Why did this song blow up?
Hey music makers!
Today I want to talk about a song that released this month, and took an artist from obscurity to #1 on Billboard and Spotify Top 50 USA.
From practically zero to raking in $40,000 USD per day and turning down $8 million record deals… all within 1 month.
That song is Rich Men North of Richmond by Oliver Anthony.
First off, this isn’t a political discussion about the song. You can go to the news channels for that. I want to talk about this song from a music industry perspective.
Before This Song
By looking at Chartmetric stats, it appears Oliver had 1,200 monthly listeners in July 2023. Now he has 5.8 million monthly listeners on August 28th 2023.
At least on Spotify, this song is his 17th release. It is totally possible he has much more music he hasn’t released, or even that he’s pulled music off of Spotify.
On YouTube he has some cover songs going back 3 years. Again, could have removed videos after fame came his way to tidy things up - no idea.
I think it’s pretty clear that this song took Oliver from practically nothing to instant global success. This is probably a clear case of ‘overnight success’, but keep in mind those 16 other songs and what is likely a lifetime of making music.
From my research it seems like this was just an organic moment. I can’t find anything about paid marketing efforts or a concerted marketing strategy at all.
Why This Song Worked
If you know me at all you probably know that i’m not a fan of country music. However despite that, Rich Men North of Richmond sounds like a well written song with a solid performance, emotional delivery and relatable lyrics.
The thing is, great music doesn’t sell itself. It needs more than that.
In addition to the music, I think this song blew up for these reasons:
The lyrics are very timely, reflecting what a significant portion of the population is thinking on a daily basis.
The lyrics are also polarizing, they aren’t designed to cater to everyone.
The video appears to be a genuine one take performance executed very well, this makes it impressive.
The lyrics are timely and relatable because most people are feeling the pressure of inflation, our current economy and the job market (especially if you’re in a blue collar field).
The song calls out the wealthy elites for taking record profits and fighting for more control while most people struggle. Wealth inequality is a hot topic nowadays.
The song is polarizing because it directly calls out welfare programs, obese people and Epstein.
As a result in the USA the republican party has turned this song into their anthem of sorts, resulting in Ron DeSantis directly quoting the song on stage at the first GOP primary presidential debate.
Funnily enough, Oliver Anthony came out against the Republican politicalization of his song. He claims the politicians are the exact people he wrote the song about, and that its funny seeing them respond to it.
Oliver has also come out against the Democrat criticism of the song for saying it’s ‘anti-poor’. He claims It’s about the inefficiencies of the government due to bribes and extortion, welfare program abuse and tax dollars helping foreign countries before helping our own people.
Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, it’s clear as day that this song has struck a chord with people on both sides of the political spectrum. This song is very easy for certain people to love, agree with and share. But also it’s very easy for people to hate, disagree with and still share it.
No matter how someone feels about it, they likely feel strongly about it one way or another.
There is another artist that takes this to the extreme, by purposefully being as political as possible.
This artist is Thomas MacDonald.
Oliver Anthony doesn’t seem like he was trying to strike a chord. It seems like he was just saying how he feels. Thomas MacDonald is purposefully trying to be as political and divisive as possible.
Again, love him or hate him, his marketing is something I think everyone can learn from.
In a world where most music artists are pretty left learning, he goes hard right. His music can be triggering to many groups of people and his videos take that even further.
Based on YouTube comments it seems like he tends to attract older and right leaning individuals. People that don’t generally listen to hip-hop but resonate with his message. This is where the next move is brilliant…
He releases 2-3 albums per year but only 1 of those records makes it to streaming services. The rest is only available on his Shopify store.
Who is more likely to buy a CD? Older people.
The result? He’s sold over 200,000 physical CD’s.
This is as an independent artist sold through his own store. Meaning he’s made over $2 million from CD sales alone.
What Can You Learn From This?
Its hard to extract a clear message from this. Should you go start writing music that pisses more people off? Probably not.
