get picked for big Spotify playlists and suddenly get a million streams, but usually there’s been dedicated work behind the scenes to highlight the track to the curators of the playlist that got people listening or the blogger who gave the song its initial boost. If you are supplying your track to streaming services via an aggregator (the biggest one in New Zealand being DRM) then they will need up to a month to prepare material for sharing with the editorial staff at the big streaming services. This will give you the best chance of getting on one of their playlists. If you are with a major label that aggregates its own material to streaming services, then they will still need time to plan their promotional approach. 16 • NZ MUSIC COMMISSION MAY BOOK 2020 The questions your aggregator/label will want to know are: • What has your act achieved in the past? • What press/radio interviews/etc have you arranged to go with this release? • Are you planning to do any advertising to promote it? • Will there be live streams or online activity that coincides with it? • Is your release supported by NZ On Air funding or is there a music video for the song? This information is then compressed and presented to the editorial teams at Spotify, Apple Music etc, so there needs to be enough to draw them in and make them want to give the track their full attention. If the genre of the music is outside the mainstream, it might even be worth investigating which playlist the track might suit - e.g., if it is relaxing instrumental music it might suit the popular Spotify playlist, Sleep. Similarly on Bandcamp each genre area has their own staff managing them, so it’s worth trying to connect with these people. These factors apply equally strongly to getting interest from music blogs or other music media. If a journalist/blogger receives a track via email with very little information supplied along with it, then there’s only a slim chance they’ll even listen to it. It pays to make it clear in the email that you’re an avid fan of the writer/site/ blog/etc that you are submitting your music to, since there’s nothing easier to ignore than a generic form email. Even the title of an email could be used to draw them in by outlining what it is that makes your music special - e.g., “NZ rapper with 80s beats, who plays his own sax breaks.” It needs to be something intriguing that you think would tempt someone to have a quick listen. This brings us to our next point… BE OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES The great thing about releasing music online is that you have a potentially unlimited audience, the only problem is that it’s such a crowded marketplace. It’s worth looking at local acts who’ve received great pick-up online and see what it was that got them attention. In some cases, their audience received a great leap from a usage of their music that they hadn’t even planned for, but the key thing is being open to these opportunities as they arise. Recently Benee found one of her songs being picked up for a dance challenge on TikTok, following a short clip posted by a teen in Rotorua (Waiata Jenning) going viral on the app. It ended up featuring in over half-a-million TikTok vids and within a few months this led to a huge boost in her Spotify numbers (up to half-a-million streams per day). The temptation for a young artist might be to try to get on the bandwagon on this new fame by doing one’s own TikTok video, but users of the app could equally be turned off by the idea that an artist was trying to cash in on their interest. Instead, Benee continued on course with her music - focusing instead on releasing a catchy single as a follow-up and creating a music video with her own personal aesthetic front and centre. She was positive about the pick-up of her music on TikTok in interviews, but didn’t try to force it. By taking this approach, TikTok users subsequently embraced her next single ‘Supalonely,’ which soon had its own dance and went on to staggering streaming numbers (over 125 million on Spotify and 27 million views on YouTube … not to mention all those 10 million+ TikTok vids!). In other cases, it can be an openness to collaboration that gives an artist a boost. Consider Kimbra’s feature on the Gotye song ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ - a video that now has over 1.3 billion views. For Kimbra’s part, it was a pay-off from her willingness to work with interesting artists - for example, she’d previously sung with Australian dance music outfit Miami Horror and also got to No.3 in NZ singing on a track by Nesian Mystik. What’s more, by the time her song with Gotye came out, she already had an album ready to drop so was able to take full advantage of her newly found fame when the video went