Advertising has always been a hit or miss game. The way that an ad presents itself can showcase the relevance of a brand. This is why every few years advertisers reinvent themselves. Banners ads turned into sponsored content, television commercials turned into mini blockbuster movies. It’s only natural that music promotion also does this, and transitions into the meme world.
Memes have been acting as the backbone for some of the most successful songs of the last few years. ‘Bad & Boujee’ shot to number 1 on the Billboard Top 100 with the ‘raindrop, drop top’ meme, Redbone shot from 75 to 12 on the Billboard Top 100 with its coinciding meme trend. Even artists like Denzel Curry and Lil Yachty shot into the mainstream thanks to the ‘Ultimate’ and ‘One Night’ memes, becoming XXL Freshman that same year. The connection between memes and success aren’t coincidental, and it demonstrates where artists, labels, and corporations should be focusing. What is it about memes that make them so effective? It’s not the products themselves, it’s the world that surrounds them.
Memes are the result of online communities. They are small videos or pictures that are rooted in the depths of 4chan, Vine and Reddit. Over the years, they have become the basis of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. But even though they’ve transcended their URL beginnings, they have remained a grassroots force. At the beginning of every meme, there’s a music lover who created it for the entertainment of their friends. It could be argued that because the popularity of memes peaks on the internet, their reach could be limited to a promotional world. But really, what isn’t on the internet today? Netflix creates $100 million movies, music streaming accounts to sales and you can literally order groceries online. Memes are the easiest way to obtain reach and relevance in this cyber world.
Devin Xantana, the meme maker behind Facebook pages such as Young Thugga La Meme and Young Thugga La Meme Season 2, and Young Thugga La Group, has seen the importance and effects of memes rise. Both his meme pages have over 200,000 likes, and his closed group has 11,000 members who dedicate themselves to the consumption of music. These communities have even pushed online based phenomena such as Hey Mama Day forward with their dedication to hip-hop. Devin, as a taste-maker in meme culture, has seen how memes bring people together. He’s made friends online that he’s met in real life through the creation of memes. He also sees how they can be useful in the world of music promotion.
‘‘Memes are basically created by a bunch of weirdos on the internet but can be enjoyed by all different types of people. If you link an artist to the right meme, their music can pop.”
The beauty of memes is that these creators aren’t necessarily doing it for the virality, but for the love of their online community. Memes are all inclusive in the sense that they represent the senses of humour of the people in their respective forums and groups. They are a way of conversing with others and not feeling alone in this world. The Lil Yachty ‘One Night’ Vine trend wasn’t an attempt at propelling a song into popularity. Instead, it was a way for people of similar interests to connect, converse and create content. This is something traditional advertising has failed to grasp. Shoving a product in the face of a consumer doesn’t connect with people like memes do. They can sometimes be confusing, but they’re always intriguing. As Devin states, “I just love making weird fucking images.”
Another appealing aspect of memes is that they are authentic. The creators are people deeply rooted in the internet culture of today. The memes related to acts like Yung Lean and Death Grips weren’t created in order to capture a market. They were created to showcase fandom and admiration. Both Yung Lean and Death Grips can credit their rise in popularity to memes, with the Arizona Iced Tea and Anthony references accelerating them onto internet pedestals. But meme creators have never asked for credit; they’re just thankful for the music.
Corporations and labels all around the world could benefit from the use of memes by using them as a tactic to measure relevance. Memes derive from a place of passion, and businesses could use memes to see where the love of fans lie. Not only would this help them remain fresh, it would give them a platform to connect with the fans in an authentic way. Traditional advertising is limited in the sense that it feels forced: like it’s only attempting to sell. The usage of memes interpolated in promotion would allow a corporation to evaluate statistics on a grassroots level.
The process of creating memes also opens up avenues for more jobs in the media industry. Instead of companies pouring budget into flashing lights and expensive flashy videos, they could invest in a few fonts and the magic wand tool in Photoshop. Less money spent could result in more people hired. Ka5sh, a proclaimed ‘professional meme maker’, claimed in a 2016 interview with NBC that he’s been hired by labels such as Mad Decent to make memes for album releases, stating that he’s “lived entirely off meme money this whole year“.
“If I can just make money from my phone all the time, that’s sick, and I want everyone to do that”.
Memes are more than silly images, they represent a new form of music promotion. Memes can act as a form of advertising that doesn’t feel like a conjured piece of product placement, but a small piece of content for a consumer to enjoy. Memes originated in a URL world, but have enthralled a lot of people around the world. By applying the sense of community that has solidified memes over the last decade, labels and businesses can find that grassroots appeal that they’ve been missing for so long. Memes demonstrate an understanding of today’s music culture, incorporating them would abolish the disconnection, and create more media jobs. It can be argued that the commercialization of memes would destroy what initially made them so special. In reality, it just showcases a future where creative, unique minds could reign supreme once again. Who knew that a JPEG file would change the world of music promotion as we know it.