For most, self-proclaimed “country trap rapper” Lil Nas X went viral and with dumb luck, caught a hit song. However, for a small section of the internet, it was much more complex. Like many before him, Nas would spam viral tweets with links to his music to no avail. One day, a stroke of genius inspired on how to specifically market his music on the internet and the rest was history.
The first step in Nas’ marketing ploy is a nod to traditional methods by using product placement. He creates a Reddit account to start a thread to ask users for the name of a song using lyrics from his own song “Old Town Road.” It is uncommon for people to do two things: search for an answer or at least read the post so the lyrics are now stored somewhere in their memory for a future callback.
Enter a piece of lil nas x’s marketing ploy, old school product placement. He made a point to place the song by lyric in random spaces of the internet so even if you’re not curious enough to search, it’s already in your subconscious. Example: reddit (he’s deleting evidence btw) pic.twitter.com/OaujuAq24h
— Who is you, Chiron? (@NotLaja) June 26, 2019
Next, he ensures his song is readily available on all digital platforms besides the typical YouTube link. This effort maximizes exposure to legitimize the song being planted on Reddit and further pushes the façade of Nas being an established artist. Within each social platform, Nas curates his art to the interest of the specific audience. For example, SoundCloud has eccentric artwork with meme roots as the cover for each one of his songs.
Lil Nas X catches a break with a popular TikTok user using his song in a post which created a subsequent challenge, but in this modern age of virality, a hot song clip on social media has a shelf life of an avocado. Fortunately, the stars seem to align for Nas, and as a child of the internet, he is aware of another viral movement “The Yeehaw Agenda.”
country music is evolving pic.twitter.com/BEZIw3TE8l
— nope (@LilNasX) December 3, 2018
This movement gave a southern Black boy a gimmick to run as the cherry on a fine-tuned cake. What else can push a song about horses than the current interest in the cowboy aesthetic, specifically the Black cowboy aesthetic? The double viral content aided the song in digital play so much that it charted on the Billboard country charts. This is when Nas’ worst nightmare turned into a moment people dream of.
Billboard removed the song from their “Hot Country” chart within a week due to their own capricious definitions of country music sparking outrage from Black Twitter inspiring Black people to rally behind Nas off the principle. Billy Ray Cyrus was also captivated by the controversy and immediately collaborated with the rapper to make a new version of the song. The two worlds collided, as originally intended to unite different fans under a new sound.
Again, Nas capitalizes on this by staying engaged and unabashedly roots for himself online along with new fans. With a new record deal, he again uses the marketing methods old and new by having traditional interviews along with digital.
What sets him apart is how good he is at the internet. Two groups rule the internet, trolls and children. Plenty of opportunity by the former arose to attempt a takedown of Lil Nas X’s budding career. As an alleged former troll himself, Nas responds by trolling the trolls via comedic memes, GIFs, and sound bites with his hit song. Responding with light-hearted comedic relief makes one more endearing and further builds a fan base.
me forcing my followers to watch old town road related content everyday pic.twitter.com/s3WWL56zq2
— nope (@LilNasX) May 9, 2019
As far as children, early on Nas shows that no stage is too small, and performs for the children giving them a new anthem outside of “Baby Shark.”
— Complex (@Complex) May 24, 2019
Lil Nas X is the poster child for the social media generation. He is very successful because he has found a way to maneuver through digital marketing for free by using combined methods of traditional marketing and internet culture. This recipe paired with being his authentic self allows people to buy what he’s selling without appearing contrived or corny.
u can literally scroll down my account and see my promoting this fuckin song for months. each accomplishment it gets just makes all this shit feel so worth it. i can’t stop taking about it.
— nope (@LilNasX) April 15, 2019
What people forget about the internet and technology is it exists as its own culture that transcends all. Nas is special because his content is simple enough to be digested by all demographics yet nuanced enough for Millennials and Generation Z to attach themselves to various pieces of the internet that exists within his art. He will forever have a core audience off the strength of the internet existence of its own world without rules or limits — the same internet that sets trends for the culture as Black people often do in the real world. It’s unique enough to just be.