By no means are we implying that you - the everyday person - is guaranteed to generate a billion views on YouTube simply by following a formula you've read online. But apparently there is a definite recipe for success.
At the time of writing this article, the top ten most viewed videos on YouTube are as follows:
- "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee - 6.61 billion
- "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran - 4.59 billion
- "Baby Shark Dance" by Pinkfong Kids' Songs & Stories - 4.41 billion
- "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth - 4.38 billion
- Masha and the Bear "Recipe for Disaster" by Get Movies - 4.22 billion
- "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - 3.76 billion
- "Gangnam Style" by Psy - 3.50 billion
- "Sorry" by Justin Bieber - 3.24 billion
- "Sugar" by Maroon 5 - 3.11 billion
- "Roar" by Katy Perry - 2.99 billion
And it doesn't take a trained statistician to realise the common thread here - with the exception of that one Russian cartoon episode in the number five position. That one's a little bit of a mystery to me (I just sincerely hope it's not a weird fetish thing).
Music videos of worldwide hit songs
I know what you're thinking. Reading this is like Googling "how to get rich" and finding out you need to be born rich or secure a small loan of a million from daddy come graduation. But again, this is more of a learning experience than a manual for your own endeavours.
Nine of the ten top entrants are music videos from hit songs, and eight of those nine having charted on the pop charts for some time. This is due to the fact that more people listen to music on YouTube than anywhere else. Apparently more so than Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal combined according to Business Insider (not to be confused with YouTube Music).
This actually makes sense given there's no real paywall or experiential friction once you've activated the old Adblocker. Being free, easily accessible, and widely known has its perks. What's more, music videos are a digestible piece of content that provides the best of both worlds with a) the hit song itself, and b) an enhanced experience listening to the song thanks to the added visual element/interpretation of a self-contained narrative.
In other words - a perfect content storm.
Rhythmic progression trends
In the past year or so, there has been a rhythmic progression trending in the pop charts. Something that's known as the "Dembow rhythm".
Made famous by Shabba Ranks in the 90s, the "Dembow rhythm" owes its stylistic origins to reggaeton, dancehall, and dub. And while you might not have heard of the term "Dembow rhythm", you will have certainly heard its highly syncopated calling card.
The video attached above paints a pretty good picture of what I'm talking about.
An "international" element
We live in a global village. There's no doubt about it. Incidentally, much of what contributes to a billion views on YouTube comes down to acknowledging the very global village we inhabit. Something the majority of the top-scoring entrants accomplish perfectly.
- "Despacito" and its enduring success to this day illustrates the weight of the Latin dance music market, opening the entire track with quintessentially Puerto Rican guitar plucks. A track backed by a quintessentially Latin music video.
- "Shape of You" features the African kalimba very prominently, to the point where the song as we know it simply could not exist without the kalimba riff.
- None of us really knows the lyrics of "Gangnam Style" or fully grasp the visuals we're being fed in the music video. But its obnoxiously Korean flavour was what arguably made it a homerun nonetheless.
This even applies when we consider "Baby Shark" and Masha the Bear, both videos respectively hail from South Korea and Russia. Granted, they skyrocketed to fame due to their obscurity turned mass novelty - but the fact stands that there's a whole lot more potential to access when an international element is involved. A reach that is beyond your immediate culture, after all, is one not to be ignored.
Essentially, never underestimate the power of music - nor the popularity of YouTube as its source.
You can watch the original video this article has been based on via Business Insider.