"Harlem Shake" Is Bigger Than You Think

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

The top song in Billboard's Hot 100 this week is Baauer's "Harlem Shake" and it wouldn't be there without YouTube.

It's rare to see a track debut at the top of the music industry's popularity list. "Harlem Shake" wasn't even on the Hot 100 a week earlier. It wasn't even a well-known song among fans of electronic music three weeks ago, but that's when an Internet meme went viral on Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) video-sharing website.

YouTube's Filthy Frank and The Sunny Coast Skate kicked off the craze three weeks ago with a clip of spastic dancing to the first 30 seconds of the sample-laden hip-hop track. It caught on -- quickly. Thousands of imitations were uploaded in the first week alone. As of this morning, more than 92,000 videos of friends, companies, and schools doing the "Harlem Shake" have been uploaded to YouTube. Nearly two thirds of those have been uploaded in the past week alone.

A few years ago this would've been a disaster. Tens of thousands of people -- including some of YouTube's most prolific content creators -- trampling YouTube's requests for users not to upload copyrighted music would've amounted to a mutinous threat.

This time it's an opportunity.

"We've, from the beginning, been very much a proponent of allowing everybody to do whatever they want with our stuff, as long we're able to monetize it," Baauer's label manager Jasper Goggins tells Time this morning. "It's a great way to help spread the music."

Monetization is the key. Mad Decent -- Baauer's label -- is able to profit from the craze through Google's Content ID algorithm than can slap ads on the claimed clips. Google and the artist share the resulting revenue.

The publicity is also helping outright sales. Just as viral spoof videos helped propel Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" last year, Baauer and its label are benefiting from the publicity.

A whopping 262,000 downloads of the song were purchased last week, according to The New York Times. Pair that up with 103 million views on YouTube across the tens of thousands of "Harlem Shake" videos and the song hit No. 1 with a bullet on the weekly Billboard chart.

It's a case of perfect timing. A decade ago, Billboard relied on record sales and radio station playlists to sort out its weekly Hot 100 missive. It just started incorporating YouTube views, just in time to wake up the stodgy music industry with this week's surprising top entry.

For investors, this is another reason to steer clear of the prerecorded music industry. It doesn't take major label representation to get noticed as recording stars are birthed on reality show competitions and now viral videos.

Thankfully, the record companies are making it easy for investors to avoid them. Warner Music Group was taken private two summers ago. EMI was acquired by Universal Music in 2011, which itself is owned by France's Vivendi. Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) is the only other major label, but music makes up a small part of the businesses of Vivendi and Sony.

Google's YouTube will continue to be the tastemaker of choice here. YouTube is now serving more than 4 billion hours of content a month, and a lot of that comes in the form of music videos.

A Neilsen's Music 360 survey last year showed that 64% of participants between the ages of 13 and 17 turn to YouTube for music. Why not? It's free, even if they have to put up with the ads. A YouTube playlist can just stream in the background, and that beats Pandora's ad-supported algorithm-generated playlists with limited skips. That same survey found that just 35% of the participants listen to Pandora.

In the end, "Harlem Shake" will be another meme that comes and goes. Many will argue that it grew tired one or two weeks ago. However, its role in redefining the way that the music industry approaches copyright violators and the growing power of Google as a hit maker won't be ignored or forgotten.

It's more important than ever to understand each piece of Google's sprawling empire. In The Motley Fool's new premium research report on Google, we break down the risks and potential rewards for Google investors. Simply click here now to unlock your copy of this invaluable resource, and you'll receive a bonus year's worth of key updates and expert guidance as news continues to develop.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2269285, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/1/2016 5:11:01 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 19 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,308.15 164.70 0.91%
S&P 500 2,168.27 17.14 0.80%
NASD 5,312.00 42.85 0.81%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/30/2016 4:00 PM
GOOGL $804.06 Up +1.42 +0.18%
Alphabet (A shares… CAPS Rating: *****
P $14.33 Up +0.19 +1.34%
Pandora Media CAPS Rating: **
SNE $33.21 Down -0.03 -0.09%
Sony CAPS Rating: ***