Three years ago, Montero Hill was sleeping on his sister's couch. He worked diligently at Taco Bell and dreamt of greener pastures. Today, he has a diamond record, three #1 hit singles, two Grammys, and has become one of the biggest names in the music industry. How on Earth could one man rise so far so fast? Easy. The Internet.
Lil Nas X had been making music with little attention for a year or so before 2019, but he recognized his song Old Town Road was just catchy and genre-bending enough to be a hit, so he marketed it.
He'd post it to any social media platform he could to spread it to as many ears as possible. The song went viral on Tik Tok, where people danced to its lyrics, Nas posted it to Twitter, making memes out of the lyrics and getting it in people's heads. If the song was viral, Nas' use of memes made it a super-spreader. Releasing the song in December 2018, it took mere months for it to gain traction. And musicians know how difficult it can be to market music without the help of a record label or management team. Old Town Road started charting in March, and after an intense bidding war, was signed by Columbia Records within the month. The song only ballooned from there. It was removed from Country music charts for not being "country" enough, sparking a debate on how Black artists are shunned from genres like country.
Later that year, Old Town Road became the longest running #1 hit single in Billboard history, topping the charts for 17 consecutive weeks, with help from remixes by Young Thug, BTS, Mason Ramsey, and Billy Ray Cyrus, fusing country artists, rappers, and KPOP to create a song with unstoppable popular appeal. The song also went 10x platinum, also known as diamond, setting himself in an exclusive club of artists to do so.
By marketing with social media and jokes, Lil Nas X has solidified his name and brand as an artist, and has leveraged himself as a streaming titan and an industry darling.
Nas has also defied the "One hit wonder" label, as he has gone on to make two more #1 hit songs in the two years following Old Town Road's success. The two other hits being the queer anthem Montero (Call Me By Your Name) and the self aware braggadocious banger Industry Baby.
Lil Nas' use of social media and command of controversy has also made him something of an influencer. After working at Taco Bell in his younger years, Nas is now the chief impact officer at Taco Bell, a brand ambassador who helped rollout their Live Mas scholarship, which "awards $8 Million in scholarships to passionate students nationwide."
Lil Nas X's most recent single with NBA Youngboy shows us he has no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Nas has used the new era of social media and streaming to go from unknown to household name in a ridiculously short time-span. His strategies and movements should be noted for other aspiring musicians, comedians, and entertainers who are in need of a publicity boost.
Written by Max Olarinde, @mobeige1 on all social media.
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