Republic Recording act Us the Duo has built a massive fan following through six-second video performances that have found more than 4 million fans on Vine and a major-label record deal in the past year. But more recently, the couple have found a good way of leveraging their covers beyond the social network with some shrewd awareness: by filling a hole left by Taylor Swift‘s recent breakup with Spotify.
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“We did a cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ and put it on Spotify because we saw this opportunity to where her music was getting taken down on Spotify,” the duo’s Michael Alvarado said Thursday (Nov. 6) at the Billboard and Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference Thursday, during a panel called the Importance of Covers. “So what does that mean? People are searching for her music on it but there’s no covers, so we thought, ‘Hey let’s make a cover of that song.'”
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Alvarado said in two weeks their cover got 1 million streams, and their original song that was placed under “Shake It Off” in the Spotify player got a half-million-play bump as well. “People would hear the song and say, ‘I want more,’ and our original music gets boosted as a result,” he said.
When you search “Shake It Off” in Spotify now, Us the Duo’s version is the first to come up. But, as Alvarado said, the key to their success is not making a carbon copy of the original. Instead, they prefer “taking songs that are popular at that time and then spinning them on their heads,” he said, and their version of the chart-topping hit is true to their style — minimal, acoustic and echoing, laced with gently touching harmonies.
“It’s thinking about the song in a totally different way,” Alvarado said of their covers broadly. “When we originally started, we never saw ourselves as cover artists. We wanted to create original material, put out our music, and we wanted people to just listen to it and enjoy it as is. But what we realized is covers are an avenue for getting your original music heard. And once we started doing covers, that’s when the original music started to take hold.”