Music On TV: What Works Now

Measuring Synch Success: 7 Case Studies

Ashe
Ashe Dana Trippe

Streaming data is just one way of looking at the effect that a song placement can have on the growth of artists and their fan bases

When the final episode of the ESPN docuseries on Michael Jordan, The Last Dance, used Pearl Jam’s 1996 song “Present Tense” to soundtrack a pulse-pounding montage of the NBA superstar’s greatest moments on the court, the Seattle rock mainstays put some big points on the board as well. Just how did Pearl Jam benefit? Billboard worked with the San Francisco-based music data startup Chartmetric on seven case studies to look at the varied impact that synchs can have. We paired streaming results from Nielsen Music/MRC Data with Chartmetric’s analysis of Shazam searches, Spotify data, Facebook likes, Instagram followers and even Wikipedia views, among other metrics, to put together a fuller picture of which synchs moved the needle and which didn’t.

“Moral of the Story”
Release date Feb. 14, 2019
Synch date Feb. 12, 2019
Show To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Chartmetric head of digital strategy Rutger Ansley Rosenborg was an intern at Mom + Pop Records in February 2019 when the label released “Moral of the Story,” an indie-pop ballad that Ashe co-wrote with Billie Eilish’s brother, FINNEAS, and Noah Conrad in the wake of a messy divorce. “It got playlisted a bit, but otherwise it lived the life of a moderately successful indie-pop track,” says Rosenborg.Almost a year later, “Moral of the Story” rebounded in a big way when the main character in a Netflix teen rom-com, Lara Jean, lip-synced to the song while going through a breakup. As Rosenborg explains, “diegetic” synchs like this — songs that “enter the narrative of the series or film as opposed to [those] incidental to a scene” — tend to have the biggest impact on an artist’s exposure. They also pay more than non-diegetic synchs (songs used as background music). “Diegetic use will up the price of the synch because it’s more important to the integrity of the scene — it’s essentially part of the storyline,” he says. “With a non-diegetic synch, you might get a check for a couple of grand, but it’s not likely to do much beyond that for an artist.”

The placement of “Moral of the Story” in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You sparked a breakthrough for Ashe on several fronts. According to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, the week that the film debuted on Netflix, “Moral of the Story” generated nearly 358,000 total on-demand streams. One week later, that total jumped to 2.7 million, a 644% increase, and in each of the following two weeks, the track logged over 9 million streams. As of Oct. 1, total streams for the single numbered 142.3 million, and, more recently, “Moral of the Story” hit No. 23 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart dated Oct. 17.

The synch sparked significant social media gains for Ashe as well. Rosenborg says that in the two weeks before To All the Boys premiered, the singer-songwriter had added just 24 new Instagram followers. In the two weeks that followed the synch, she added 13,500 followers — 51% of them in the females 18-24 demographic.“If we look at her overall social growth since the synch, it’s crazy numbers,” says Rosenborg. “Her Spotify monthly listeners have grown almost 600%, her Spotify followers have grown 245%, and her Twitter followers have grown 2,700%.”

Chartmetric artist highlights Feb. 12-Oct. 2, 2020
Spotify followers added 211,609 (244.4%)
Spotify monthly listeners added 6.4 million (585.1%)
Spotify playlist total reach 31.3 million
YouTube channel views added 30.6 million (66.9%)
Instagram followers added 542,299 (888.1%)
Twitter followers added 319,801 (2,732.2%)
Where people were listening Chicago; Dallas; Jakarta, Indonesia; Los Angeles; Sydney

“Here I Am Again”
Release date Dec. 14, 2019
Synch date Dec. 14, 2019
Show Crash Landing on You

The K-pop singer-songwriter’s teary ballad debuted in the first episode of this South Korean soap opera and reprised in several of the remaining 15 episodes, which told the story of an heiress from Seoul who falls in love with a North Korean soldier after a paragliding crash deposits her in the DMZ. The tune was also included on the official soundtrack.

In Korea, the cable series was a huge hit, becoming the third-highest-rated drama in South Korean cable TV history, with 6.3 million viewers for its final episode, according to Nielsen Media Research. Netflix amplified that, making the series available internationally at the same time it was airing in South Korea. Baek saw a rise in her popularity — but, Rosenborg says a number of factors make it difficult to determine exactly how much of a role “Here I Am Again” played in the bump.

Rosenborg says that Spotify is not currently available in South Korea (although that is expected to change imminently), and that “Here I Am Again” — which Baek initially sang in Korean — was not available on Western streaming platforms until almost a month after the first synch. (Nielsen Music/MRC Data registered it as being released during the week ending Jan.16, 2020.) “Spotify metrics or Western-based platform metrics are going to be an ineffective measure of how global a hit the song was,” he says.

