Having a viral music moment used to be a really big deal. It could change someone’s career overnight. However, in the current age of content consumption, where TikTok and Instagram Reels have taken over users’ daily doom scrolls, has *going viral* lost its meaning? If not, how are content creators of this era creating viral music content? What content is working, and what content isn’t? In this first article of our “How to Go Viral With Your Music” series, we’ll explore just what virality looks like and means in 2023 and beyond, as well as explore some current trends and case studies by talking to content creator Jacob Hayden about his thoughts on the current viral landscape. 

Finding Your Niche

No matter how cheesy it may sound, one of the most important things in life is to stay true to yourself. The same goes when creating music content. By being yourself, you will stand out in ways that are unique to you, even if you’re following the same trends as everyone else. Finding your musical content niche can be a great place to start. What content is working best to highlight your strengths and abilities?

Toronto native, Jacob Hayden, is the definition of “finding your niche” and playing to his abilities with his music content on TikTok. He can match Ariana Grande’s highest whistle tone in one breath, and hit Barry White’s lowest baritone in the next. His unique blend of humour and raw talent has made him a stand out on the app, gaining a staggering 3 million followers. He sat down with RAC to answer a few questions about his viral content. 

Photo: @nikiivictoria

RAC: Do you remember your very first viral video? Can you describe it?

Jacob: So my first viral video was a video that hit about 100k likes overnight. I think it’s just sitting at 300k now. I was literally singing in the shower, and I was like “oh my god, that would be a really good idea,” so I got out of the shower and filmed it right away, and posted it right before bed. I woke up with so much interaction – like never before. It was my first viral video and it was an amazing feeling. It was the start of something and I just kept on grinding after that. 

RAC: You have a very consistent style of content. How did you find your viral video niche? Did it take a lot of trial and error or was it a natural occurrence for you?

Jacob: It took a lot of trial and error. I’m very analytical and see what works best – so it all ended up falling into place, but it was mostly just trying and being consistent, and always expanding and evolving because one niche or format will not stay the same. You have to keep evolving on the app. 

RAC: How important would you say consistency is/was to your online growth?

Jacob: Consistency was extremely important on the app in general. Within all social media platforms you want to be consistent and disciplined, but, at the same time, because it’s a creative process, you want to make sure you refrain from burning out. Take time off if you need to. Spend time on certain projects and put more love into it, if that makes sense.

RAC: What do you think the future of viral music content looks like?

Jacob: The future of viral music and content, I think, looks like literally vertical format videos. Straying away  from music videos in that sense and putting more budget into a vertical video with more cameramen and lighting for simply a TikTok that could generate a lot more engagement and likes – then maybe transfer over into a full music video. That’s how I see it in the future. 

Trends to Try

Sped-Up Versions

Now that we’ve covered finding your niche and building your platform, let’s look at some current trends – starting with sped-up versions of songs. If you were around for the “chipmunk version” trend on YouTube back in the day, you know this is far from a new trend, but it has recently gained popularity on TikTok again in a new form. Massive hits like “Cupid” by FIFTYFIFTY have become even bigger global sensations by simply speeding up the recording’s master track. The sped-up version of “Cupid” has been used over 2.5M times on TikTok, and has been streamed a whopping 640,986,854 times on Spotify alone (that’s almost 500,000,000 times more than the original version of the song). 

Ceilings” by Lizzie McAlpine also had a similar viral moment, being used 721.3k times on Tikok, largely thanks to a viral video trend in which users could be seen running while singing along to the lyrics emotionally. 

The trend took on a life of its own, evolving with nuances and satirical versions, all just breathing new life and more exposure into the already exploding song. 

Unlike FIFTYFIFTY, Lizzy McAlpine doesn’t seem to have the sped-up version available for streaming on her Spotify, which is perhaps a strategy to direct the traffic on her profile to the original version, which is currently sitting at 350,166,273 streams.

Running Trend

If changing the tempo of your song isn’t for you, another idea to try is to come up with creative video ideas to accompany your track. If you’re trying to go viral on apps like TikTok, Instagram reels, or Youtube Shorts, try something that will grab users attention immediately.

Similarly to the Lizzy Mcalpine trend, duo Flyana Boss recently became the queens of attention grabbing with their viral running videos. This trend, paired with the undeniably catchy track and excellent camera work, created a demand for the pair to run through various locations, which led to an onslaught of more viral content for the project. The viral videos have put Flyana Boss on the map, with 1.2M TikTok followers, over 27,000,000 on the song, and collabs with bigger artists like Missy Elliott.

“If I had a verse on” Trend

If flashy antics aren’t your cup of tea, or if you have a knack for songwriting, you can try the “if I had a verse on” trend, where you write your own verse on an already popular song. Canadian superstar, Devon Cole, detailed how to go about this and what works best for her in our article Blowing Up On TikTok: Tips and Tricks from a Viral Pro

“Duets are always great, and it’s a wonderful way to engage with other creators, but I would say the “write-a-verse” series is what performs best for me. To anyone reading this looking to break on TikTok, I would recommend trying this out! Find a karaoke version and the original version of a popular song on YouTube, and convert those two videos into MP3s. Import them into Logic or GarageBand and line them up so that the karaoke version replaces the second verse of the original song. And then just have fun making up your own lyrics!!”

– Devon Cole

Share Your Original Music

Last but not least, don’t forget to share your original music and the process behind it. Many artists have gone viral simply from sharing a snippet of their original song being recorded, or their writing process, and the song just so happens to resonate. For example, Canadian band, The Beaches, had a viral moment with their song “Blame Brett.” The band shared a video of lead singer Jordan in the studio, singing the opening verse. That video amassed 3.1M views, landed the band on Spotify Playlist covers like “Best Bands in the Universe,” and charted on the Billboard Canada Rock charts. 

– Final Thoughts –

In the musical content landscape, it can feel overwhelming and oversaturated as a creator, making it harder to stand out when seeking to go viral. However, on the other hand, due to the current nature of social media, there are also a lot of different kinds of opportunities that could lead to a viral music moment. Whether by creating exciting musical content by doing something new and innovative, like starting a video trend for your song, or by having others use it in their videos, sparking an unexpected viral moment for your music. Following trends can definitely help, but what will make you stand out the most is being yourself and following your instincts. If you are proud of the music you create, you will find an audience. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – hit the share button, explore finding your niche, be consistent, evolve with the ever-growing platforms, and most importantly, try to have fun while doing so. Keep an eye out for the next part of our series for more ideas on how to go viral with your music!

Written by Maya Malkin

Illustration by Yihong Guo