#SELFIE was always going to go viral, and for more reasons than one.
Racking up a total of more than 60 million views on YouTube to date, the official music video for The Chainsmokers’ #SELFIE has taken on a life of its own. The EDM duo currently ranks as the most viral act on YouTube, both in terms of plays and new subscribers over the past 90 days. They are all over Soundcloud, trail 5 Seconds of Summer for most viral on Wikipedia in the past 90 days, and have the fifth largest percentage increase in US radio spins of all artists in the last month. In other words, The Chainsmokers are #everywhere right now.
"It captures a moment in time," says Oliver Luckett, CEO of social media content publisher theAudience. "Everybody gets the joke."
Luckett knew that #SELFIE was going to be huge after hearing just a two-minute preview of the track, and has worked with Alex Pall and Drew Taggart, the boys behind The Chainsmokers, and their manager Adam Alpert, to help orchestrate the social campaign around it – a campaign that should be considered a success on many levels, but that Luckett says would be nowhere if wasn’t for solid content at the core. And noone but Alex Pall and Drew Taggart engineered that.
Shortly after meeting Luckett, they started putting together footage for the video. The boys had already been soliciting selfies along the way and now they took it to the next level. Luckett put them in touch with EDM legend Steve Aoki who brought The Chainsmokers to Dim Mak Records and features heavily in the video, as well as social celebrities like Nash Grier who has more than 7 million followers on Vine, and other influencers that would serve as a point of distribution. The final product is an official music video that is silly, laughable, and catchy, if not a little over the top, and not to mention littered with selfies from celebrities and fans alike.
The approach was genius. Not only does the track ridicule a contemporary cultural phenomenon (who isn’t guilty of snapping a selfie or two themselves?), but it creates a personal connection between the video and the fan, ensuring that not only would there a built-in audience for the video, but that there would be the added imperative to share. “It is social engineering to an effect,” says Luckett. “But I’m just facilitating what naturally occurs, and now it has taken on a life of its own.”
While #SELFIE has been dubbed the Harlem Shake 2.0, the trajectory of consumption actually differs drastically from that of other viral phenomenons. The Harlem Shake was a six-month-old track that was catapulted to the top of the charts following the release of a stranger-than-fiction clip of four men in skintight body suits, that then spawned a wave of thousands of videos a day from across the globe. When the Harlem Shake became a thing, it became a thing immediately, racking up more than 350 million detections for Bauer in the first two months.
#SELFIE on the other hand is snowballing its way to ubiquity, and the attention is fanning out to other networks. For instance, in a little more than two months, The Chainsmokers have added close to 45,000 new fans to their following on Twitter, compared to about 33,000 for Baauer in the same time-period after Harlem Shake blew up. On Instagram, another 25,000 new followers have joined the ranks, compared to about 8,000 for Baauer. The Chainsmokers are leveraging a similar concept across networks, but tailoring content to each platform, and seeing their fan base grow rapidly as a result.
The Chainsmokers also have a very forward-thinking view on content-ownership. If you visit their SoundCloud page, you’ll find audio clips for YouTube, Vine and Instagram that fans can download and use to soundtrack their own versions of #SELFIE, as well as a slew of other mixes, free downloads and live content. They now count more than 23 million SoundCloud plays in total, 15 million of which happened in the past two months, and they also added more than 75,000 new followers in that time.
Like other artists who consistently encourage remixes and see their own content gain traction as a result, The Chainsmokers allow others to build upon what they have created. ”We now have the tools to express ourselves in a derivative fashion,” says Luckett, explaining that this is a big part of what has made #SELFIE a success. “People love participating in these big cultural movements. I take a cultural idea, I appropriate it in my context.”
"Kids find it clever, because they pay attention to the ways that they discover things," says Luckett. "They applaud smart architecture, and smart positioning. They hate when you tell them something is cool. They hate marketing."
Not every band will have the good fortune of working with a team that is connected to a vast social network to help distribute your content, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lesson in this for other artists. Luckett has a few words of advice. ”Number one is: abandon marketing.”
"Understand what resonates with people and really focus on making great art." He explains that the best way to learn is through trial and error. "What is amazing now, is we have things like SoundCloud and YouTube, and Facebook. Where I can practice, and put it out there, and get instant feedback."
But at the end of the day, “it has got be original content that is thoughtful and smart,” says Luckett.”Anyone can pick up a paintbrush and paint, it doesn’t mean they’re making a great piece of art.”
Photo Credit: Screen grab from official music video for #SELFIE
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, Forbes, Billboard, Hypebot and more.