Further muddying the waters: Baek released her debut album, Every Letter I Sent You — which did not include “Here I Am Again” — shortly before Crash Landing on You premiered. As a result, according to Rosenborg, “It’s hard to pinpoint the effect of the synch versus the album” on her overall streaming and social numbers. “It’s more likely these things worked in tandem.” Chartmetric’s analysis shows that Baek’s monthly Spotify listeners rose from approximately 274,631 to 873,594 — a 218% increase — from mid-December 2019 to late March 2020, and her Spotify followers increased from 70,346 to 154,091 over that same period. “Her playlisting takes off around then, too,” he says.

Chartmetric data shows that the lion’s share of listeners came from Asia; in the United States, “Here I Am Again” did not move the needle, even though the series was available on Netflix as it aired in South Korea. In its first week of availability in the United States, “Here I Am Again” registered 66,000 total on-demand streams. One week later, it generated another 129,000 streams. At its peak, the week of Feb. 21-27, the song logged 174,000 streams, not enough to make it a hit stateside. An English-language version that arrived on YouTube in late April did not boost numbers either.

Chartmetric artist highlights Dec. 14, 2019-Oct. 2, 2020
Spotify followers added 83,745 (119.1%)
Spotify playlist total reach 999,000
YouTube channel views added 19 million (33.5%)
Instagram followers added 151,823 (32.8%)
Wikipedia views added 135,805 (73.1%)
Where people were listening Bangkok; Jakarta, Indonesia; Singapore; Surabaya, Indonesia; Taipei, Taiwan

“Stars Are on Your Side”
Release date April 17, 2019
Synch date April 13, 2020
Show Roswell, New Mexico

“Stars Are on Your Side” was placed in a couple of series before this 2020 synch — most notably on Grey’s Anatomy in November 2019. That may explain the modest effect that its placement on the CW sci-fi drama Roswell had on Copperman’s social numbers.

The song played during a dramatic montage at the end of the episode that began with Michael, one of the series’ main characters, baring his soul to another, Max, who lies unconscious after having a pacemaker installed. (Spoiler alert: Michael and Max are both aliens in human guise.)

For the two weeks prior to the synch, “Stars Are on Your Side” had averaged more than 6,000 total on-demand streams. Two weeks after, the track had topped 7,000 streams, up just 10.7%.Rosenborg says that, based on Chartmetric data, Copperman — who enjoyed a successful career as a rock act in the United Kingdom before becoming a sought-after Nashville songwriter — had the most significant movement in Shazam searches. “He had a little over 100 Shazam counts before the synch and almost 900 afterward,” he says. “It’s pretty good growth, and every little bit helps to grow your brand.”

Chartmetric artist highlights April 13-Oct. 2, 2020
Spotify monthly listeners added 149,690 (60.8%)
Instagram followers added 689 (7.9%)
Wikipedia views added 11,866 (12.6%)
Where people were listening Chicago; London; Oslo, Norway; São Paulo

“Salsa”
Release date May 10, 2018
Synch date May 24, 2020
Show Insecure

The queer Mexican rapper has enjoyed a lot of success with synchs, and “Salsa” is a prime example. Before its placement in this HBO series, the song was tapped by three other shows in the space of a year, according to Tunefind: Dynasty, LA’s Finest and Grand Hotel. And like Ross Copperman’s “Stars Are on Your Side,” Dioz’s most recent “Salsa” synch resulted in modest returns.

The song plays as series star Issa Rae’s friend Molly and her “Asian bae” — as fans of Insecure dubbed him — Andrew embark on a vacation to Mexico. (Not diegetic, though memorable given the heavy petting that takes place once they’ve boarded their plane.)

In the two weeks prior to the synch, Rosenborg says Dioz had gained 92 Spotify followers, which increased more than four times to 374 in the two weeks that followed; he notes though, given her modest number, “the increase might feel big in terms of percentage change  but compared to other growth patterns, it’s not huge.”

Dioz’s streaming numbers show a similar picture. In the two weeks prior to the Insecure synch, she averaged significantly less than 1,000 total on-demand streams. Two weeks after, she was averaging almost 18,000 streams. Again, a major gain — over an 8,500% increase — but not enough to make it a breakout. As of Oct. 1, “Salsa” had 225,000 total streams.

Chartmetric artist highlights May 24-Oct. 2, 2020
Spotify monthly listeners added  -151 (-.23%)
Spotify playlist total reach 2 million
Instagram followers added 1,793 (12.1%)
YouTube channel views added 321,100 (6.4%)
Where people were listening Chicago, Los Angeles; Guadalajara, Mexico City, Puebla City, Mexico

My Life Is Going On”
Release date June 10, 2017
Synch date July 19, 2019 (season three); April 3, 2020 (season four)
Show Money Heist

This Spanish artist’s brooding, guitar-hooked track is a prime example of how a song can achieve sustained popularity when it becomes the theme song to an international hit series — in this case, Money Heist, which originated as La Casa de Papel on Spain’s Antena 3 network in May 2017. That same year, Netflix acquired and repackaged the show’s 15 episodes, made them available worldwide and had Money Heist become one of its biggest hits. Enough so that the streaming company ordered up more episodes, releasing an eight-episode part three of Money Heist in 2019 and another eight-episode part four in 2020. Theme songs are not considered diegetic, says Rosenborg, but because they play with such frequency, their use drives up the value of the synch and the impact on an artist’s profile.

