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Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny (Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio) wearing a Dior suit arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of Sony Pictures' 'Bullet Train' held at the Regency Village Theatre on August 1, 2022 in Westwood, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency)
Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny (Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio) wearing a Dior suit arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of Sony Pictures' 'Bullet Train' held at the Regency Village Theatre on August 1, 2022 in Westwood, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency)
Bad Bunny on what makes a song go viral: “Simple goes a long way.”

DJ Rede Beats here, back again with some thoughts on going viral.

What makes me qualified to speak on this? Well, I’ve been in the music game for three decades now, keeping clubs hopping and contributing to a lot of big tracks over the years. I also work with artists to help them promote, so my head is in this game 24/7: I know the moves that will get you in there.

I know you’re asking: “But Beats, how does any of this help me get my track to really blow up and make its way from the studio to millions of listeners worldwide?”

Well, stick around and we’ll chop it up together.

First, Music Promotion Is Strictly Digital

Back in my early days, it was all about getting the right gig or hoping your cassette tape landed on the right A&R desk.

Nowadays, digital platforms like Spotify, YouTube, and TikTok have changed the game. Honestly, it’s the best time in history to be a musical artist because you have a pipeline directly into the ears of the entire world.

TikTok, especially, has been a game-changer: According to a 2021 survey, 75% of TikTok users say they discover new artists through the platform and 63% heard new music that they’ve never heard before on TikTok.

Those are some crazy numbers that speak volumes about the potential of digital in music viral promotion.

The downside? You’ve got a lot of competition. Every day, artists upload their tracks hoping to hit a sonic gold mine, because when a track goes viral, it doesn’t just get plays — it becomes a cultural moment, an anthem, and a trend that can catapult an artist’s career straight to the top.

We’ve all seen it happen, we’ve all seen other people do it: from Psy’s “Gangnam Style” to Drake’s “In My Feelings,” we’ve seen tracks just take over the internet and dominate global music charts.

It can be a real-life rags-to-riches story, too.

We all know about Lil Nas X and his $30 backbeat for “Old Town Road.” That song broke the damn internet and shattered all kinds of records, all thanks to the power of social media. Later on in this article, we’ll break down how Lil Nas X did it and how you can copy his moves.

But for now, know this: what Lil Nas X did almost never happens. And that is really good for you.

Because while every viral hit has a different beat and different lyrics, they all share a common denominator — that secret sauce of music promotion that both embraces the spirit of the moment and strategically leverages digital platforms.

Not many people know what that sauce is but by the time you finish this article you will know the ingredients by heart.

So, if you’re ready to put your thinking cap on and learn about making your music go viral, have a seat.

Class is in session.

The DNA of A Viral Hit

First off, ask yourself: what makes a song go crazy? A catchy hook, relatable lyrics, or a sick beat? The truth is, it’s a combination of these components but much, much more.

Each viral song has unique elements that resonate with listeners and create an infectious buzz.

Let’s break them down:

  1. Catchy and Memorable Melody: A viral song typically has a simple, catchy, and easily recognizable melody that sticks in people’s minds. It should trigger an emotional response and make listeners want to sing along or hum the tune.
  2. Relatable and Universal Themes: Songs that hit on relatable and universal themes have a higher chance of connecting with a mainstream national or even global audience. This means common experiences, common emotions, or common issues that people can relate to on a personal level.
  3. Unique or Unexpected Elements: Novelty can be a driving factor in making a song go viral. It might be a distinctive sound, an innovative use of instruments or an unconventional genre blend. It grabs people’s attention.
  4. Memorable Lyrics and Hooks: Memorable lyrics and hooks often contain catchy phrases, memorable one-liners, or repetitive sections that are easy to remember and sing along to. Clever wordplay or even coining new phrases can go make your track the next earworm. Who knew what O.P.P. was until Naughty By Nature told us?
  5. Engaging Visuals and Storytelling: In the digital age a captivating music video, dance routine, or visual storytelling accompanying the song can significantly enhance its shareability and create a visual component that complements the audio experience. Bottom line, video is the thing to do if you want those shares.
  6. Cross-Cultural Appeal: Songs that transcend language and cultural barriers have a higher chance of going viral globally. A universal sound or a cross-cultural collaboration can attract listeners from diverse backgrounds and lead to widespread sharing and engagement.
  7. Timing and Luck: Sometimes, a song’s virality is a combination of timing and luck. Factors like current trends, events, or cultural shifts can align with the release of a song, giving it an added boost and increasing its chances of going viral. So focus on what is happening now or even in the near-term future.

I know what you’re thinking, that a lot of different stuff to pack into one track and you’re right it is.

Bad Bunny said it best, “Simple goes a long way.” He’s right, you know.

His simple, catchy hooks and relatable lyrics have a way of sticking in your head and refusing to leave.

So, the first and last thing to take away from this lesson: keep it simple. Start with one element on that list and make that the foundation of your song and build on that foundation.

