Influencer marketing is one of the hottest trends of 2018 and its scope spans far beyond brand campaigns as our IconicReach team has seen with an influx of requests from brands for dance influencers.  Recently, influencer marketing has made big waves in the music industry, especially among marketers who are trying to reach millennials and Gen Z consumers. The younger generation’s fascination with celebrities has slowly been replaced by a growing support for social media stars, with whom they can relate on a more personal level. It’s no secret that, once an influencer shares a song on social media, his/her audience is highly likely to listen, like and share it, simply because it is endorsed by someone they trust. In this way, influencers have the ability to use their clout to set trends.

Influencer trends in the music industry generally happen in one of two ways; industry-sponsored or organically- produced. There are some instances where artists & record labels seek support from their celebrity friends, artists and influencers to help a song go viral like in the case of Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” campaign, while other times trends sprout organically like the influencer-created #DoTheShiggy challenge that exponentially increased the popularity and charting of a rapper’s new song called “In My Feelings.” Furthermore, the organically-created #RunningManChallenge proved that even songs from the 90s could make a resurgence with the help of a few key influencers.

The following are just a few examples to give marketers and advertisers an understanding of the scope of an influencer’s impact on their audience:

At the end of June 2018, singer/rapper Drake dropped his latest song from the album “Scorpion” called “In My Feelings.” The song’s catchy lyrics caught the attention of comedian Shiggy (@theshiggyshow), who posted a video of himself dancing to the song on the street just hours later. The video went viral, receiving upwards of 4.5 million views and 600K likes in just over 2 weeks (6.4 M views to date).

Within days, people all over the world began posting videos of themselves, their family & friends all doing the same dance with the hashtags, #dotheshiggy, #inmyfeelingschallenge, and #kikichallenge. The challenge evolved to include people jumping out of moving cars and doing the dance on the street, as the car continues to move. Celebrities, like NY Giants football player Odell Beckham Jr. caught onto the trend and began posting their own #inmyfeelingschallenge videos on their social media channels. Now That’s Trending posted a video compilation of various challenge videos, giving the trend and even brighter spotlight, and later reported a rumor that Drake paid challenge creator, Shiggy, $250K for making “In My Feelings” go #1 on charts. The challenge became so popular that Drake included some of the social viral videos in the official music video for the song:

Similar results were seen from the 2016 #RunningManChallenge, which solicited individuals to do their own version of the running man to the 90’s song “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJ’s. The trend was started by two high school boys on Instagram and grew more popular when the University of Maryland basketball team posted their own version. Celebrities took on the challenge and it was even featured on The Ellen Show. According to Billboard, “My Boo” reached #29 on the Hot 100 list and #10 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, 20 years after it was released.

Unlike the other examples, the Justin Bieber “What Do You Mean” Campaign was initiated by the pop singer himself. For a month before the release of his song, Bieber was building up anticipating on social media with a celebrity-studded countdown. He solicited his Hollywood friends to post pictures of themselves with signs counting down to the release. But he also shared fragmented lyrics with a select group of twitter “Super Fan” followers, who in turn shared them with their following, creating a buzz as fans tried to piece the song’s lyrics together. Shortly following the release, the song hit #1 on the charts.

Influencer marketing has been just as powerful, if not more influential than radio to the instant success of a song. More people are glued to their phones when it comes to streaming music or watching music videos, the traditional focus of music marketing dollars. This enables emerging artists, who don’t have huge marketing budgets, to be able to compete in the music space and capitalize on the speed of social media to grow their following. Young brothers Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee, known together as Rae Sremmurd, are prime examples of the power of social media on music. Their song “Black Beatles” saw a spike when it became the unofficial soundtrack for the #MannequinChallenge, which urged people to record videos freezing in place, like a mannequin. In several instances, millions of people in a stadium or other venue were filmed freezing to the song, encouraging celebrities like Kevin Hart, Hillary Clinton and even Paul McCartney, a Beatle himself, to do the same. One of the most popular #MannequinChallenge videos was created by Maple Ridge Elementary School with over 1,500 students and has already received over 4M views!

As the popularity of a song rises, so do music and streaming sales, which in turn translate to more endorsements, TV/movie song placements and performance bookings for the artist (Their highest source of income). Artists and record labels now view each song as a product release similar to a new shoe or new phone, where they are relying heavily on influencer endorsements. Influencers like Ceraadi are now becoming “virtual DJs,” who can post a dance video, playlist or skits and grow a song’s popularity exponentially around the globe, in real time.

In the old days, a DJ had to break a record first, on radio or at a live event, in order to influencer other DJs to play it, eventually spreading the song. Nowadays, through the lightning speed of social media, DJs are almost pressured to play songs made popular on social media.

The new era of music marketing demands a hyper focus on delivering songs to consumers digitally in their natural social habitat. Since that habitat tends to be on social media, as Nielsen reported that TV watching is down 9.5% yearly for people ages 18-24, more often than not, influencers play a key role in marketing success. By utilizing influencers, musicians and their labels have direct access to an elite team of trusted and talented creators who are promoting music to their loyal, hyper-engaged following,. Working with the influencers help the song grow virally, multiplying streaming and sales immediately n the same way radio airplay impacted music awareness and sales of the past.

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