Ah, since the first realization that money could be had through online video and that video was the ultimate “viral” vessel of success - everyone and their mom has begun investigating the exact formula of the viral video.
Being a video artist who has worked freelance on and off the last few years in a town known for it’s “Music Industry” it’s become increasingly obvious that anyone who wants a video….wants it to go “Viral.”
The problem with the word viral, in my humble opinion, is that 1…. it’s just an unattractive word when it comes to health. And 2 …. it’s truly ridiculous to gauge the success of a video based on whether it goes “viral” or not.
Lets look at my three favorite Viral Anomalies that I’ve heard so many people tell me they want to replicate…..
Psy - GANGNAM STYLE
A lot of people still reference Gangnam Style as the ultimate “Viral Video” because of it’s success - and rightfully so. Breaking the 1billion views record in 2012 …. it’s safe to say it’s the current internet champion of viral.
What people fail to understand is that Gangnam Style - had a well placed system in place to make it successful to begin with.
It wasn’t a situation of someone posting their first youtube video and it blew up. On the contrary - Psy is a seasoned professional with 12 years of top singles under his belt. And YG Entertainment is a well respected source for all things Korean Pop in the American subculture. YG boasted 2million subscribers on their youtube prior to Gangnam Style - a number that pretty much guarantees that their uploads are instantly pushed to the top in view count. Because of that it found it’s way to the youtube top charts and the rest is pretty much history.
American Pop-Culture tastemakers and icons recognized the video and blasted it on their socials. The world blew up with all things Psy and Gangnam! To some it was considered a Viral Baby Miracle! To the more intuned it was - genius strategy.
Because K-Pop isn’t necessarily mainstream in America a lot of people overlook the fact that it is indeed a subculture on the internet. (My little sister actually taught herself how to speak korean because of her mild fangirl obsessions with the culture.) That fact alone is why it’s so hard for people to understand how a pudgy little korean man could steal so many views from the likes of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.
Fact is - he had a platform for jumping.
Ylvis - The Fox (What does the fox say)
This little gem is the 2013 win of viral in regards to view count. And like it’s 2012 predecessor was also the product of a higher platform than someone’s first video.
While their platform may not have been as large as YG Entertainment it was enough to make a dent in the numbers to get the attention of pop-culture icons and tastemakers.
The Ylvis Brother’s are a Norwegien Comedy duo. They host their show,Tonight with Ylvis and make comedic music video’s as a part of their show. The Fox, was one of those videos.
“The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” was the first to get recognized by an influx of American pop-culture. They had been getting a steady following in america prior to this for their 2012 song “Someone Like Me” a dubstep-showtunes homage. Yes. Really. But had been growing that videos’ numbers since 2012.
According to the tone of conversation from interviews with the comedic duo they stick by the idea that it’s silly how a song intended as a joke suddenly sky rocketed them to international fame. But, considering they’re comedians who are known for their comedy music I think the real question is - are we as a culture really that naive to think that it wasn’t “intended” to move the needle?
If you look at any of their music videos you can tell they have some money behind each production. And the fact that they post them on youtube is an inclination that they’re hoping one of them catches. Was it unfortunate that the most ridiculous of them all caught on? Perhaps. But, they put money into the project with some intention of some kind of return.
Add to the fact that prior to the release of the song they signed with the Norewgian arm of Warner Music and actually recorded the song with Stargate, a top norwegian born New York based producer leads me to suspect whether their “innocent shock” is truly genuine. (NewYork Times article)
Either way, it’s a ridiculous hilarious song and the budget on that video wasn’t cheap. So it’s only natural that a video that’s pretty child friendly and filled with ridiculous replicable sounds be put on blast for a media generation eager to see it.
Ah, who hated to love this song in 2013?
Originally released as a song on Aug 23, 2012 - the Harlem Shake wasn’t made popular until some blokes from the youtube channel DizastaMusic posted a silly dance video on Feb 2, 2013. Then the user Sunny Coast Skate (above) posted their response with a little more form - and…. the Harlem Shake trend blasted off! (YoutubeTrend.com)
Note: Both of these youtube channels have six figures in subscriber-ship each which generates a pretty decent launching pad for content release.
I’m not going to go into the numbers of all of it - but… basically everyone everywhere was doing their own version shortly after the release of their two videos. Maker Studios took part in the trend and then every office and company was doing one too. Needless to say …. it all got pretty ridiculous.
BUT, it was the first “video meme” that took the world by storm. The fact that the dance was simple, the music was ear catching, and the trend encouraged people to not give a rats who-ha about having fun - it spread….and it spread like wild fire!
WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM THIS RETROSPECTIVE?
Basically…. It needs to be recognized that there are some distinct differences between what happened in these three scenarios and whats likely to happen to your iphone shot music lip-sync video…
Gangnam Style & The Fox are both videos of larger than your house big budgets, and a platform that while not “in the mainstream” of American culture was big enough to make a splash once they had content worth sharing and maybe even some under the table “publicity” lineups to push it.
The Harlem Shake, on the other hand was an epic social experiment. It was a video meme that started from two youtube brands with a decent following. But once it launched it encouraged people to remix a simple and easy to execute idea. The thing we need to all pull from this is that 6months went by after the ORIGINAL song post for it to be discovered.
It didn’t happen overnight. And viral videos generally don’t happen on whim. There’s time put into it whether it’s actually developing your idea or actually building your brand’s launching pad for potential viral reach.