The success of tribute-video favorite Soulja Boy has been called by some people the perfect example of Web buzz culminating in huge success, with his instructional dance videos (and subsequent clips like people who have learned their lessons, like the one above) being key to his success on the singles charts. Rafi Kam at Oh Word boils the success of Soulja Boy down to four points that people who “want to stay authentic and aren’t currently creating ringtone rap or new dance hooks” can take away about how to find success on the new-world Internet:
1. The web is not like old media – it’s free and can be used to spread your music. (what, you heard that one before?)
2. You can’t start a virus without a good germ. (whatever you want to say about the quality of “Crank Dat…”, its ability to spread is top-notch)
3. If you can get your fans to do your marketing for you, you really win (what, you heard that one before too?)
4. If you want to become more than famous (infamous like El Guapo), you need to find a way to get some of your shit loved by 13 year old white girls. If you think this doesn’t apply to real hip-hop just ask LL Cool J, Wu-Tang Clan (where would they be commercially without Method Man), 50 Cent (go shorty, you’re a pre-teen), Jay-Z (it’s a hard knock life indeed) or even Slug.
All good points–especially the last one. But one thing that I think is important to note is that while sales of “Crank Dat” itself have been strong–its sales total is at 1,732,000 digital copies and counting–sales of Soulja Boy’s album haven’t been nearly as impressive; in its third week of availability, sales for SouljaBoyTellEm.com just cracked the 200,000 mark, and sales for “Crank Dat”‘s follow-up single, the dance-instruction-free “Soulja Girl,” are already starting to sag slightly in its third week on the chart. And that song, which was accompanied by a “Be A Soulja Girl” audience-participation contest when it premiered on TRL, seems like much more of a play for the 13-year-old set, than its predecessor. So do these tactics work for a career beyond a song, or is the Web 2.0 shortened attention span part and parcel of success in this era? Or should Soulja Boy have extended his TRL contest to all of YouTube, thereby ensuring his place on the YouTube top videos list for at least a few more weeks?