The Gist: The journey of Lil Nas X getting Old Town Road to go viral is the perfect case study for content repurposing and remixing. Here's how and what minimalist content marketers can learn from it.
I got the horses in the back…
Horse tack is attached
Hat is matte black
Got the boots that’s black to match
We need to talk about content repurposing and Old Town Road
I won’t keep singing, but know that the song is now stuck in my head (and probably yours) for the rest of the day.
So I didn’t write to you today to sing Old Town Road, but I DO want to talk about it.
Because the second I heard Lil Nas X released a second official remix of the song, he became my content repurposing idol.
That’s right, the Old Town Road remixes are a content repurposing case study.
The journey of Lil Nas X getting Old Town Road to go viral is the perfect case study for content remixing. Here's how.
First of all, if you’re not familiar with the song at all, listen here – it’s such a fun song.
Second of all, even if you do know how much of a jam it is, do you know how much of its success comes from remixing and repurposing it?
Lil Nas X knows his minimalist content marketing.
Don’t believe me? Let’s break down the stages of its success.
Phase 1: TikTok repurposing gets it to go viral
The first version of the song was released back in December, and was part of a viral challenge on TikTok, a video social network that I don’t totally get yet (does this mean I’m old?).
Lil Nas X started the challenge and promoted people participating in it, which is a whole other marketing conversation I’d love to have, but not today.
This led to the viral challenge going even more viral and the song ending up all over multiple social networks.
My main point about this phase: the song was designed and distributed to go viral from the start. It was strategic, not any kind of accident.
Phase 2: Billboard success and country drama
Once the song spread beyond social media challenges, it got enough mainstream popularity to make the Billboard charts – the overall charts, country charts, and hip hop charts.
Here’s where some drama comes in. People didn’t want it on the country charts, because racism.
They said it was because the song “wasn’t country enough” with so many hip-hop elements in it (but of course, it was actually racism).
(They didn’t understand that in the wise words of Detective Jake Peralta, stuff can be two things.)
What did Lil Nas X and his team do about the song being disqualified from the country charts?
They got to repurposing and updating their content...with a country idol.
Phase 3: Just add Billy Ray Cyrus
That’s right, when people told Lil Nas X the song wasn’t country enough, he released a remix with one of the modern kings of country music, Hannah Montana’s dad.
Take that, Billboard.
Seriously though, the collaboration came about because Billy Ray learned about the song on social when it first rose, loved it, and wanted to support Lil Nas X after being removed from the country charts.
Oh, and also?
This all happened 3 months after the song originally came out and had its TikTok challenge.
So between the viral social challenges, the Billboard drama, and the remix hype, the song had now spent MONTHS at getting tons of play, and buzz, and high positions on the non-country Billboard charts.
People freaking loved it, including these kids who are just really cute.
Even for a song from someone with more name recognition, that’s really successful. So successful that this has now become one of Billy Ray’s most successful songs on the charts.
Literally, it outperformed Achy Breaky Heart.
Phase 4: Bring in more celebrities!
Alright, now we’re in late spring 2019, and Old Town Road has spent the better part of the year topping all kinds of charts, starting dance parties, and getting played everywhere.
Time for Lil Nas X to get over it and start working on his next big hit, right?
Nope, not yet!
Because again, he knows his minimalist content marketing.
And that means riding his greatest hits til he can’t no more.
So in May, they released a new music video with lots of guest cameos, like Chris Rock and Diplo. That attracts even more audiences to the song, if they haven’t listened to it yet.
This comment on the YouTube video sums it up so perfectly:
Lil Nas X and whatever geniuses are working with him on his overall strategy could have finished with this one and only focused on new music, but instead they kept coming up with ways to draw people (new audiences and existing ones) back to this song.
They kept getting more results from the same original piece of content.
Which brings me to…
Phase 5: Mooooore remixes!
Once the Billy Ray remix and music video were out, Lil Nas X didn’t just cross that off the list and move on, he collaborated with more people to produce 2 other official remixes since the video came out in April.
They’ve now helped Old Town Road tie the Billboard record for longest-running hip-hop song on the charts.
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The content strategy lesson in all this
The second of the 2 remixes came out last week, and AS SOON AS I saw the news, I knew I needed to write this.
I’m just in awe of how Lil Nas X has used, reused, and remixed this one song.
For the visibility he’s gotten from it, most other mainstream artists would release 3-4 separate singles, which surely takes way more work, time, and money.
Instead, he’s focused on getting as much as he can out of this one. He’s gonna riiiiide it till he can’t no moreeee.
(I know I said I’d stop singing, but that was too perfect of an opportunity.)
That’s what I am ALL about with my approach to content marketing.
And great examples like these from the music industry are why I call my approach content remixing.
That industry is SO good at it in general, and Lil Nas X has taken things to a new level.
Okay, done geeking out about a country song for now.