Social media has changed the landscape of how content is consumed. Between video sharing apps, and social media sites to showcase how amazing life can be, social media has turned into a tool to not only show success but also obtain it. By the time 2013 came around it wasn’t unusual to hear about someone who was an Instagram celebrity or Twitter famous. Once the advent of Vine came about regular people from the most obscure cities were getting blue check marks and monetizing their platforms. This became the norm and once we entered 2015 the term “Soundcloud Rapper” was coined it became apparent that this train could not be stopped.
Many mainstream artists today, started their careers by posting homemade music on Soundcloud. They used their other social medias to cross promote and probably had a viral video of them doing some sort of viral challenge, fighting or doing something funny to their own music. Next thing, they are signed to some major label and are seen showing off chains and cars on their social sites. Going viral didn’t used to have any appeal. People would get a bunch of retweets on twitter or loops on vine and then life would return to business as usual a few days later. Now in 2019, there are people who are making careers off of a few viral videos and tweets.
A vast amount of today’s music artists can attribute their success to having a viral moment. For example, Lil Nas X, directly said his song, “Old Town Road” went viral because of its use on the video sharing app “Tik Tok.” Without Tik Tok this song might have only lived on soundcloud but instead, it’s in talks to be the song of the year. In 2018, a video of the genre blending artist, Lizzo, playing the flute, during a live performance, began to circulate on the twitter streets. The video blew up and provided traction around her, combine that with her most viral song “Truth Hurts” being played in the 2019 Netflix movie “Someone New” and in a few short weeks she may take the spot as the longest reigning number 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for a female rapper.
Going viral is beneficial for some and detrimental for others. Artists like Young M.A. and Desiigner both had chart topping songs a few years ago. Both of those artists went viral from lyrics from their songs , “OOOUUU” and “Panda” respectively. However, the aftermath of their success left them without a real fan base. Without an already established fan base and a massive hit as a new artist, it’s hard to determine who should be catered to next. Since so many people love that one song what should the next song sound like? The same formula for the initial hit cannot be repeated because the odds of it living up to the success of the first one is slim. Diverging from the formula that worked might make a lot people say, what the fuck, if it’s not like its predecessor.
In addition to this many artists either do not capitalize on the moment or capitalize so much that they begin to be played out. Fetty Wap is the perfect example. 2015 was his year, everything he made went viral. But once 2016 rolled around, Fetty couldn’t buy a hit and most recently he’s been on Love and Hip Hop with not one but two of his baby mothers discussing if he is actually the father. It seemed that Fetty capitalized on his 15 minutes but once those 15 minutes were up his career started on a downward slope.
The art of finding the perfect balance of characteristics to create a successful career in the social media age is a struggle. It takes a combination of things to be just right to create a superstar in the digital age. Record companies are no longer looking to sign people in a mall. They look on social media. They are trying to find someone who has a fanbase, a good personality, music that is either good or something they can work with and most importantly can go viral. Without these things and a little luck it will be hard to break through in music. However, those that manage to posses all of these attributes, have a pool of endless opportunities awaiting them.