Viral Breakdown: "Gummo"
5 min read

Viral Breakdown: "Gummo"

Welcome back y’all. I got some nice feedback last week about the Soundcloud repost dive that I really appreciate. Every Tuesday night for some reason since I started this newsletter I'm also out and end up staying up late to make sure this comes out, so I wanna say thanks for bearing with some occasionally rough copy and rocky ideas. It's a journey. If you do enjoy the newsletter recommend it to friends and if there is any other music newsletter I should check out, let me know.

This week, I’m breaking down the success of “Gummo” by Tekashi 6ix9ine (Tekashi69), a Brooklyn-based rapper with various accusations of sexual misconduct. I fully understand skipping over the rest of this post for those reasons, but as one of the songs to recently go viral there were a few under-observed trends I wanted to highlight.

Before “Gummo” was released, 6ix9ine put up a teaser on Instagram, which now holds over a million plays. Of course, a good chunk of those plays occurred after the song’s video dropped, but there was a real buzz/demand for the video even before it dropped.

On October 8th, “Gummo” was uploaded to YouTube, where within the first week it received 648,029 views with New York City accounting for 75,844 of them. The colorful and gang affiliated video is no different from many Brooklyn street rap video that Noisey reported on earlier this year, but 6ix9ine’s rainbow grill, hair, and numerous face tattoo allowed him to stand out among that particular rap scene.

Immediately after the video was released Though still woefully under reported, YouTube reaction videos are contemporary rap’s real tastemakers. A day after “Gummo” was uploaded, the channel LVSkinny (72k Followers) uploaded a reaction video;  XXYungLordXX (124k Followers) followed next; a couple weeks later BucketHeadNation (1.1m Followers) did same. The video received countless reaction during the month of October, as it was ricocheting across YouTube’s reaction video community. So, by October 31st, the video achieved 12,465,839 total views making it by leaps and bound the rapper’s most successful song and that was before it even reached an official streaming service.

# of YouTube Views for “Gummo”

10/8/2017 - 10/14/2017: 648, 029 (Total US Views); 75,844 (New York City Views)

10/15/2017 - 10/21/2017: 3,929,149 (Total US Views); 352,712 (New York City Views)

10/22/2017 - 10/28/2017 4,958,973 (Total US Views); 434,707 (New York City Views)

10/29/2017 - 11/4/2017 6,413,992 (Total US Views); 577,368 (New York City Views)

By early November the song was starting to really breakout, so I was looking at Google Trends to try and see when the song made that next level jump, which is where I kept seeing a notable spike around November 7th. Isolating around that date within YouTube search, I saw various videos of Funk Master Flex, one of rap’s loudest personalities, premiering the song on New York’s Hot 97 radio station. Within a month to the day the song was uploaded to YouTube, it was getting played on rap’s biggest station, not bad for hype built off a single video.

Let’s return back to YouTube for a second. Last month, the reason that I knew “Gummo” was starting to be a thing was simply, because when I went to YouTube I started seeing remixes pop-up. A decade ago, a strong remix could justify a new music video shoot or even a song getting a second life on radio. Eventually that trend fell out of favor, as the ease to get original beats eliminated the need for beat-jacking.  “Gummo” by early November was starting to receive a number of gang remixes from the likes of Poppa Da Don, Bandhunta Izzy, and a number of other rappers who never racked up many YouTube views, but were suddenly getting hundreds of thousands of views. Much of this I attribute less so to the specific songs and more towards YouTube algorithm feeding these remixes into people’s feeds. A similar trend occurred with Tay-K’s “The Race” to an even greater degree this summer as everyone from Moneybagg Yo, Lil Yachty, and Rico Nasty remixed it.

# of YouTube Views for “Gummo”

11/5/2017 - 11/11/2017: 8,054,384 (Total US Views); 716,594 (New York City Views)

11/12/2017 - 11/18/2017: 12,086,263 (Total US Views); 1,074,742 (New York City Views)

11/19/2017 - 11/25/2017: 18,113,106 (Total US Views); 1,498,387 (New York City Views)

11/26/2017 - 12/2/2017:  19,125,347 (Total US Views); 1,577,208 (New York City Views)

Regular readers of this newsletter, will know my skepticism around the narrative of playings and streaming platform breaking hits. “Gummo” for the initial month of its release was only available on YouTube and Soundcloud. Strainge Entertainment, 6ix9ine’s label, uploaded the song to Apple Music and Spotify on November 10th, where it was immediately placed on RapCaviar and the following day on Apple Music’s flagship rap playlist:The A-List: Hip-Hop.

Now Spotify, nor Apple Music, have claimed ownership over the success of this song, certainly the 6ix9ine’s criminal accusations play a role though still not enough for them to resist playlisting him. But, the exactness of this promotional strategy is what I honestly found fascinating.

Once it was clear “Gummo” was going to be a hit, Funk Master Flex played it on radio, the oldest platform we’re discussing here, then it finally uploaded to the major music platforms and was immediately playlisted in an effort to get in front of even more people. Even, if the Wall Street Journal called these platforms the new tastemakers, the song’s organic success happened before one could even find it on these services. The narrative of nu-gatekeepers and playlist is one that proposes that music fandom works from the top down with platforms and labels controlling taste, but 2017 again shows that taste works from the bottom up with those in power still scrambling to catch up.

The Problem With Muzak - The Baffler

Liz Pelly’s epic on Spotify, muzak, and a post-sell-out world is certainly a must read. Also, if you want to see the blood of alt-weeklies attacking a topic that is usually left to uncritical tech press and woefully misinformed music writers, then please read this. Honestly I may write more about this, because I had a lot of thoughts.

Spotify Skip-Rates Aren't as Important a Playlist Metric as Many Believe, Says Exec - Billboard

I won’t harp too much on this headline, but the Spotify executive being quoted wasn’t really downplaying skip-rates, but simply stating that more goes into playing than a single metric. Anyway skip-rate is just a 21st century update on the radio measuring if/when people turn from a station. Personally I don’t love either version of the state, because a skip could be boredom, a song sound too similar, not similar enough, or maybe their radio/computer just exploded. There is so little context for the numbers that I’m prob a bit too skeptical, even though I’m sure some good facts can be taken from them. So, if someone with access to skip-rate data wanted to cast aside my doubts, let’s chat.

Spotify, Tencent And The Laws of Unintended Consequences - The Music Industry Blog

One of the subplots as we enter 2018 is again the question if Spotify is going to IPO? This potential deal with Tencent would lean towards yes and as they’ve actively tried to ramp up other means of showing growth and expansion beyond just hosting music files maybe 2017 is the year they can make the push. I mean, all of the effort their public relations team did to get all those glowing profiles can’t have been for nothing.

The Future of Music Streaming May Already Be In Jeopardy - TrackRecord

I love this headline. This was just synthesizing a couple stories that were out last week about executives showing a bit skepticism about the growth in streaming music. I share that skepticism, because I think Spotify will do well in 2018, but so will the growth of products like Alexa and Google Home. Then in 2019, even if post-IPO, Spotify will start seeing that voice controlled products eating away at a market they should’ve foreseen in owning. #extreme #speculation

See y'all next week, maybe I'll finish this one time for once!