Global digital-media consumption is accelerating at a rapid-fire pace, and music videos comprise just a tiny microcosm of that phenomenon: six of the top 10 music-video debuts of all time, defined by number of YouTube views within 24 hours, took place within the last six months.
Here’s a full list of the top 10 YouTube debuts of all time as of today (asterisked entries were released in the last six months):
- *BTS (ft. Halsey)—"Boy With Luv" (74.6 million views in 24 hours)
- *Taylor Swift (ft. Brendon Urie)—"Me!“ (65.2M)
- *Blackpink—"Kill This Love” (56.7M)
- *Ariana Grande—"thank u, next" (55.4M)
Taylor Swift—"Look What You Made Me Do" (43.2M)
- *Twice—"Fancy" (42.1M)
- *Guru Randhawa (ft. Pitbull)—"Slowly Slowly" (38M)
Blackpink—"Ddu-du Ddu-du" (36.2M)
There are a few interesting patterns to glean from here. Not only are three artists repeat winners on the list (namely BTS, Blackpink and Taylor Swift), but 70% of the list also comes from artists outside the U.S. industry bubble, i.e. from Korea, Japan and India.
Most importantly for today’s topic: all of the top 10 videos come from the more or less “traditional” pop world—and aside from Pitbull’s Indi-pop feature, hip-hop/rap is nowhere to be seen.
In fact, the most successful hip-hop video debut of all time isn’t even a proper music video at all; it’s an audio-only
version of Eminem’s diss track “Killshot
,” which garnered 38.1 million views in its first 24 hours.
The picture looks even bleaker for hip-hop if you limit your scope to official Vevo channels. According to Wikipedia
—and as I confirmed with a Vevo rep for this newsletter—the top five Vevo debuts come from Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Adele; the remaining two entries aside from those included above are Adele’s “Hello
” and Swift’s “Bad Blood
,” both released in 2015.
The rapper with the largest Vevo debut is Nicki Minaj, who ranks at #6 with her video for “Anaconda"—which was released back in 2014
and got 19.6 million views
in its first 24 hours, falling behind the more recent debut for "Me!” by nearly 70%.
After Nicki Minaj, the next highest rappers on the Vevo debut charts—namely Drake, Eminem and Childish Gambino—are only ranked around #30 and below.
I was surprised to learn about this gap because hip-hop has garnered a reputation for being one of the most-streamed genres in the U.S., let alone in the world. Charts elsewhere suggest that hip-hop dominates streaming on a global scale: not only did Nielsen find that eight of the top 10 U.S. albums of 2018 were by hip-hop artists, but the top three most-streamed artists on Spotify
that year were also rappers (Drake, Post Malone and the late XXXTentacion). It’s been widely covered that record labels are engaging in a ongoing signing frenzy for rap hits as a result, with Def Jam even going so far as to establish its own “rap camp
” to break multiple rappers on their roster simultaneously.
The “SoundCloud rap” community in particular has cultivated a reputation for chasing online clout and virality at all costs. Arguably more than any other genre, hip-hop embraces rapid-fire, meme-friendly release and circulation strategies to maximize streams and impressions. Historically, rappers have also been early adopters of influential short-form video platforms like Snapchat, Vine and TikTok; as New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica wrote
, “practically every significant music-internet innovation of the last 15 years took hold in hip-hop first.”
Then why has the tech-forward world of hip-hop hit a ceiling on a chart that seems literally made for the genre—measuring viral, 24-hour engagement—on a platform that combines two of the genre’s biggest marketing strengths, video and streaming?
It’s not like YouTube and Vevo don’t
like hip-hop; quite the opposite, in fact. According to BuzzAngle’s 2018 year-end report
, hip-hop/rap had the largest market share of all video streams that year at 22.8%, compared to 21.8% for Latin, 16.6% for pop and 11.9% for R&B. YouTube’s music team is also stacked with hip-hop veterans who constantly have a pulse on emerging sounds and cultures, including but not limited to Lyor Cohen (former co-president of Def Jam), Tuma Basa (former global programming head of hip-hop at Spotify) and Naomi Zeichner (former editor-in-chief at The FADER).
But based on my own research and conversations online and IRL with music enthusiasts, I’ve come up with three higher-level hypotheses for why the first-day performance of hip-hop videos on YouTube remains so limited. I think it boils down to two main reasons: fundamental, ideological differences in how hip-hop versus pop artists approach marketing and fan engagement, and the rising influence of regional music cultures that is shoving American music away from being the industry default.