But before you try to make that personal connection with thousands or millions of people, you first should try to understand the audience.

The Listener Will Make or Break Your Track

At the end of the day, you can have all the magic elements but it’s the listeners who make a song go viral. When they connect with your music, they don’t just listen — they share it, they dance to it and they make it a part of their lives. They create TikTok trends, cover versions and fan art.

This is audience engagement at its finest, and it’s really the only factor in driving a song’s virality.

That’s literally the meaning of viral. It’s about making a connection, millions of individual connections, so those millions share your music. And in order to make that connection you have to understand the listener.

Some important concepts to keep in mind about music lovers:

  • A 2021 survey found that 75% of music lovers share the music they enjoy with others.
  • The average music lover shares 10-15 songs per month with their friends and family. So stand out.
  • Music lovers are more likely to share music that they have discovered through streaming services or social media. So be there to be found.
  • Music lovers are more likely to share music that they think is high quality. So record your best at the highest possible quality. (more on this later).
  • Music lovers are more likely to share music that is relevant to their current mood or situation. You can’t predict what a listener is going to be feeling when they get to your track but you can try to make your music universal, i.e. about common feelings that most people can relate to. Do I need to list them? How about:
    • Breakups
    • Loneliness
    • Missing someone
    • A night out
    • A new relationship
    • Etc, etc, etc.

You get me?

Analyzing the Numbers Behind Viral Music Tracks

Now, if you’re anything like me, you love to get down to the nitty-gritty. And nothing gets grittier than the raw numbers. The statistics behind viral music tracks can tell us a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

Look for patterns:

  • What kind of songs get the most streams?
  • What genres get the most streams?
  • What themes do they have in common?
  • Are there particular elements that resonate more with listeners?

Well, take a look at some of these recent tracks that went viral:

Recent Songs That Went Viral

Viral songArtistYearTotal streamsGenreVideo tie-inThe platform it first hit big on
VibeBenee20221.2 billionIndie pop, electropopMusic video directed by Daniel AskillSoundCloud
Heat WavesGlass Animals20202.1 billionIndie pop, dream popMusic video directed by Colin ReadTikTok, YouTube, SoundCloud
Industry BabyLil Nas X and Jack Harlow20211.5 billionHip hop, popMusic video directed by Tanu MuinoYouTube
StayThe Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber20212.3 billionPop, R&BMusic video directed by Colin TilleyTikTok, YouTube
Montero (Call Me by Your Name)Lil Nas X20211.1 billionPop, hip hopMusic video directed by Tanu MuinoTikTok, YouTube
Good 4 UOlivia Rodrigo20212.0 billionPop, teen popMusic video directed by Petra CollinsTikTok, YouTube
LevitatingDua Lipa20202.2 billionPop, discoMusic video directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel ScheinertTikTok, YouTube
Bad HabitsEd Sheeran20211.7 billionPop, rockMusic video directed by Dave MeyersTikTok, YouTube
ShiversEd Sheeran20211.3 billionPop, rockMusic video directed by Emil NavaTikTok, YouTube
EnemyImagine Dragons and JID20211.2 billionHip hop, rockMusic video directed by Dano CernyTikTok, YouTube
Top Viral Songs on Digital Streaming Platforms 2020-2022

You’re starting to see a pattern already, aren’t you?

  1. Pop genre dominates
  2. TikTok and YouTube are where the tune took off
  3. The music videos are all directed by someone else (more on that below)

But remember, numbers are just a guide; the true magic lies in how the fans interact with it and that’s where the socials come in.

You Have To Be On All The Socials

Whether we like it or not, social media has become the new battleground for artists trying to make their music heard. And believe me, it’s not just about posting a few pics or videos — it’s about understanding the platforms and harnessing each platform’s unique features.

Social Media as a Music Promotion Tool

Social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook have become the new MTV for artists. With features like TikTok’s 15-second videos or Instagram’s Reels, artists can showcase their music to billions of users worldwide in an instant.

But it’s not just about the numbers—it’s about the interaction. These platforms allow artists to connect with fans, share behind-the-scenes footage, and engage with them on a personal level.

That’s what social media music promotion is all about. And the effects have been industry-changing.

Social Media Influence on the Music Industry

The impact of social media on the music industry is obvious: it’s where the listeners are and it’s where the listeners share.

Consider this: YouTube Shorts are racking up 50 billion daily views, with 1.5 billion logged-in viewers a month. Daily views. The top 1,000 songs on Shorts saw more than 280 billion combined views in January 2023 alone. One month, a quarter trillion views. Think about that.

Moreover, according to Pew, YouTube is used by 95% of teens, while TikTok lags behind with 67%.

But Youtube is aging out. While in 2018, Youtube accounted for 75% of the new music teens listened to Tik-Tok now has taken that crown from the video platform, with 75% of all Tik-Tok users saying they found new music on the Chinese streamer in 2021.

