The coronavirus is forcing musicians to get creative. You know who understands this? Drake.
Drake has already been proving his marketing genius for decades but let’s take a look at his latest work, the song ‘Toosie Slide.’ This new single was released on April 3, in the heart of coronavirus lockdown. The official music video for ‘Toosie Slide’ is a long cut following Drake (wearing a full mask and gloves) around his house in quarantine. There is an accompanying dance called the ‘Toosie Slide Challenge’ that has been blowing up on social media. The song was named after Toosie, one of the dancers who came up with the dance after Drake asked him for help. Now, Toosie Slide has become the fastest music trend to reach a billion views on TikTok and is currently sitting at 3.5B total views.
TikTok and the Coronavirus are both part of life now and Drake has struck gold at the intersection of the two.
Everything, from the timing of the release to the ease of the dance moves, was picked carefully by Drake for maximal impact. Let’s not forget that this is the THIRD major dance challenge Drake has released on TikTok. In the summer of 2018, he released the song “In My Feelings“ with an accompanying dance challenge. Earlier this year, people started doing the Flip the Switch challenge, which used Drake’s song “Nonstop.“
There’s a broader point here around TikTok as a marketing tool for musicians to connect with fans. I can’t think of another consumer app that has gotten so many people around the world to dance. And it’s translating into actual commercial success for musicians. 7 out of 30 songs on the Rolling Stone Top 100 charts went viral through TikTok memes or challenges.
The ultimate blueprint for this was set over a year ago by Lil Nas X, who used TikTok to take his song Old Town Road to the top of the charts and pretty much launch his entire music career. Lil Nas X actively promoted the YeeHaw dance challenge to get people to notice his song and that will go down as one of the most successful marketing moves in entertainment history. ‘Old Town Road’ became the number one song of 2019 across dozens of countries, broke numerous records, and made Lil Nas X an international star.
At the time, Lil Nas X was a 19 year-old who had no backing from any major label and no track record as a professional musician. His success legitimatised TikTok as a hugely important marketing tool for musicians. Lil Nas X once said, “TikTok helped me change my life. TikTok brought my song to several different audiences at once.”
For those of you wondering, what is a TikTok challenge?
Here’s how it works—a TikTok user comes up with a dance routine or comedic challenge based on a particular song. If the dance is popular and fun, it usually grows on the platform as a viral meme, with more and more people recording TikTok videos of themselves trying out the challenge.
Here are some examples:
The Savage Challenge, a dance routine based off Megan Thee Stallion’s song Savage.
The Don’t Start Now Challenge, a dance routine based off Dua Lipa’s song ‘Don’t Start Now.’
The Blinding Lights Challenge, a dance routine based off The Weeknd’s song ‘Blinding Lights'.’
People who record themselves doing these challenges could range from completely random people with less than ten followers to major celebrities like Will Smith.
What I find interesting is that TikTok challenges can market your music as an active sensory experience that goes beyond just listening. If you are watching a video of people dancing along to a song, then trying out the dance challenge yourself, and then finally recording your own version to post on TikTok, you have more of your senses engaged. It’s a more immersive experience you are having with the specific artist and song. Or maybe it’s a fully-integrated marketing campaign?
That must be why I’ve had ‘Blinding Lights’ by the Weeknd stuck in my head ever since I saw my very first Blinding Lights Challenge on TikTok.
It seems you can score points by singing about TikTok, without the need for a dance. The Kid Laroi is a 16 year old rapper from Australia. A few weeks ago he launched a song called, ‘Addison Rae,’ named after the famous TikTok star who has 35 million followers. The Kid Laroi launched the song by posting it on TikTok, calling out and tagging Addison Rae. She replied by posting a video of her and her mother reacting to the video.
If you look on Youtube, the official music video for ‘Addison Rae’ has 3 million views.
If you look on Spotify, the song on the Kid Laroi’s page has 12 million plays.
If you look at the video Addison Rae posted where she reacted to the song, it has 90 million views and 12.6 million likes.
When you see that, the difference in distribution is insane. It’s not comparing apples to oranges, but if you are The Kid Laroi’s manager you will definitely be sitting up straight and paying attention. TikTok might be the most undervalued and underrated marketing platform in the world for musicians.
Music is becoming a multi-sensory experience, like a venn diagram. The most successful songs of 2020 aren’t just about the music, but have the accompanying dances or the meta references to internet culture.
We are only beginning to see how the media and entertainment landscape will change. The trends we see now aren’t just because of the lockdown, but are previews of our future norms even after the coronavirus passes.