'Harlem Shake' tops the Hot 100 a second week, and the major label is throwing its heft behind it
How did Warner Bros.--which has prided itself in the recent past on being a rock label--suddenly end up with two of the hottest-selling singles of the moment, one a hip-hop smash and the other a dance track?
By acting very quickly, say sources familiar with the Los Angeles-based label.
Baauer's "Harlem Shake," released on Diplo's Mad Decent label, tops the Billboard Hot 100 for a second week, as the Brooklyn producer's viral smash continues to register enormous YouTube streaming figures. ("Shake" debuted on the Hot 100 last week concurrent with the addition of U.S. YouTube video streaming data to the chart, alongside Nielsen SoundScan sales figures and terrestrial radio airplay, on-demand audio streaming and online radio streaming, as tracked by Nielsen BDS.)
In the No. 2 spot is Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop." Warner Bros. began working the single at radio through its distribution arm, Alternative Distribution Alliance, which earns a percentage of the act's sales as a distributor. "Thrift Shop" has sold 3.9 million copies, according to SoundScan, and this week rises 4-2 on Hot 100 Airplay with 115 million audience impressions.
With "Harlem Shake," Warner made a worldwide promotion and distribution one-time deal for the song, not the artist. "There's no question it'll be profitable for us," says one person familiar with the terms. Fueled by use of the song's audio as a backing track for the popular YouTube meme, "Shake" holds at No. 1 on the BDS-based Streaming Songs chart with a monstrous 98 million streams, down 5% from last week's total of 103 million.
Notably, the song is proving to be more than just the soundtrack to user-generated videos. Its audio is gaining attention on its own, as it debuts on On-Demand Songs at No. 17 with 803,000 on-demand streams, a 159% increase over last week. Last week, "Harlem Shake" sold 297,000 downloads, bringing its release-to-date total to 588,000.
The involvement of Warner Bros. with both "Thrift Shop" and "Harlem Shake" comes as something of a change, and shows the label reacting to the zeitgeist. "Being able to spot social media trends and getting deals done quickly has become important, but this kind of deal isn't necessarily about artist development," says one person familiar with the terms.
While "Harlem Shake" has exploded as a YouTube and social-media phenomenon, it's only getting started at radio. It ranks just below the Mainstream Top 40 chart this week with a 314% increase to 559 plays. And of the song's overall Hot 100 points, streaming accounted for 89% and sales 11%. Radio airplay? Less than 1%.
With the Warner radio promotion department now working the single, that may change. Programmers already playing the song view it as a pop-culture sensation that can't be ignored, but which may have limited staying power. "It's a no-brainer to play it," says R Dub, PD of Local Media of America-owned rhythmic XHTZ San Diego. "Listener reaction has been strong and immediate. As a format and station that lives in the now, we're cool if a song's staying power is two weeks or two years. We'll roll with it as long as we need to."
And that seems to reflect Warner's attitude as well. "These things move so fast now and then drop off pretty fast too," says the source close to the label.
(Additional reporting by Yinka Adegoke.)