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Artists 101

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How do I go viral?

By “going viral,” your music or content will spread quickly to thousands or millions of people. Going viral can boost your profile, attract new fans, and turn you into an internet sensation overnight. However, virality doesn’t automatically translate into success, money, or a long-term career. Much like a hit song, going viral is often more about the moment than it is the music. There is no set way to go viral, but there are certain things you can do to help put yourself in a position to be seen by millions—just know going viral takes planning and effort to capitalize on the moment and transition that momentum into sustained success.

“You can’t plan to go viral. What most people do when they want to go viral is they pay a lot of money for fake views to hopefully boost their algorithm. You have to rely on the foundation—once you build your foundation and something hits a nerve and you start seeing love across platforms… If you plan it, you’re gonna be spending a lot of money, but that doesn’t equate to streams or long-term success as an artist.”

—Ryan Hobbs, Pandora

“Once you have reached a certain caliber in your career, and you have label budget, there are things that can be done on your behalf to help create a viral moment. At the end of the day, it still depends on the fans. There are things that go viral every day that nobody could’ve guessed. There are things that go viral that have been pushed by major labels, and there’s a lot of marketing strategy behind it.”

—MeLisa Heath, Artist Manager

“Lil Nas X is a perfect example. As much as he goes viral, he’s created the opportunity, where the probability of him becoming viral is a lot higher. He looks at the internet in that fashion of being clever. You can never plan for virality, but you can position things that would maybe make you more probable for it to happen.”

—Karl Fricker, VP of A&R, RCA Records

“Being viral or going viral is a moment. You can capitalize on it, and you can do something with it. The term ‘viral’ is like an unexpected explosion, moments in time you’re trying to harness. They’re important for getting to the next level, but ultimately artist development is about knowing yourself and your fanbase and building songs that really transcend just a moment of virality.”

—Adam Small, A&R, Saweetie

“There’s no doubt that with the emergence of TikTok and other social media platforms thriving, there’s no shortage of people who are building business around the promise of going viral. If there was a definitive answer to this question, everybody and every artist would be going viral. Unfortunately, there’s no formula. Make the most compelling content that you possibly can, and maybe engage some marketing platforms to get you in the game. But there’s no way anybody can truly look you in the face and say, ‘I can make you go viral.’ There’s people who can help you take a swing, but cannot guarantee that you’re gonna connect.”

—Seth Faber, Head of Artist and Label Strategy, Stem

“You can’t force anything to go viral; you can only create the right conditions for it to happen. Consider what types of content or messages would be of interest to your fans. Share content that you think they might enjoy, and hopefully share with their friends. But as with any marketing campaign, consider what you want the outcome to be and build that into your planning.”

—Mark Tavern, Music Industry Educator