“If a song is going viral on TikTok, and the artist is unsigned, and as a result, it’s getting a million streams on Spotify, the labels are scrambling to sign that song or that artist,” Tatiana Cirisano, a music industry analyst and consultant at Midia Research, told CNBC last September.

I mean, that’s it right there, the industry is telling your straight out: if you get a million streams off your viral song, you’re getting a deal.

So a top priority is to not only be on social media but also be steadily watching the trends on social media. Monitor what’s going viral, try to understand why it’s resonating with listeners, and learn from it.

But remember, don’t lose your unique voice in the process. Don’t just click and copy. Social media trends come and go, your music is what will stand the test of time, so…

Make The Best Possible Music

Production quality is one of those elements that could make or break your chance to go viral. High-quality music production doesn’t just make your music sound better — it can also significantly influence your audience’s reception.

People are out there seeking out high-quality tracks – are you going to be the one to give it to them?

The Impact of Quality Music Production

In the music industry, quality is just a given. The days of the dub tapes are over. If your music doesn’t sound good, people are less likely to listen to it, share it, or promote it.

As a matter of fact, the Professional Audio Equipment Market is expected to reach a staggering $32.2 billion by 2031, according to Allied Market Research. This indicates the increasing demand for high-quality audio, and subsequently, the rising standards for music production. Listeners just expect more these days.

If that doesn’t make you believe, then consider that when exposed to high-quality sound, participants in a recent Sonos study reported a 26% increase in positive feelings.

Quality Beats Come From Quality Tools

In today’s digital age, there are numerous music production tools that can help you create high-quality music. These tools can help you enhance the sound quality, mix different tracks, and even add special effects to your music.

Famous music producers, like Dr. Dre and Pharrell Williams, are known for their exceptional use of these tools to create chart-topping hits. So, whether you’re working in a professional studio or in your bedroom, make sure you’re equipped with the right devices and machines to produce high-quality music.

Don’t scrip on the tools of your trade.

Balancing Quality and Authenticity

While high-quality music production is crucial, it’s also essential to maintain your authenticity as an artist. Don’t let the quest for “perfection” in production quality strip away the raw, authentic feel of your music.

As James Taylor, the iconic American singer-songwriter, said in 2015, “People are making a lot of music and higher and higher quality. I can’t say the same thing for how people are listening to music. People are hearing music through terrible speakers, little computer speakers, there’s a lot to get back to in terms of hi-fi and people listening to better quality, technically better quality music.”

Digital Marketing For Music in 2023

Now, let’s get into the meat of it – some real-world strategies. If you want your music to go viral, you can’t just drop a track and hope for the best. You need to have a plan. And not just any plan – it has to be a game plan tailored to your music, your brand, and your audience.

Think Old School

Old school is about pure creativity and outside-the-studio thinking.

Remember when Coldplay launched their seventh studio album, “A Head Full of Dreams,” with a “quiet buzz” campaign?

Long before even a hint of their upcoming album hit the streets, Coldplay decided to stir a big ole pot of curiosity. A photograph surfaced online showing the band’s lead singer, Chris Martin, wearing a t-shirt with a rainbow on it.

Coldplay promoting their viral marketing campaign for A Head Full Of Dream
Coldplay performing on stage during a music festival in that rainbow shirt — Photo by benhoudijk

Time passed, and then out of the blue, peculiar rainbow artwork started to pop up along the lines of the London Underground.

Sharp-eyed fans couldn’t help but notice the striking resemblance between the pattern on the mysterious murals and the one featured on Martin’s t-shirt from that picture a few months back.

The band kept the suspense brewing, allowing fans to take to Twitter with their speculations. Then, a few days later, Twitter exploded with the band’s confirmation of the impending album release. Their ingenious plan had worked; the anticipation was at its peak and they didn’t mumble nary a word to get it there. You see?

Or how about when Radiohead’s album “Kid A” was the first to be marketed entirely online? They did something new for the first time and it got a lot of publicity.

Or that audacious move by the Wu-Tang Clan, recording their album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” in secret and releasing only one copy?

These are examples of classic marketing tactics. They are risky, unique, and they generate a lot of curiosity and anticipation, but they work! So keep these kinds of techniques front in your mind when you are doing social.

Do New School

Obviously, we now live in a digital age, and the rules of the game have changed 100%. Today, social media is the new frontier of music marketing but you still have to have that old-school approach in that you got to do something creative to break out of the pack.

How about the virtual reality concert by famous DJ Fatboy Slim and Irish metaverse firm Engage, which lasted 45 minutes and gave listeners an out-of-body experience?

Or Taylor Swift’s cryptic messages and riddles that keep her fans engaged and constantly guessing?

“I’ve trained them to be that way,” Swift said to Entertainment Weekly in 2019. “I love that they like the cryptic hint-dropping. Because as long as they like it, I’ll keep doing it. It’s fun. It feels mischievous and playful.”