The track — which Krull sings in English — originated in 2017 and got two club remixes in 2018, as well as a rock version. But streaming data shows that it was Netflix’s release of new episodes in 2019 and 2020 that gave “My Life Is Going On” a substantial boost. The track averaged nearly 76,000 total on-demand streams for the two weeks prior to the 2019 premiere. For the following two weeks, average streams jumped to just over 196,000 — close to a 160% increase. The following year, the track fared even better over a longer period of time, averaging almost 63,000 total on-demand streams for the two weeks prior to Netflix dropping a new season and 225,000 streams over the two weeks that followed — a 260% increase.

Comparing the two years of Chartmetric data, Rosenborg says, “Essentially, 2019 was better for Krull on Spotify,” where she added 237,168 monthly listeners over the six-month period following the premiere of part three of Money Heist, 13,376 more than the following year. He adds that the artist had big gains on Instagram in the wake of part four, adding 11,440 followers, over double her post-part three total.

Krull’s Shazam-search count also jumped following the 2019 and 2020 premieres. In the seven days before the release of part three, the song gained 50,700 searches. The week after, that more than tripled, to 168,600. In 2020, the before gain was 99,200. After the series aired, it generated 223,400 additional searches.

Chartmetric artist highlights
Part three July 19, 2019-Jan. 18, 2020
Part four April 3-Oct. 2, 2020

Spotify monthly listeners added
Part three 237,168 (16.5%)
Part four 223,792 (13.3%)

Spotify followers added
Part three 8,839 (37.1%)
Part four 11,440 (32.7%)

Instagram followers added
Part three 6,176 (41.6%)
Part four 12,672 (57.4%)

Where people were listening Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo

“Present Tense”
Release date July 9, 1996
Synch date May 17, 2020
Show The Last Dance

How do you make a rock song that’s almost 25 years old relevant again? Synch it with a montage of Michael Jordan’s greatest moments in the 10th and final episode of a docuseries that became the most-watched in ESPN’s history, with an average 5.6 million viewers throughout its run.

The synch jump-started streaming numbers for “Present Tense”: The track — a fan-favorite deep cut from Pearl Jam’s fourth album, 1996’s No Code — was averaging just 20,000 total on-demand streams in the two weeks prior to its placement. Two weeks afterward, that average increased 886.4% to 198,000.

Rosenborg says the Last Dance synch also led to a big boost for the track on the Spotify Popularity Index, a gauge of a track’s demand on the platform. The formula that determines the index is proprietary, but Rosenborg says “it takes into account how many times and how recently a song was streamed, playlisting and other factors,” with 100 as the top score.

In the two weeks following The Last Dance, Rosenborg says “Present Tense” shot from 47 on the index to 60. Other metrics don’t show as dramatic gains, which Rosenborg attributes to the band's substantial ongoing popularity. “They’re Pearl Jam,” he says simply. But the gains on the Spotify Popularity Index show the impact that a perfect pairing of soundtrack and subject can have.

Chartmetric artist highlights May 17-Oct. 2, 2020
Spotify followers added 364,172 (6.5%)
Spotify monthly listeners added 136,191 (1.4%)
Spotify playlist total reach 48.2 million
YouTube channel views added 96.9 million (13.4%)
Instagram followers added 54,009 (2.1%)
Where people were listening Mexico City; Rio de Janeiro; Santiago, Chile; São Paulo; Sydney

“Sue Me”
Release date Oct. 10, 2019
Synch date Aug. 23, 2020
Show The Chi

“Sue Me” got prominent placement in the last episode of season three of the Showtime series, playing during its final scenes as the camera checked in on each of the main characters, then closed on Keisha — who had been freed after weeks held captive and raped by a kidnapper — went for a run. The impact of the synch varies, depending on what you’re looking for: Rosenborg says the synch didn’t result “in much sustained growth” for Wale, according to Chartmetric data. While Shazam searches for the song doubled in the week following the synch, his monthly listeners on Spotify declined slightly. Listeners may have been using other platforms though: The synch did boost Wale’s total on-demand streams. Two weeks prior to the episode’s debut, “Sue Me” averaged 145,000 streams. They more than doubled to an average of 324,000 in the two weeks that followed.

Chartmetric artist highlights Aug. 23-Oct. 2, 2020
Spotify followers added 55,545 (2%)
Spotify monthly listeners lost -209,786 (-2.7%)
Spotify playlist total reach 53.3 million
YouTube channel views added 19,000 (2.1%)
Instagram followers added 43,499 (1.2%)
Where people were listening Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles

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