So I’ve been keeping an eye on the Billboard Hot 100 to see how many weeks Macklemore could stay at #1 and I was surprised to see a new #1 song this week. Before I go into the new #1 I have to explain a change that was made this last week that impacts how they determine the Billboard rankings. The Billboard charts have been around for over 50 years and many factors go into determining which song ranks where (sales, airplay, etc.) This last week, however, a new factor was added to the criteria, YouTube streaming data. It just so happens that this new addition had a huge role in the fate of the #1 spot this week. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop was bumped to #2 by none other than Baauer with the viral sensation, “Harlem Shake”.
You would be living under a rock if you haven’t seen one of these Harlem Shake videos and maybe you’ve even participated in one. Since every one of those home-made videos uses Baauer’s track, all of those millions of video plays count toward his Billboard ranking. The thing you need to know about the song by Baauer is that the track was released last June and didn’t crack the top 100 ever until this week, from nowhere to #1.
The reason I’m bringing this up is that, I think, it signals a huge shift in how we get our music and how we separate the good from the bad. For new and up-coming artists this is a very good thing. We saw in the last few weeks that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis could have the #1 song for 4 straight weeks and they made it happen without a record label, by producing their album, The Heist, independently and shooting all of their music videos on their own dime. What I see is that all of the walls are coming down and anybody who wants to be heard can be heard. We live in an amazing time where you can make your own music and share it on the internet and reach millions of people without jumping through the hoops you used to have to just to make your music available.
For Baauer it was about a video trend helping his song to be at the right place at the right time. Does that make Baauer an amazing artist? I don’t think so. Music isn’t always about just being good, it’s about being good at the right time. Will Baauer have another hit? I’m pretty confident in saying no. The same can be said for Psy’s Gangnam Style. It was just the right time for that specific song and the odds of another hit are not very likely. To think of it another way, let’s imagine that Skrillex was born in the 1960s and put out Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites in the 1980s, Can you imagine what the reaction would have been to that kind of sound at that time. If you can’t imagine it all you need to do is play it for a parent or grandparent and watch their face. Music has to be good and it has to fit the time.
With YouTube, iTunes, and the internet in general anybody can do it. If you are a musician, or want to be a musician, hopefully you realize how lucky you are and take advantage of all the opportunities available to put yourself out there. If it doesn’t happen right away just keep working on getting better and building a fan-base. People like us are listening and waiting to tell as many people as possible about you. Baauer might have felt discouraged after he released a song last June that wasn’t a hit. Now that song is the #1 song in the country and the whole world is dancing to it. It could happen to you or it could happen to someone you know so keep working hard and supporting artists who put themselves out there.
Please comment with your thoughts on this post and the future of music. Below is a compilation of some of the best Harlem Shake videos and also the video for the full Baauer track if you want to hear more than just the 30 seconds that made it popular.