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It Started With A Click: How to Spawn A Viral Hit

3rd March 2011 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Venue: Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster

The third of MusicTank’s Year Zero events aims to demystify the little-understood area of the business that is the viral hit.

Midday on a Thursday late in January, the rumblings of an exciting new Hip Hop Rave track began to reverberate around cyber music halls.  A week later, the rumbling turned to a roar and by the 1st week in February, 2¼ million people had viewed ‘C’Mon’, the Busta Rhymes/Tiesto/Diplo collaboration on YouTube.

As DIY fever took hold in the early naughties, MySpace was heralded as the future of music online, being the first widely available, easy-to-use platform for artists to promote their music.  With its popularity and relevance now fast fading amidst a rapidly evolving social media landscape, where do artists now turn to get themselves heard?  YouTube is leading the fray, breaking a new breed of runaway hits and artists, from ‘F**ck You’ now sitting at 38 million views, to ‘The Vaccines’ billed as one of the hottest breaking acts of 2011.

Building on MySpace’s foundation, media hosting sites with social networking capabilities have become ubiquitous; from SoundCloud to Muzu there is no shortage of online space to upload or listen to the latest breaking song; even Spotify has entered this space and now incorporates social elements to their interface. YouTube though, is becoming synonymous with viral smashes, putting it at the forefront of viral marketing – a discipline garnering a reputation for pulling results and eyeballs usually associated with marketing campaigns many times the budget.

Much of YouTube’s success to-date lies in its embeddability – on Facebook alone, 46.2 years of YouTube videos are watched every day and over 3 million people connect to the auto-sharing feature on YouTube’s site – allowing easy sharing of videos through the individual networks.  Despite a number of competitors nipping at its heels this site has enjoyed unprecedented loyalty and a surprisingly long lifespan in an industry of constant startups and failures.

It is convenience that makes videos such a strong viral tool.  Free and seemingly uninhibited by the need to license, YouTube’s encyclopaedic catalogue helps make it the first stop for many when seeking to listen to a favourite or recently leaked song.

SoundCloud, a YouTube competitor, offers a music hosting site with social aspects and might lay claim to creating its own viral successes such as XXXY.  But a purely audio-only track can’t realistically offer the universal pull of a video, as was so eloquently demonstrated by MTV in the ‘80’s.

But despite Vevo’s planned launch in the UK in April, video won’t necessarily always be the ultimate viral medium.  As mobile becomes a more common means for listening to music it is likely a more convenient medium will become available, video remains large and unwieldy for many on limited bandwidth.

Whatever the future holds, the fact is that today, now, viral multimedia can already help break an artist or track.  Yet how it’s done remains largely the stuff of mystery, with some very successful labels admitting to still feeling their way.

When it comes to breaking new artists, this relatively low cost and often very successful means of marketing also has the cachet of being below the radar and so cooler than splashing an artist all over the London Underground.  So it’s unsurprising that so many majors use the medium to covertly build an artist’s credibility in the months and occasionally years before record release – Little Boots being a prime example.

Social tastemakers and vloggers play an important role in the new landscape with a mere mention of a clip by a popular figure often leading to hundreds of thousands of views.  How have labels exploited this kind of word of mouth to maximum effect?  What tools have they used and how has social media led the rest of the marketing mix?

This think tank will inform and inspire  those looking to understand how to make music go viral over social media.  Lifting the lid and debunking dogma about how to create a viral hit, this illustrated session will combine panel-led debate with open round table discussion providing all with pointers, next step suggestions and an eye on how music will broken in the future..

Allowing plenty of time for Q &A, we’ll be getting the lay of the land and asking what all this means for the future of music marketing.

Notes: A limited number of FREE places are available on a first-come, first-served basis to new applicants for the Creative Futures programme.  Contact MusicTank for full details and eligibility criteria. All registration documents must be completed and accepted at least 3 working days prior to the event.

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