Marketable Memes

How Lil Nas X rose to fame

Behind the perfect inflection point of internet culture and a changing music industry.

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The chart-topping, record-breaking "Old Town Road" started off as a Young Kio instrumental for sale on BeatStars.

Beat marketplaces like this and the more exclusive TrakTrain have slowly cut labels out of the equation, directly connecting emerging artists like Lil Nas X and experienced producers.

Lil Nas X was once a professional meme creator which influenced not only the song's promotion but its lyrics too. The "Yeehaw Agenda" of the moment made its way to TikTok with the Atlanta rapper in tow.

The Yeehaw Challenge took off on TikTok in March 2019, breathing new life into the song and providing massive amounts of free publicity — for him and the app.

TikTok/@austinlivz

“I promoted the song as a meme for months until it caught on to TikTok and it became way bigger.”

Lil Nas X to Time

743.5M

TikTok views of #yeehaw videos as of November 2020, most of which feature "Old Town Road."

TikTok

"Old Town Road" was scandalously removed from the Billboard Country charts, inadvertently introducing attention outside of TikTok and contributing to its 17 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

The song has since received several high-profile remixes as well as numerous award nominations and wins, including Grammys, Billboard Awards, and an MTV Music Video Award.

Rachel Luna/FilmMagic/Getty Images

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