The Marketing Genius Of Lil Nas X

Welcome To The Marketing Industry Baby 

Since tomorrow is the release of his debut album, MONTERO, I wanted to dive deeper into the thought process behind the mind of Lil Nas X who has gone from strength to strength in his career, and to discover whether his success is due to careful planning and marketing or just down to good luck. While day to day I help our clients with their SEO campaigns, I thought I’d take my chance with my monthly blog to write about music’s latest superstar.

The music industry in the 21st century is one of the most competitive industries on the planet, becoming a huge success and maintaining longevity in your career is now harder than ever. However, it’s all good and well if you possess the talent whether that’s singing, songwriting, dancing, or performing but unfortunately in today’s society that is no longer enough to see you through. So what other skills does one need to have in order to give yourself a good fighting chance of becoming a success within the music industry? Marketing is a major key factor in making anyone a success story, utilising the right tools and understanding how to achieve results is a skill that many artists have developed over the years resulting in huge amounts of media exposure, increased social media followings, and an increase in listeners and streams on platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.

The Story Behind Old Town Road

Before fame and fortune came into Lil Nas X’s life, he was a college dropout with around 30,000 followers on Twitter from which he gained from posting and resharing popular memes. Lil Nas X always wanted to pursue music so he started by utilizing his existing following to promote his music however he found his audience wasn’t interested in the new type of content he was now posting as he realised engagement levels were consistently low. So like any smart marketer, he changed tactics in order to get the results he was initially wanting to achieve.

Lil Nas X’s new approach was to produce a song that was created solely through the use of memes by asking his followers for lyric ideas he could use and from that point, the song ‘Old Town Road’ was born. He then began to pair the song to memes including that of a dancing cowboy which he shared with his existing followers along with a link to the full song and shortly after that it became a viral hit. After the views started piling in, Lil Nas X listed the track as a country song as he noticed that the country music charts were a lot less competitive and would be easier for him to climb up the rankings. However, Billboard picked up on this and removed it, claiming the song did not fit the country music genre which then became a talking point around the US and two weeks later the song was No.1.

Utilizing Backlash On Social Media

We often associate backlash with failure whether it’s within your career, business, or even your personal life, however for Lil Nas X, backlash presents opportunity. After the hit song ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ was released alongside a music video that Lil Nas X had intended to be controversial, he began to receive thousands of tweets from people who were outraged. Many artists would take this negativity to heart, however, this was all predicted in his bigger plan to promote the song which many don’t realise was part of a 9-month plan Lil Nas X had been carrying out even before the song was released. He responded to many of these hateful comments with witty comebacks, memes, GIFs, and promotional content all of which we’re part of his longer-term strategy to promote the song, entertaining his existing audience while attracting new fans all of which support his ‘gay agenda’. Many high profile individuals such as the NBA player Nick Young and the Governer of South Dakota we’re highly critical of the artist spreading the word through their own social media all of which ended up helping to put the attention onto Lil Nas X and his music helping him to rack up even more streams and gain an even bigger social media following.

The Power Of Tik Tok

Tik Tok was also included in the overall marketing strategy to promote the song ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name) where he announced a pole-dancing challenge that is linked to the music video itself and offered a $10,000 prize for using the hashtag #PoleDanceToHell. From the very early days of when the song was released on Tik Tok alone he managed to achieve over 180,000 video creations which in total had resulted in 390 million views, however, today those statistics are even greater.

At this point, the success of the song was already apparent and many artists would be pleased by how it’s performed, however, Lil Nas X wasn’t finished as he was set to announce 666 pairs of Nike Air Max “Satan Shoes” customised by MSCHF which he claimed contained real human blood within the soles of the shoes. Again this created much controversy and began trending on Twitter for 2 whole days, upsetting many individuals mainly those part of religious groups. However, he was quick to react with a fake apology video which has since gained over 8 million views for his YouTube channel and featured a clip from the music video as a way of promoting the song even further. This became a talking point for many media outlets and just proves that time and time again, his quick thinking for producing reactive content, as well as carrying out his longer-term plan, to help him build upon his current exposure, creating more newsworthy stories and keeping the spotlight on him is pure brilliance. Looking back at the initial success of the song, it managed to accumulate over 8 million streams within 48 hours on Spotify alone, becoming a top-selling song on iTunes, gaining over 46.9 million views on YouTube. 

Continuing The Controversy

During the build-up to the release of his latest album, MONTERO, he decided to continue his tried and tested approach of using memes as he knows exactly how to capitalise on the use of memes and trends on social media, which he found to be successful when he trialed out this approach for the song ‘Old Town Road’. For example, he recently posted a meme of Drake’s latest album cover, Certified Lover Boy replacing the pregnant women with men which many other businesses jumped on soon after. On top of this, his reputation for causing controversy continued where he decided to have a pregnancy shoot featuring a fake baby bump as well as setting up a baby registry where fans could donate to charities that were important to him personally. 

Summary Of Lil Nas X’s Achievements

  • 1.2 billion streams of ‘Old Town Road’ on Spotify
  • Over 930 million streams of MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) on Spotify
  • Over 300 million streams of INDUSTRY BABY (feat. Jack Harlow) on Spotify
  • 10.6 million followers on Instagram
  • 7 million followers on Twitter
  • 2.2 million video creations featuring the song, MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)
  • 350 million views on the music video, MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)
  • 15.7 million YouTube subscribers

Lil Nas X has proven time and time again he has developed a winning solution that works for his brand for marketing himself in an industry that is known for being extremely competitive. Regardless of his talent for songwriting and creating memorable live performances, Lil Nas X would not be as big as he is today if it weren’t for his ability to promote himself through social media, understanding trends, and his ability to manipulate the industry.


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