Since its debut in 2018, HBO’s high school drama Euphoria has been a sensation, but when the show came back for its long awaited second season on Jan. 9, 2022, it reached new heights — and helped a handful of hits experience a second spike of popularity along the way. With a viewership doubling over the first three episodes, as Variety reported in February, Euphoria‘s new season quickly became an important vehicle for massive streaming bumps of older tracks.
For the show’s music — which pivots from Thelonius Monk or Judy Garland to Lil Xan and 100 Gecs’ Laura Les within a single hour-long episode, all curated by music supervisor Jen Malone and featuring an original score by producer-artist Labrinth — there was a measurable spike in listenership after each episode aired for nearly every song licensed. Secretly Group’s digital marketing director Steven Pardo says it’s “unlike any other TV show” today. “No other synchs we have get anywhere near this kind of growth. The only thing I’ve seen that causes bigger spikes in streaming are from TikTok trends.”
Why has the show been such a trendsetter with songs? Apart from its overall cultural cache, the episodes, which are released week-by-week instead of the current popular format of dropping a full season at once, may be part of it. “With a lot of Netflix and streaming shows which put up a full season at once, we don’t see that really giant spike up front because people get through episodes at different rates,” says Pardo. “Euphoria synchs seem to have the spike more typical to traditional television.”
The season’s two biggest stand-out songs — Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” and Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” — benefitted from a combination of Euphoria buzz and TikTok trends to push back into cultural ubiquity decades after their initial release dates. The 1978 track “Right Down the Line,” which was featured in the season’s first and second episodes, has over 62,000 videos made to the song on TikTok, while “Dirty Work,” featured in episode two, boasts over 10,000 videos.
“Right Down the Line” earned 532,574 U.S. on-demand streams the week before its Euphoria synchs, according to MRC data, but the song grew to 1,027,300 weekly U.S. on-demand streams after its first placement. (Note: MRC Data tracks weekly data on a Friday to Thursday schedule, and since Euphoria premiered on Sundays the week-after numbers do not represent a complete week.) After its second synch, it neared the 2 million mark. Eventually, the song plateaued at 2,651,546 streams for the week of Jan. 21-Jan. 27 and has consistently earned about 2 million every week since. Similarly, “ Dirty Work” earned 341,972 U.S. based on-demand streams the week prior to its synch and nearly tripled the week afterwards. It now holds steady around 800,000 streams per week.
American standards, like Mahalia Jackson’s “Summertime/Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” also soared after its Euphoria placement in episode four. The song had only garnered 3,818 U.S. based on-demand streams the week prior to the episode’s Jan. 30 air date but jumped by 2,316% the week it appeared on the show. (Though growth slowed the week after its airdate, the song, like most other songs researched for this story, has maintained a streaming uptick several weeks after its initial synch. “Summertime/Sometimes,” for instance, has maintained around 64,000 U.S. on-demand streams per week since its episode aired, a far cry from the 3,818 it earned prior).
The show has proven especially valuable for more emerging artists, some of whom saw experienced the greatest uplifts in consumption. Country artist Orville Peck’s song “Dead of Night” went from garnering 65,267 U.S. on-demand streams, according to MRC Data, in the week prior to its episode one placement on Euphoria to an 812% increase, reaching 595,221 streams the week of Jan. 9, when it played from a radio as characters Nate Jacobs and Cassie Howard are drunkenly speeding in a truck, en route to a New Years’ party. According to Shazam, searches were up over 10,000% for “Dead of Night” from before the episode’s airdate. The following week, the song hit 1.4 million streams in a single week. A similar result occurred for R&B singer Big Mali, whose song “4,5,6” was streamed 28,282 times in the week before its placement. The song surged 730% over the following two weeks, after its episode one placement.
Scott Cresto, Reservoir Media’s head of synch, says context is also an important part of whether a song will spike — and is one of the reasons why he believes Sinead O’Connor‘s “Drink Before the War” performed so well. (It had earned just 4,159 U.S. on-demand streams the week before it was featured on the season’s fourth episode and jumped to 786,569 U.S. on-demand streams the week after its Jan. 30, according to MRC Data). “Sinead’s song was in a very important scene for the show,” he says. In the episode, “Drink Before the War” played from a jukebox in a gay bar as picture-perfect husband and father Cal Jacobs reckons with his sexual identity while singing along. Cutaways show Cassie also singing along to the tune at a birthday party as she similarly reaches a breaking point.
This reasoning holds up in other cases of the show, in which songs appeared in less notable moments and as a result saw little to no change in consumption. “seaside_demo” by SEB, which was featured quietly in the background of episode two, acts as an apt example of this. With no real uplift in U.S. based on-demand streaming, the track held steady around its prior streaming average. Classical tunes like Debussey’s “Reverie” and Piero Piccioni’s “E’vero, Ogni Mondo E’Felice” also did not experience a significant uptick in listenership.
When it comes to judging just how sturdy these U.S. streaming boosts are, though, Moses Sumney’s “Me in 20 Years,” which was placed on the Dec. 3, 2020, Euphoria special, may be the best indicator of the lasting impact season two’s song selections could have. The week prior to its synch, Sumney’s track received 12,608 U.S. on-demand streams. It jumped by 2,103% the week of the special’s airdate to 270,044 streams. Over a year since the synch, the song’s worst performing week was still nearly quadruple its pre-Euphoria level, earning 46,079 streams in its lowest point (the week of Nov. 19-Nov. 25).
When season two premiered, sparking viewers to re-watch or catch up on old episodes, “Me in 20 Years” spiked again, jumping more than 73% from 60,752 U.S. based on-demand streams for the week before season two aired to 105,379 streams the week-of the season two premiere on Jan. 9. “It’s now consistently listed as Moses’ top song on Spotify now,” says Pardo. “That wasn’t the case before the synch.”