Can you make a song go viral?

Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ is refusing to let go. The music video that inspired a countless number of viral videos has been at it again in the last week with a new interpretation cover of other Disney characters singing the song and a club anthem! The extent of Disney’s success begs one question . . . Can you make a song go viral?

That is the dream for any song, YouTube video or piece of promotional material. To go viral. It means that huge numbers of people outside the intended target market get exposed to this entertaining piece of media. And if it is a product which is available on a global scale through iTunes or YouTube, then it means that hopefully a whole lot of new people will engage and the audience will go through the roof.

But can you create a song that will go viral?

The answer is probably no. Unfortunately, psychic’s do not have the ability to predict with 20/20 vision which songs will be hits in the future and which songs will be misses. But looking at the three viral hits of the last six months there are some qualities which contribute to the viral success of these songs. And while they may not be the sole factors responsible for the viral uptake – it certainly won’t decrease your chances!

  1. ‘Let it Go’ by Idina Menzel from Disney’s Frozen
  2. ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams from Despicable Me 2
  3. ‘All of Me’ by John Mayer

Quality #1: Relatable

Any successful piece of media has the important quality of being relatable to a wide ranging audience and all these three songs deal with these universal themes. ‘Let it Go’ looks at triumphing over adversity. ‘All of Me’ is one of those timeless love messages. And ‘Happy’ caters for those urges we all have to break out into dance in the middle of the street. From the beginning these songs already have the ability to be appreciated by a huge audience.

Quality #2: Coverable

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. But it is also the key to a viral video. Cover artists are growing into a significant part of music production on the internet and often bring new music to audiences who wouldn’t usually follow the original performer. And all three of these songs were adopted by almost every cover artist on YouTube. ‘Let it Go’ even created some new cover artists from the kindergarten age – and nothing spreads faster than a video of an adorable child singing a hit song.

By making the song simple enough to be covered (and re-interpreted), it became an appetising proposition for cover artists which then spread its appeal to whole new areas of the music market and gave it a lot more coverage across the internet. And speaking of creating your own covers, these three songs are currently taking up the top three places in sheet music downloads across the world which means that people are creating word-of-mouth by performing the song!

Quality #3: The Pixar Effect

Pixar, and many other children’s movie producing companies, have the uncanny skill to make a movie appeal to both children and their parents. Two out of the three viral songs started in children’s movies but also found some appeal to older generations through their ability to relate themes to various markets. And if you can create an offering which appeals to both the children and their parents – well, that doubles your potential audience!

And even though ‘All of Me’ didn’t start in the children’s arena, parents wouldn’t turn off this song if there were children in the same room. This gives the song a much wider range of applications as well. It can be used in advertising at prime time. It can be played on prime-time radio. And it can be talked about non-stop at all times. Something like Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ lacks this quality and that limitation definitely contributed to its quick disappearance.


These three ideas aren’t the only keys to creating a viral video as there are many songs which satisfy similar qualities but fail to make the same impression. But look at it this way, by adhering to these ideas they can only help if the song does have the magical combination that creates a viral hit!