The End Of Virality

There’s no buzz.

Last night I watched “Logan Lucky” on Amazon. That’s where the movies are now, since Netflix has gone into production. I ain’t gonna say it was great, it was paint-by-numbers, something Soderbergh has done before, and I expect more from him, but no one is talking about the film’s appearance on the service, I’ve gotten no e-mail, seen no tweets.

And then I caught some of Letterman’s Clooney interview on Netflix. Which was surprisingly good. After I crawled through the offerings to find it. And that’s when it hit me…

Virality is dead.

What I mean is the goal, especially since “Gangnam Style,” was to do something so out there, so extraordinary, that it would spread on the internet like wildfire and become a huge success.

But that paradigm is dead. We’ve all got too many marketing messages, too much product.

Look at music. You can get a review in the newspaper and there’s no effect. You can go on late night TV and there’s no effect. You can go on SNL and there’s no effect. UNLESS, you screw up. Kinda like that dog dying on United this week. We’re all ears and eyes for something unrelated to politics and entertainment, something that’s about humanity, and dogs are man’s best friend. But if it’s a usual suspect project, you hit a brick wall.

Now back in the last century film distributors advertised their wares heavily on television on Thursday nights. We thought it was superfluous, we already knew about the new releases. But now, if you don’t do this, you get no traction. That’s what happened with “Logan Lucky,” Soderbergh didn’t think he needed to spend, and he didn’t, the film’s ad budget was much smaller than its competition, and therefore the flick failed. Of course, there was the fact it wasn’t a superhero flick, but the word didn’t get out, you’ve got to get the word out.

Only you can’t. There’s no way to reach everybody!

Used to be printing the top ten in the newspaper got people interested.

But then these looky-loos realized they didn’t like the music featured and gave up. As for films, only one, at most two, films are successful each week, why go to see a loser, when there are new films next week?

So you can’t light a fire that ignites everybody.

But marketers still believe you can.

In music, what appears like virality, is oftentimes an after the fact clean-up victory lap. Like Cardi B and Post Malone. Yes, they ended up with a ton of media attention, but that was AFTER they were ALREADY a huge success online.

What this means is your ascension will be slower than ever before. Instant success is nearly impossible. And if it happens too fast, for whatever reason, you’ll fall back to earth almost quite as fast.

So there was a monoculture. That was what MTV in the last part of this century was all about. You get on the service and everybody knows your name.

Then the internet killed that and the key was to get everybody on the internet talking about something.

And that worked for a while.

But now, just like we no longer send jokes to each other in e-mail, we don’t forward cute videos or any of that crap, and if we do post them on our Facebook page most people ignore them, because they’re being dunned to pay attention all day long and they just ain’t got that much time.

So world domination is passe. You can’t even dominate the United States. They keep telling us what is big yet we haven’t heard about it, and the irony is we don’t care.

You’ve got to do the hard work and appeal to a core which sustains you. The rest is nearly unachievable and is gravy at best.

They came for the popsters, that’s the story of the last year, they all failed in the marketplace. Because there’s no there there, no built-in audience to spread the word.

And this was after they came for the rockers and every other genre other than hip-hop and country.

And hip-hop and country are their own backwaters, the BIGGEST genres, but they don’t spread outside their borders. Come on, remember when Shania Twain crossed over, from country to pop? Even Taylor Swift? Now both their new projects are dead in the water. As for live business, that’s about hard core fans, look at Gaga, she hasn’t had a hit in eons, and many fewer people are required to sell out venues than to dominate in the cultural discourse.

We’ve all hit a wall.

The question is whether we’re looking to be directed, does the public want to be told what to watch and listen, or is it happy in the niches?

We’re in a transition period.

But if you expect your project to spread like wildfire, nearly instantly, to all people.

You’re dreaming.

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