Everyone’s complaining about how little YouTube pays artists. Post Malone, 21 Savage, and Republic Records did something about it.
The music industry spends a lot of time complaining about YouTube, with zero results. But we’re starting to see a lot of clever workarounds, from companies and artists alike.
Like Post Malone, who smartly gamed YouTube to help get a #1 hit. And a ton of cash.
Here’s how his little game worked.
First, Malone stopped short of giving YouTube the full version of his latest single, ‘rockstar’. Instead, he uploaded a repeating hook of the chorus. In total, it’s just five choruses in a row.
The resulting track doesn’t sound that bad. Just no lyrical verses, guest rapping (from 21 Savage), or any other song elements. It’s a taste, not the full meal.
Check it out.
So who wants to listen to a looping chorus? Approximately 45 million fans, that’s who.
And part of the reason is that this ‘track’ is pretty listenable. For starters, this isn’t just a clip put on repeat. There was obviously some smart looping happening in the studio.
The hook itself is also pretty amazing. In fact, this might be Post’s best track since ‘White Iverson’. So there was a lot to work with here.
But the real kicker is that the chorus-only version still qualified the song for Hot 100 inclusion. In fact, any remix, lyric video, or instrumental contributes to a Hot 100 chart position, streamed or downloaded. That is, according to Billboard, which runs the chart.
Oh, Malone also gets a piece of the ad revenue from all of those YouTube views. Genius.
Even better, those 45 million people were shuttled to other, higher-paying platforms. Like this:
That ‘FULL SONG HERE’ link goes to a special page with links to other services.
It’s powered by Linkfire, a company that focuses on smart linking. Malone’s camp can then track all the activity, and figure out where different fanbases prefer to listen.
Given Malone’s huge popularity and the strength of the hook, it’s likely that a large percentage of that 45 million then listened to the full track somewhere else. That is, somewhere that pays a lot better than YouTube.
Even YouTube comments were disabled to keep it moving.
It’s surprising that SoundCloud and Pandora are listed as link alternatives at the bottom. After, both platforms pay very poorly. But Malone owes part of his success to SoundCloud, and it’s still a rich hip hop community.
Separately, Pandora is inking separate deals with labels. All of which means both SoundCloud and Pandora are more important than YouTube to Malone and his label. Which also says a lot about YouTube.
And what about Spotify? Well, ‘Rockstar’ has more than 212 million streams on Spotify. So, 212 million x $0.05 = more than $1 million. For just one track.
Separately, Malone’s “I Fall Apart” is also crushing it. Republic Records says the rapper is ‘the most streamed artist’ in the world. So something is working here.
So does this mean that artists will start flooding YouTube with chorus-looping tracks?
Maybe. And if that does happen, YouTube will seriously hate it.
But one thing to note is that a ‘limited song’ probably requires a lot of DMCA takedown notices to block competing full version uploads. Which is where a big label can help. It might be a lot of maintenance.
That issue notwithstanding, this seems like a genius way to work around YouTube’s gutter payouts, while using them to your advantage. Point: artists.