The takeaway here is that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to make your music viral. It’s about understanding your audience, being creative, and being true to your music and your brand.

You have to be willing to take risks and push out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time.

Or the second time. Or the fifth time. It’s always the tenth time that ends up working!

Challenge Your Followers!

In today’s digitally connected era, creating viral challenges on social media can propel your music from obscurity into the global spotlight. Let’s break this down further let’s look at some successful social challenges”


One of the most successful examples of music promotion through a social media challenge is Lil Nas X’s “#YeeHawChallenge” on TikTok, which played a massive role in the meteoric rise of “Old Town Road.” The premise of this challenge is that someone turns themself into a cowboy or cowgirl by consuming a beverage labeled “yee haw juice.”


And then there was the “#InMyFeelingsChallenge” sparked by Drake’s track ‘In My Feelings’. The global trend saw everyone from celebrities to fans jumping out of moving cars to show off their best moves.

It didn’t always end well, either. Remember?

These challenges not only gave the songs immense visibility but also skyrocketed their streaming numbers.

Strategies to Create Viral Challenges

Creating a successful challenge involves a mix of creativity, understanding of your audience, and a bit of luck. The key is to create a challenge that’s easy to replicate, fun, and engaging.

The connection to your music should be natural and seamless, not forced.

For instance, the challenge could be a dance routine to your song (like the “#BlindingLightsChallenge” for The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”) or it could be a unique concept tied to your lyrics or music video.

Case Study: Taylor Swift’s Puzzles and Clues

As I mentioned earlier, Taylor Swift is renowned for her ingenious marketing strategies, and her use of social media challenges is no exception. Swift often embeds easter eggs, clues, and puzzles in her music videos, social media posts, and album art, leading her fans – affectionately known as “Swifties” – on a scavenger hunt.

These elements often tie into future song releases or album themes, keeping fans engaged and building anticipation. This strategy has turned every Swift album release into a viral event, with fans and media alike dissecting every detail to uncover hidden meanings. It’s an interactive experience that creates a sense of community among her fans and keeps them constantly engaged with her music.

As Tay-Tay said, “I’ve trained them to be that way.” Indeed, her strategy might be specific to her brand, but the principle of engaging your audience and creating a sense of community is universally effective.

But you don’t have to be as big as Ms. Swift to take advantage of the concepts and platforms. It’s a world dominated by social media, so viral challenges can be a game-changer for your viral strategy.

Hook Up With Influencers To Boom Faster

When we’re talking about making your music go viral, we cannot overlook the powerful role influencers play in this game. Whether it’s music, fashion, or any other industry, influencers hold sway over trends and audience tastes, making them key players in the world of music promotion.

Social Media Gasoline

As an old-school DJ, the evolution of the influencer role in music promotion amazes me. Back in the day, influencers were radio DJs or music video channels, they held all the keys to the kingdom of your success. But today, those influencers are people like you and me, using platforms like TikTok and Instagram to drive trends and music tastes.

With their large followings and dedicated fanbases, these social media macs can be valuable assets in spreading the word in the right way. They are a direct link to your potential audience, and their endorsements can greatly amplify your reach.

According to a 2022 study published by the Harvard Business Review, a 1% increase in influencer marketing spending led to an increase in engagement of 0.46%.

Additionally, HypeAuditor discovered that an average influencer with 100,000 followers could generate 10,000 music streams per post.

These stats highlight the immense potential of influencer marketing in promoting your music.

Smaller is Sometimes Better

Engaging influencers requires careful planning and a personalized approach. Be strategic and intentional.

Remember, the most effective influencer partnerships are those where the influencer genuinely enjoys your music and their promotion feels organic to their audience. It’s also crucial to keep in mind that you don’t always need a mega-influencer for effective promotion because almost all social media influencers are bigger than you are right now.

Zach Friedman, a co-founder at the upstart record label Homemade Projects, puts it perfectly, “The way the TikTok algorithm works, it’s hard to know what’s going to be successful. Instead of paying a premium for a D’Amelio, you could pay a micro-influencer $200 and their TikTok could get 10 million views. Because of this, it’s better to cast a wider net.”

You heard the man: wide net, low rent. And the perfect place for that is…

Harnessing the TikTok Influence

Even though it’s relatively new, TikTok has proven itself as a powerhouse for music promotion. The platform found that over one-third of its users immediately purchased something that they found through TikTok, including music!

Additionally, Tik-Tok users consume more music and more music merch than the average joe.

Have a Monthly Music SubscriptionBuy Artist Merchandise Monthly010203040Tik-Tok UsersGeneral Public4027179Music Consumption Habits: Tik-Tok Users vs General PublicThis chart compares the percentage of Tik-Tok users and the general public who have a monthly music subscription and who buy artistmerchandise monthly.

So, whether it’s through dance challenges or lip-syncing videos, finding ways to get your music featured in TikTok content can lead to a significant boost in your song’s popularity.

