Strong radio airplay has helped push “Party Like a Rockstar” by OnDeck/Universal Republic act Shop Boyz onto the Billboard Hot 100. But in an inadvertent move, it’s also helping an obscure, similarly named song sell tens of thousands of downloads and emerge as a rival on the charts.
With Universal Republic holding back the Shop Boyz song online so the label can push a “vingle” (video and single) promotion with iTunes that starts May 22, Hard Hood Records’ Freak Nasty has stepped into the breach with its song “Do It Just Like a Rockstar” in the meantime.
With a different name, hook and melody, the song isn’t a copycat. But consumers are confusing the two tracks just the same-in part because digital services like Apple’s iTunes have been listing Freak Nasty’s song as “Party Like a Rockstar.”
Though users on the iTunes message boards were quick to declare the song an imposter, Freak Nasty still has sold almost 30,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. As of May 16, the track was among the top 20 tracks on iTunes and top three at the store among hip-hop tracks.
Thanks to strong sales it also is running neck-and-neck with the Shop Boyz version on the charts. The Shop Boyz come in at No. 54 on the Hot 100 this issue vs. No. 56 for Freak Nasty.
The track is distributed to digital services by San Francisco-based Independent Online Distribution Alliance. IODA CEO Kevin Arnold says the discrepancy between the official title and the listed title online is the responsibility of Hard Hood. However, he acknowledges that it may not necessarily be an accident.
“For lots of independent artists one way of marketing these days is passively via search engines. People will title their songs and albums to be things people will search for — whether it’s a current song or a classic song,” Arnold says. Reps for Hard Hood and Freak Nasty could not be reached for comment.
For their part, Universal execs say they aren’t concerned. Universal senior VP of urban music Elise Wright says the Shop Boyz track has sold more than 347,000 units as a ringtone, and the label is expecting big sales when their version finally hits iTunes.
This isn’t the first time that the lack of online availability of a hit single has created a window of opportunity for similarly named and alternative versions of a song. Deliberate copycat singles were a trend in the mid- to late ’90s as major labels cut back on releasing singles for radio hits like Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” the Cardigans’ “Love Fool” and Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee).” And in February of this year, a Jae Millz remix of Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot” briefly popped up online ahead of the original and sold more than 60,000 downloads.
Additional reporting by Mariel Concepcion.