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How to get a billion views on YouTube

Five billion videos are watched on YouTube every day, but only a certain few of those rack up enough views to crack the one billion mark. We wanted to see if there was a definite way to break into the top of the YouTube charts. Turns out there’s no definite formula, but there are certain things you can do to increase your odds of a hit video. Following is the transcript of the video.

Narrator: 5 billion. That’s how many times videos are watched on YouTube every single day. With the platform helping thousands of creators “go viral,” we wanted to see if there was a set formula to making a hit video.

To figure out what works on Youtube, let’s look at the 10 most-watched videos. 9 out of 10 are music videos. And that trend continues. Music videos make up 94 out of the top 100. And this isn’t some strange coincidence. People spend more time listening to music on YouTube than Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal combined.

Chris Molanphy: YouTube has become a popular destination for music because it’s just so easy.

Narrator: That’s Chris Molanphy. He’s a pop chart analyst and host of the Hit Parade podcast, which dissects how the top hits made its way up the charts

Chris Molanphy: the reason why music video, in particular, has taken off is the length, the fact that it’s professionally produced content. It just right for consumption on a platform like YouTube.

Narrator: Back in the day MTV was the primary way to watch music videos. You would have the channel on and wait for your favourite music videos to play. Now we have the ability to play any music video, whenever we want.

Since the most popular videos are almost all music videos, it seems the fastest way to a billion views is a music video. But, before you have a music video, you need a song millions of people will want to listen to.

Nate Sloan:Right now rhythmically, there is this trend towards the rhythm that you might call the Dembow rhythm and this is something you can hear in a lot of top 40 and pop songs, and a lot of the top YouTube videos. It’s a rhythm that you will probably recognise, it sounds something like this.

Highly syncopated, immediately kind of makes you want to nod your head and tap your feet, and for at least the present moment right now this Dembow rhythm seems a sure fire way to get yourself a top song.

Narrator: That’s Nate Sloan. He’s a musicologist and host of “Switched On Pop”. A podcast about the making and meaning of popular music.

Nate Sloan: If you look at some of the top YouTube videos. They have global elements within them.

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You”, for example, is all constructed around the sound of a kalimba, which is an African thumb piano.

The top youtube video of all time right now, “Despacito”, features a Puerto Rican guitar in the intro. This very characteristic Caribbean sound.

And “Gangnam Style” which has no English lyrics whatsoever, except for the titular chorus is a huge hit and that’s because we are more and more interested in global sounds. We are not just confined to the music of our own culture today.

Narrator:YouTube is accessible to anyone around the world. So if you expand your sound to be more global and inclusive, your chances of a hit song may increase.

Nate Sloan: More and more today it seems if you want a viral hit, you’re going to have to reach beyond your immediate culture.

Narrator: OK, so we’ve got some of the ingredients needed for the song. What about the video?

Chris Sloan: If there were a formula for success on YouTube I’m sure someone would have patented it by now. I’m not sure that there is a totally clear pattern.

To sound a bit old school about it, talent still matters. And the ability to present yourself or to present what Simon Cowell would famously call “The X Factor” – the qualities of a star both in terms of your ability to play, your ability to sing, your ability to present yourself compellingly. These factors all matter the same as they always have.

Narrator: Even if your video doesn’t hit a billion views – and odds are it won’t – don’t get discouraged. The video is still going to represent you and your music.

Chris Sloan: Some artists that have succeeded because of YouTube have done it not so much by creating their own music videos but using YouTube in effect as an audition reel. A & R teams now scour YouTube looking for the next major poster. Your video doesn’t necessarily have to be polished to make you a YouTube star.

Narrator: That’s for sure. Justin Bieber’s first video was just him singing on his couch. It led to him being discovered by Usher and becoming a worldwide pop star.

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