Seriously, do not sleep on TikTok. They brought Megan Trainer back, so they can make you go big, no problem.

Video = Viral

Now let’s talk about a piece of the puzzle that can be as important as the music itself: the music video.

Back in my early days on the scene in ATL, music videos were a luxury. Fast-forward to today, they’ve become a necessity, especially if you want to make your music sharable.

A captivating video can elevate a good song into more than just a song because the visuals give viewers something tangible – a car, clothes, pretty girl, etc – to identify with and share.

Video Plays = Music Sold

Music videos have the power to take a song to new heights of popularity that quickly translate to sales.

Let’s take some examples from YouTube:

  • “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee has over 7.8 billion views. The song sold more than  24.3 million sales plus track-equivalent streams.
  • “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran has over 5.7 billion views and the song sold 2.3 million copies.
  • “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa with Charlie Puth has over 5.4 billion views with combined sales and track-equivalent streams of 20.9 million units.

It’s not just the catchy tunes, but the compelling storytelling in the videos that made these songs viral hits.

Still not convinced? Then what about these songs that hit?

Recent Viral Music Videos and Singles Sold

Song TitleArtistGenreYouTube PlaysSingles Sold
As It WasHarry StylesPop1.3 billion2.5 million
Heat WavesGlass AnimalsIndie rock1.1 billion1.2 million
StayThe Kid Laroi & Justin BieberPop1 billion1.5 million
LevitatingDua LipaDance-pop900 million1 million
Bad HabitsEd SheeranPop800 million1.2 million
Montero (Call Me by Your Name)Lil Nas XPop750 million1 million
Industry BabyLil Nas X & Jack HarlowHip hop650 million1 million
EnemyImagine Dragons & JIDRap rock600 million800,000
PeachesJustin Bieber, Daniel Caesar & GiveonR&B550 million800,000
Music Videos That Went Viral 2020-2023 including Genre, Plays and Song Sales

Can You Do A Video Solo?

Remember, it’s not just about making a video and uploading it to YouTube. That’s easy, so everyone does it.

Get more sophisticated with it. Look at it as an opportunity, a space where you can visually interpret your music, highlight key themes in the song and create an emotional connection with your audience.

This emotional connection often leads to engagement in the form of shares, likes and comments.

So, in some sense, crafting a viral music video really is an art in and of itself. And getting into the entire process would be a whole article unto itself. (Let me know in the comments if you want me to drop a post about it and I will.)

Just keep in mind that it requires creativity, a clear vision, and the ability to tell a story that resonates with your audience at first and then with everyone. So, working with a skilled director who understands your music and message can make a significant difference. It also doesn’t hurt to have writers (yes, they write music videos), good actors and great production designers to make it all come together.

But doing it on your own is definitely possible.

Australian singer-songwriter Troye Sivan took control of his digital persona and his overall brand by doing all his music videos himself. He says, “When I made YouTube videos and stuff, I am the one who’s uploading it, I’m the one who’s editing it, so I’m very in control of what I’m sharing and not sharing.”

Troye Sivan makes simple yet enthralling music videos with basic video editing tools

So, if you’re going to keep it simple, you can go solo but don’t underestimate the power, or the complexity, of a well-produced music video.

Speaking of doing things solo…

You Ain’t An Island (Collaborations)

OK, let’s talk about hooking up with other artists and making that beautiful music together. Collaborations, if done right and more importantly done with the right partners, can both expand your audience and bring a fresh sound to your music.

Collaborations will push your boundaries as an artist, open up a lot of new opportunities for you and even create a buzz that can take your music to audiences that you never even knew you wanted to reach.

Just take a look at the collaboration between BTS’s J-Hope and American rapper J. Cole on the track “On the Street.” It was released on March 3rd and had already racked up over 40 million views on YouTube. That’s the power of good collaboration.

In fact, some of the most iconic tracks in music history were born out of collaborations.

From Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch The Throne,” there have been numerous successful collaborations in the music industry that took the world by storm. But not every genre is going to work with every other genre.

Genres That Mix It Up Well

GenreBest genres to collaborate withExamples of famous collaborations
PopHip hop, dance, electronic“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
“I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
Hip hopPop, R&B, rock“No One” by Alicia Keys featuring Jay-Z, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem featuring 50 Cent, “Monster” by Kanye West featuring Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross
RockPop, electronic, hip hop“Imagine” by John Lennon, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem featuring 50 Cent
ElectronicPop, dance, hip hop“Galvanise” by The Chemical Brothers, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams, “Where’s Your Head At?” by Basement Jaxx
DancePop, electronic, hip hop“Rhythm Is a Dancer” by Snap!, “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic, “Galvanise” by The Chemical Brothers
R&BPop, hip hop, soul“Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, “Umbrella” by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, “No Scrubs” by TLC
SoulR&B, funk, jazz“Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
JazzSoul, funk, classical“Take Five” by Dave Brubeck, “So What” by Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis
FunkSoul, jazz, disco“Brick House” by The Commodores, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” by James Brown, “Apache” by The Incredible Bongo Band
DiscoFunk, pop, soul“Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, “Le Freak” by Chic
The best collaboration genres with hit song examples

Finding The Right Partners

The key to a successful partnership is a synergy of not just genre but also the synergy of personalities.

