Viral videos are freakishly random, and extremely difficult to create. But dig into the DNA of the most successful viral music videos of all time, and a few interesting commonalities emerge. That includes a completely open licensing attitude, and oftentimes, serious support from more traditional channels like television.
There’s also another twist: virality is often the result of what happens after the video is created and released. And with that, here are 7 ways that current viral phenom Psy effectively added fuel to one of the most viral videos of all time. Most of these come from YouTube head of music for Japan & Korea, John Hirai, who’s been at the epicenter of this from the beginning and presented some of his thinking recently at MU:CON in Seoul. It’s a case study and a template for anyone who wants to roll the dice…
1. Assume a completely open attitude towards licensing, parodies, and redistribution.
That includes simply saying yes to any parody, and using YouTube’s ContentID to facilitate and enable any variations. Do not block anything, but try to monetize everything (if possible).
2. Make it comedic.
A 30-something Korean with a tight suit satisfied an age-old, Chris Farley craving. But whether they’re laughing at you or with you, it all translates into good, ‘ha ha’ virality.
3. Make it language-agnostic.
‘Gangnam Style’ works in any language, it translates because fans don’t have to. In fact, the decision to not to translate large blocks of this song worked to its advantage. Elsewhere, artists like Black Eyed Peas have experienced great success focusing on lyrics and titles that are not dependent on specific languages.
4. People love new dances. So make one.
Psy’s got the horse dance, which is easy to do and a crowd pleaser like none other. Just like the Dougie or any number of infectious dances throughout modern music history.
5. Feed the beast with supporting videos, preferably to an official channel.
In the case of Psy, ‘Gangnam’ was supported by a string of programmed videos designed to further fuel the fire. This has been actively supported, for the entire ride.
6. Parlay initial virality into major, traditional media support.
Here’s where Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun comes in. According to Hirai, the introduction of Braun took ‘Gangnam’ to an absolutely different and new level that would have been impossible otherwise. Simply stated, if Psy hadn’t been slotted onto shows like Ellen or The Tonight Show, the trajectory wouldn’t have been as strong.
7. Support the phenomenon in person, and start cashing out immediately.
Psy is now everywhere, whether that means TV appearances in the US, award shows in Germany, flashmobs, speaking engagements at Oxford, or parties with Usher. But he’s also doing every deal: on the streets of Seoul, Psy is almost on every other advertisement and sign. Because let’s face it: we might still be talking about Psy next year…