Nowadays, it is easier than ever to become a successful musician. Thanks to the internet, there are many channels in which an artist can promote himself and his music. However, as there becomes an oversaturation of musicians around the world, just the fact that you can sing and look good aren’t enough. So what other skills does one need to have in order to give yourself a good fighting chance of becoming a success within the music industry? Marketing. Most musicians aren’t signed to record labels so the ability to take advantage of social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, Twitter and Instagram can make a massive difference. Lil Nas X is an example of someone who understands how to utilize the internet and social media to its full potential.
Before he was famous, Lil Nas X had around 30,000 followers on twitter where he posted memes and was an avid fan of rapper Nicki Minaj. He managed to turn his song “Old Town Road” into the longest number one single on the Billboard hot 100 and he did it all thanks to the internet. He made a point to place the song by lyric in random spaces of the internet so even if you’re not curious enough to search, it’s already in your subconscious. For example, he asked on a popular Reddit group called r/NameThatSong if anyone knows the name of the song that goes “I got the horses in the back”, a line from his song. He makes sure his song is available on Spotify and other platforms. Within each social platform, Nas curates his art to the interest of the specific audience. For example, SoundCloud has eccentric artwork with meme roots as the cover for each one of his songs. He then began to pair the song to memes including that of a dancing cowboy which he shared with his existing followers along with a link to the full song and shortly after that it became a viral hit. After the views started piling in, Lil Nas X listed the track as a country song as he noticed that the country music charts were a lot less competitive and would be easier for him to climb up the rankings. The song was topping the country charts, however Billboard removed it after a while from the country charts, claiming the song wasn’t “country” enough. This sparked heated debate online and all of a sudden, everyone was talking about the song. Nas took advantage of the debate and started replying to various “troll” accounts that were criticizing him, with memes and small clips from the song. The debate along with a new remix of the song featuring country music star, Billy Ray Cyrus, helped make the song one of the bestselling singles of all time.
Two years later, Lil Nas X released a new single “Montero (call me by your name)” and the music video generated even more controversy. The video featured him doing pole dances and giving the devil a lap dance. He received a lot of backlash for the video, so what did he do in response? He commoditized the hate and created an app called Twerk Hero that allowed users to make a character literally twerk to the song. Which, of course, created even more buzz around the song and its controversy. He also started a pole dancing challenge on TikTok where users danced to the song in a chance to win 10,000$. In addition, he announced that he was releasing 666 pairs of Nike Air Max “Satan Shoes” customized by MSCHF, which he claimed contained real human blood within the soles of the shoes. Nas trended once again and received even more backlash from various religious groups. He reacted to this backlash by posting a fake apology video on YouTube where he starts to apologize, however, the video cuts to a clip from the song. During the build-up to the release of his latest album, MONTERO, he decided to continue his tried and tested approach of using memes as he knows exactly how to capitalize on the use of memes and trends on social media, which he found to be successful when he trialed out this approach for the song ‘Old Town Road’. For example, he posted a meme of rapper Drake’s latest album cover, Certified Lover Boy replacing the pregnant women with men which many other businesses jumped on soon after. On top of this, his reputation for causing controversy continued where he decided to have a pregnancy shoot featuring a fake baby bump as well as setting up a baby registry where fans could donate to charities that were important to him personally.
As Lil Nas X continues to become more and more successful, his influence and reach on modern culture continues to grow. With the marketing strategies stated above, he managed to capture the world’s attention and never let it slip. Now, we are all waiting for his next project, and we are all curious to see how he will take advantage of the internet and its cancel culture mentality yet again.