First, you need to find artists whose music and brand align with yours. This could be a local artist in your area or a musician you’ve met online.

Next, have a hangout. Meet with them and figure out if they’re the kind of person you can be creative with.

As the German electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze, once said, “As always in a musical collaboration: One has to like each other. As simple as that.”

So, find people you can get along with before you put it down with them.

Then, you need to create music that reflects both of your styles. This can be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to push into new genres, explore new approaches and create something truly unique.

Remember, it’s about bringing two different sounds together to create something fresh and exciting. That requires mutual respect, a spirit of creativity and most importantly, patience.

So, get out there, collaborate, and who knows? That song could be the one that breaks you. But make sure you got the contracts right first!

Now let’s bring it all together with a real-world example and breakdown.

Viral Step-by-Step: Case Study of “Old Town Road”

There’s no better way to understand the process of virality than by examining a music track that made it to the top.

So, let’s talk about “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, a track that blends elements of country and hip-hop and has not only shattered records but also transformed the music landscape.

The Creation and Marketing of “Old Town Road”

In 2018, Lil Nas X, a relatively unknown artist, bought a beat for his song “Old Town Road” for just $30. He then used social media platforms, particularly TikTok, to promote the song. He initiated the #YeeHaw challenge, encouraging users to transform into cowboys or cowgirls while “Old Town Road” played in the background. This creative, engaging, and user-generated content (USG) strategy turned the song into a viral hit.

Notably, Lil Nas X had a clear understanding of his audience, he knew what resonated with them and used this insight to promote his song effectively. In an interview with Smithsonian magazine, Nas said, “I saw the power to make something bigger from social media because it’s done so often nowadays, I didn’t want to miss my chance. I went for it.”

“Old Town Road” Blows The @#$% Up

The song quickly took off, accumulating millions of views and sparking a global dance phenomenon. It eventually climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it stayed for a record-breaking 19 weeks. The virality of ‘Old Town Road’ had a ripple effect, leading to a record deal for Lil Nas X, remix collaborations with artists like Billy Ray Cyrus, and ultimately, a Grammy win.

Lil Nas X became a global sensation, proving that with the right strategies, artists can use digital platforms to take their music to unprecedented heights.

Key Takeaways from What Lil Nas X Did

“Old Town Road” offers several key takeaways:

  1. Understanding your audience and creating content that resonates with them is crucial.
  2. The power of social media, particularly platforms like TikTok, in promoting music is insane.
  3. An original and engaging marketing strategy, like the #YeeHaw challenge, can significantly enhance your song’s chances of going viral.
  4. Collaboration, even if it’s a remix, can give you a new audience.

Now, we’ve covered the main pieces of a viral hit but there are still some more moving parts that, while not critical to viral success, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Album Covers Can Make Your Art Work

In this era of digital music where album art might seem obsolete, it has actually found new life and importance. Album art can play a significant role in attracting online attention and ultimately promoting your music. But how?

Album Art & Music Streaming

While it’s difficult to quantify the direct influence of album art on streaming numbers, the psychology of visuals are obvious. As any first-year marketing major knows, 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is purely visual and images are processed 60,000 times faster than text. In other words, humans like seeing stuff.

Album art is often the first visual representation of your music that listeners encounter, especially on platforms like Spotify, Soundcloud or Apple Music. A compelling album cover can catch the listener’s eye and can have a subconscious influence on a listener’s decision to click “play”.

Moreover, in today’s digital era, album art serves as a powerful tool for marketing and branding on social media platforms. A distinctive and memorable album cover can also be used in promotional materials and merchandising, expanding its influence beyond the digital world.

The artwork can also add depth of story to the music, which may significantly contribute to the overall experience of your track.

And let’s not forget, album art can go viral on its own, further boosting the reach of your music. Remember, Kanye West’s album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, with its bizarre and controversial artwork?

That’s brother ain’t right.

Years before Kanye was recently canceled, his album art was canceled. At the time, Universal Records demanded that he change the image on the cover, which he eventually did simply by pixelating it instead.

But ultimately, the artwork sparked discussions by itself and it helped fuel the album’s popularity.

Case Studies: Dark Side of The Moon & Nevermind

Dark Side Of The Moon

Historically, successful album art has often been intertwined with the success of the music itself.

When you think of Pink Floyd, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the prism from the cover of “The Dark Side of The Moon.”

