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These Viral Songs Are “Bad”. But Are They, Really?

These Viral Songs Are “Bad”. But Are They, Really?


Our AI-powered Hit Potential Algorithm ‘listens’ to tracks and returns a result from 0-100 that indicates a low to high likelihood of commercial success.

In a previous study, we verified, with around 14000 songs, that most songs known to be commercially successful (streams, virality) tend to be given a higher score by our Hit Potential Algorithm when compared to a control group of unreleased, un-curated songs. 


However, we also noticed that, outside of the Global Top 200 set, a fair number of songs that gained success in each region received Hit Potential Scores that fell far below the mean score for that region.

In effect, we observed songs that were popular or viral, even though our Hit Potential Algorithm seemed to indicate that they should not be commercially successful.

This is by no means a judgement on the quality of the song, merely an observation that such a song differs greatly from songs that have been known to achieve objective commercial success.


We set out to discover the possible reasons for their success, outside the audio analysis that our AI is capable of. To do this, we picked a few songs from the very bottom of the SEA Viral set, with a score of <50, and identified specific qualities about each of these that may serve to explain their success.


Thank U, Next, by Ariana Granda is an extremely popular song, breaking the record for the most streams received by a song in a single day by a female artist on Spotify, with 8.19 million streams globally, and continued to break this record daily until November 9, when it received 9.6 million streams.

Our Hit Potential Algorithm agrees with this, giving the song a score of 78, which is even higher than the Global Top 200 average of 75. Over performer? We think so.

Classical music, or music played by Classical ensembles, tends to receive low Hit Potential Scores due to the relatively low Global popularity of the style. However, Vitamin String Quartet has been creating excellent classical arrangements of contemporary hits for more than 2 decades.

The model of piggybacking a less popular style on top of the strength of incredibly popular intellectual property has served it well. And its success is not unique – 2Cellos, The Piano Guys, and other ‘Classical’ artists have all remained relevant and gained significant followings with this method.

What’s next? 12 million people viewing a Guzheng cover of a Wiz Khalifa song?


Michael Bublé Emerges from His Cave | Know Your Meme

We are all familiar with the inundation of Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé songs when Christmas rolls around each year. However, while Christmas is a big season, there are also minor and more regional/local seasons that can greatly influence the popularity of songs

Spring Returns To The Earth, sung by Wu Yingyin, made an appearance in the Malaysian Viral Top 50 on February 11 2021, one day before Chinese New Year. Anyone who grew up around Chinese New Year celebrations will remember this song ringing throughout supermarkets and any other establishment getting into the festive mood.

Indonesia’s National Day falls on August 17, so it’s no surprise that its National Anthem found its way onto Indonesia’s Viral Top 50 – this one is pretty straight forward.


Shingeki No Kyojin (Attack On Titan) is a monumentally popular anime series, based on a manga that sold 100 million copies by 2019. While this song only received a Hit Potential Score of 49, it was viewed more than 42 million times on YouTube – certainly a fairly objective marker of success.

Would this piece of music have achieved that same success if it were not also attached to an anime that everyone around the world was going crazy for? Our best guess is – probably not.


This suggests that tracks receiving low Hit Potential scores may also be worth looking at if they have one or more of the following qualities (there are probably more qualities not included in this short article):

  1. The song or composition itself is currently, or has been, very popular.
  2. It has a particular cultural significance that may override its dated sound.
  3. If it is well-produced but has a low score, it may be an ideal candidate for sync in TV, Films, or Games, where its uniqueness may add something essential to the whole production. When successfully synced with a popular property – its royalty potential will also skyrocket.

Hit Potential is not straightforward. Even though the scores range from 0-100, it can be combined with a great deal more of wisdom from unique contextual knowledge to create a pinpoint strategy for songs in different Hit Potential Score bands.

Song funds, A&R executives, sync licensing companies, and other catalog owners might find a way to monetize their lower performers by diversifying their approach this way.

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