However, I think this should show you that your music should make people feel something. The more strongly your music makes someone feel any sort of way, the more likely they are to resonate with it and share it.
Polarizing topics do increase engagement, thats why social media algorithms are constantly shoving them in our faces.
But at the end of the day you want to be genuine to who you are, what fans you want to attract and what you want your reputation to be.
Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran didn’t do any of this. In general their music tells stories (personal or made-up) that pulls on listeners heart strings and makes them feel something.
I spent $1,533 using Facebook ads to drive people mostly from the USA to Spotify. Would it do better algorithmically? Would the engagement be better? In this video I share how it went.
Many people assume TikTok is the best platform for them to market their music, but is it really? What is the most popular social media platform for gen Z?
Did you know I have a podcast? Click here to listen to the Modern Music Marketing podcast.
Recently i’ve been posting a lot on Twitter (or now X, I guess):
Sometimes people ask me what my secret was to grow on YouTube.
Here it is…
It was making over 700 videos and trying to make the next one suck less than the previous one.
That and sacrificing all my free time and social life for years.
— Andrew Southworth (@southwortha)
Aug 22, 2023
Here are some music industry news highlights from the past week.
YouTube is testing a search feature that lets you hum to identify songs
Apple partners with Linkfire for podcast data analytics
UMG and YouTube partnering on AI content licensing
BMI’s private equity sale is back on
Quote of the Week
I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day
Overtime hours for bullshit pay
So I can sit out here and waste my life away
Drag back home and drown my troubles away
Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:
My courses. Spotify Growth Machine teaches you how to use Facebook ads to promote your music on Spotify. YouTube Growth Machine teaches you how to grow a YouTube channel organically and how to use YouTube ads. Fan Growth Machine teaches you how to build a website, online store and grow your email list.
My ad agency. Forbid Media specializes in running Facebook conversion ads to promote your music on Spotify.
Website / Store / Funnels. MusicFunnels is the best all-in-one platform for music artists to make a website, online store, sales funnels and build their mailing list.
1-on-1 consulting. You can book 1-hour calls with myself or Alex Bochel here.
🚀 Spotify Growth Machine Course: https://learn.generastudios.com/spotify-growth-machine
🏆 Hire us to run your ads: https://www.forbidmedia.com/
🌍 Best website / store / funnels for music artists: https://musicfunnels.io/ (get your 14-day FREE trial!)
🎬 YouTube Growth Machine: https://learn.generastudios.com/youtube-google-growth-machine/
🧑💻 Consultations: https://generastudios.com/pages/consulting
⌨️ Chat in the community (FREE): https://community.generastudios.com/
🎬 Animated lyric videos: https://generastudios.com/products/lyric-videos
Get 15% off Melodist music distribution with code ANDREW15 here: https://geni.us/Melodist
Discount / Affiliate Links:
►►Funnel software I use to sell my courses: https://geni.us/ThriveCartGS
►► Get 7% off DistroKid when you signup through my link → https://geni.us/DistroKid
►► Hypeddit Free Trial: https://hypeddit.com/r/andrewsouthworth
►► FeatureFM: https://geni.us/FeatureFM- use code ASOUTH30 for 30% off for any annual plan!
►► Get 5% off Moonstrive Media campaigns with coupon code "ANDREWSOUTHWORTH" here: https://www.moonstrivemedia.com/?ref=ANDREWSOUTHWORT
►► Try Indie Music Academy’s Spotify playlist service here: https://listengenera.com/ima-spotify.OYD
►► WordPress Website Hosting: https://www.siteground.com/go/AndrewSouthworth-YT
If you’d rather just purchase the e-book, or physical book or audiobook you can do so here.
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Music Marketing Monday! Please give your feedback using the poll below.
How did you like today's newsletter?
In case you’re curious what platform i’m using to run this newsletter, it’s called beehiiv.