In this case, the band hired well-known surrealist artist Storm Thorgerson. Thorgerson, ever the visionary, chose to delve deeper into the essence of Pink Floyd’s iconic light show to give himself a specific direction. He embraced the concept of the triangle, viewing it as a profound symbol of thought and aspiration, themes that resonated deeply within the lyrical tapestry of the album. The resulting image, that of the prism refracting a beam of light, quickly etched itself into the hearts and minds of the Pink Floyd fandom, becoming an enduring emblem synonymous with the band itself.


What about Nirvana’s iconic “Nevermind” cover? The artwork now holds a revered place within the esteemed collection of the Museum of Modern Art, hailed as a true classic in design. However, in the days leading up to the release of ‘Nevermind’, Nirvana was just a band on the cusp of discovery, and the designer, Robert Fisher, was an equally unknown art school graduate grinding away at Geffen. As he tells it, the entire concept was Kobain’s idea:

“Kurt wanted a baby being born underwater. Back then before the Internet, you would have to go down to the local bookstore and go through child birthing books and try to find photos. So that’s what I did. But it was just like … there’s no way we can make an album cover out of this. I couldn’t find any really good pictures and they were all way too graphic to use.”

More recently, Billie Eilish’s ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ with its haunting image reflected the dark pop theme of the album, catching the eyes (and ears) of millions.

The takeaway here is that the right album art can not only encapsulate the spirit of your music but also intrigue and engage potential listeners, contributing its own weight to your music’s virality.

Power of Playlists

Let’s discuss one of the music industry’s viral bombs – playlists – and how you can use them to promote your music. Playlists on streaming platforms can have a profound impact on your visibility and streaming numbers.

Being featured on a popular playlist can bring your music to the ears of millions of potential fans. These listeners are already engaged, searching for new music, and are more likely to add your tracks to their personal playlists, further amplifying your reach. For example, Spotify’s “RapCaviar,” Apple Music’s “Today’s Hits,” or Amazon Music’s “Best of What’s New” are influential playlists with millions of followers. Getting your track on these playlists can be a major career milestone and a massive promotional win.

The Top Playlists on Each Music Streaming Platform

SpotifyToday’s Top HitsA playlist of the most popular songs on Spotify, updated daily.
Apple MusicNew Music DailyA playlist of the latest releases from your favorite artists, updated daily.
YouTube MusicYour MixA personalized playlist of songs based on your listening history.
Amazon MusicDiscover WeeklyA playlist of new songs that you might like, updated every Monday.
PandoraToday’s HitsA personalized playlist of the most popular songs on Pandora, updated daily.<br>
DeezerFlowA personalized playlist of songs based on your listening history and the music you’ve liked.
SoundCloudSoundCloud ChartsA playlist of the most popular songs on SoundCloud, updated daily.
The Top Playlists on Spotify, Apple, YouTube, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer and Soundcloud

The Playlist Effect on Music Streaming Numbers

Playlists are a significant driver of streams on platforms like Spotify, which boasts over 4 billion user-curated playlists. With a limit of 10 collaborators per playlist and 158 million paid subscribers, that’s more than 30 playlists per paying subscriber!

These numbers illustrate the massive influence playlists can have on your music streaming numbers. Not only can they expose your music to a large audience, but they also have the potential to significantly boost your streams, helping you earn more royalties and gain more fans.

Getting Your Music Into Popular Playlists

Getting your music on these high-profile playlists can be challenging but isn’t impossible. Here are some strategies:

  1. Submit Your Music to Streaming Platforms: Platforms like Spotify allow artists to submit their tracks for playlist consideration through the Spotify for Artists dashboard.
  2. Networking: Build relationships with playlist curators. Attend music industry events, engage with them on social media, and send them personalized emails with your music.
  3. Hire a Playlist Plugger: Playlist pluggers are professionals who have relationships with various curators and can pitch your music on your behalf.
  4. User-Curated Playlists: Don’t overlook smaller, user-curated playlists. They can also be a great way to gain exposure and build momentum.

Do your research, start networking, and make getting onto playlists a priority in your music marketing efforts. And remember, every playlist counts, whether it has 50 followers or 50 million. Every new listener is a potential new fan.

Live Performances

Although we live in a digital age, the power of live performances for artists is still powerful, maybe even more powerful than ever. Live performances can impact music virality and how you can harness this power to boost your music career.

We all know about the big touring bands, such as U2, Rolling Stones, and Coldplay and how they have used live performances to build massive fanbases and achieve legend status. But it can work just as well at a regional music festival or even performing around your town. According to Neilsen, 32 million people go to at least one music festival in the United States every year, while Gitnux projects over 333.8 million people will attend live music each year by 2027 and that’s pretty much everyone in the whole country!

The Connection of Live to Virality

When you perform live, you connect with your audience on a deeply personal level, offering an experience that can’t be replicated by simply listening to a recorded track. Live performances allow you to display your musical abilities and charisma, both of which can greatly enhance your reputation and boost your fan base.

Additionally, through the power of the smartphone, photos and videos from your live shows are super easy to shoot, upload and share.

Strategies for Effective Live Performances

  1. Prepare Thoroughly: The key to a great performance is preparation. Practice your setlist until you know it like the back of your hand.
  2. Engage with Your Audience: Connect with your audience on a personal level. Engage them with your music and persona. Interaction with your fans makes your performance memorable and can encourage them to share their experience on social media, potentially leading to viral success.
  3. Utilize Visuals: Eye-catching visuals can enhance your performance and make it more memorable. Lighting, stage design, and costumes can add an extra layer to your performance and make it more shareable.
  4. Offer Exclusive Merch: Live performances are the perfect opportunity to sell exclusive merchandise. It’s a great way to make extra income and promote your brand.

Whether it’s a small intimate gig or a performance at a large music festival, every live event is a chance to gain new fans, impress music industry insiders, and potentially make your music go viral.

Challenges You’ll Face

It all sounds easy, right? Well, let’s be realistic here. Just like the drive home from the club is not always free of roadblocks, the path to viral success can have some challenges, too.

In fact, it’s more like an obstacle course so let’s take about those obstacles:

Not Every Song Hits

First and foremost, understand that not every song can go viral. Or even be popular. It requires the right blend of catchy hooks, compelling lyrics, high-quality production, and effective promotion strategies. But even with all of these elements, there’s no guarantee that your song will catch fire.

The music industry is incredibly competitive, and with the flood of content on digital platforms, standing out is tough.

So analyze why things didn’t go as well as you liked and be open to learn from it.

The Battle To Be Heard

Another significant challenge is getting your music heard. With millions of songs available on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, ensuring that your music reaches its target audience can be a real struggle.

In the early 90s, I faced a similar challenge. I didn’t have the luxury of digital platforms, getting airtime on radio stations or securing gigs at local clubs was a significant challenge.

I remember spending countless nights producing tracks, hoping that each one might be the one to catch fire. It was disheartening when things didn’t go as planned, but each setback was a learning opportunity that helped me grow as an artist and as a human being.

Insist On Success

Struggling artists often have to juggle multiple roles – from songwriting and producing to marketing and networking. It’s not an easy path, but overcoming setbacks, the “NOs” and the haters comes down to a mindset.

It’s a job, so show up with your hard hat every day.

And in the end, going viral is just one piece of the puzzle. What matters most is staying in the game with the same level of passion and dedication that you came into it with – because persistence does pay off. Just ask these folks:

Musical Artists Who Never Gave Up

MusicianAge when they hit bigSongJobs they had before
Bill Withers32“Ain’t No Sunshine”Milkman, factory worker
Leonard Cohen33“Hallelujah”Poet, novelist
Sheryl Crow32“All I Wanna Do”Secretary, dancer
Debbie Harry31“Heart of Glass”Playboy Bunny, secretary
Chris Stapleton37“Traveller”Songwriter, session musician
Sharon Jones46“100 Days, 100 Nights”Corrections officer, armored car guard
Rachel Platten34“Fight Song”Lawyer
Matt Nathanson35“Come On Get Higher”Teacher
Musicians The Hit It Big Later In Life including Age, Hit Song and what they did before

Bringing It All Together

Let’s recap where we are at and what we covered today:

  1. We started by examining the role of social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook in shaping music trends and promoting artists.
  2. I showed you how through the strategic use of these platforms, you can amplify your online presence and connect with a broader audience.
  3. We explored a few effective marketing strategies and the impact of well-thought-out collaborations on a song’s popularity. Remember, a powerful marketing campaign or a collaboration with the right artist can elevate your music to new heights.
  4. We emphasized the importance of high-quality music production and noted that maintaining a high standard in music production could significantly increase your chances of going viral.
  5. We dove into the realm of influencers, music videos, album art, and social media challenges as potent tools for music promotion. Their impact can’t be overlooked in making your music resonate with a wider audience.
  6. I touched on the power of playlists and the impact of live performances on an artist’s career. Both these aspects can provide a significant boost to your music’s popularity and potentially result in virality.
  7. Lastly, I went over the challenges faced by artists in achieving virality and touched on how persistence is key.

As an artist, it’s important to stay adaptable and utilize these strategies based on your unique style and audience.

Viral success may not be an overnight feat, but with the right strategies and a relentless pursuit of your passion, your music can reach new levels of listenership as well as revenue. So go out there, make the beats and fill the digital spaces with your unique sound! You never know when your hard work might be rewarded and you can win unless you play.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from a guy who might now be on any of my playlists but who has made a mint in this business from day one:

“I was regularly advised not to go into music, that I should give up that foolish dream.” ~ Dave Matthews

Don’t give up your dream.

DJ Rede Beats
DJ Rede Beats
DJ Rede Beats is a DJ from Los Angeles who also specializes in making beats and music production. He's worked as an artist, producer, and beat maker for over 30 years and now is a contributor an author for My Music Viral.