What Does It Take to Make a Single Go Viral as an Independent Artist?
When electro-pop artist VÉRITÉ (aka Kelsey Byrne) put out her debut single, "Strange Enough," it made it to number one on Hype Machine, and the whole blogosphere was gushing over her sound. However, as much as it looked like a magical overnight success to the public, VÉRITÉ and her team had put in a ton of work and strategic planning leading up to the song's release.
"Strange Enough" may have blown up overnight, but it took her several years to build her craft, save up money from waitressing, and find the right project for her voice.
Your debut single, "Strange Enough," was what launched your very successful career as an independent artist. What projects were you involved in before finding your footing with VÉRITÉ?
So many. I started performing when I was eight and began playing in bands at 13. I was always involved in a band or a project before officially starting VÉRITÉ. I've fronted a middle school punk cover band, sang folk music in small clubs, played in college jazz ensemble, wrote an overly ambitious album with my cousin, and played around NYC with a seven-person band, just to name a few.
While it often feels like artists blow up overnight, people don't see the hard work and failed attempts behind viral content. What was really involved behind the scenes to make your first single so successful?
Patience and strategy, not much more. "Strange Enough" was finished months before I released it. I was being smart with timing. Being strategic with who we brought into the project to help us push the song was integral to its success.
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What was your approach to starting VÉRITÉ and writing "Strange Enough" that you think made it work so well?
When I started VÉRITÉ, I did it against some people's advice. They didn't like the demos and thought the sound I was going for didn't have potential. That made me realize I was in love with the music I was writing, and forced me to stop caring about how people would respond or what the success looked like. Once you actually start writing music and stop playing a game of hoping you're accurately predicting what people want to hear, you create a more compelling product.
When you first saw your single getting such a huge buzz on the internet, what was your reaction? Did that reception inform your approach to releasing your following singles?
I remember Elliot Jacobson (who produced "Strange Enough") and I getting lunch together and spending the whole time on our phones tracking Hype Machine and reading blogs. We were shocked at the reception. I don't think the release changed our overall strategy for the following singles. We had always wanted to build the project slowly and credibly, from the ground up, and continued to do so even after "Strange Enough" saw success.
One of the most impressive things about your success is that you've been independent the whole time – not to mention, you were waiting tables while managing your music career. What has been the most challenging aspect of being independent, and how have you learned to overcome it?
Fear of investment. VÉRITÉ was literally built on Applebee's savings. I've leveled my bank accounts twice, once for each EP. I've overcome it by realizing that, while I'm an artist, once I made the decision to spend money, I became a business. I've operated with that mentality since, viewing each step, budget, etc. as an investment into the greater project.
Do you see yourself eventually signing to a label and letting go of your title as an independent artist?
I'm not opposed to signing. I'm also not anxious to sign. There are benefits on each side. For the time being, I'm able to grow independently and able to be in control of what I create and how everything is released. Under the right circumstances, I'm open to collaboration with a larger entity, but for now I'm really content.
Since "Strange Enough," you've gone on to play festivals like SXSW, Iceland Airwaves, and CMJ. What role has being a Sonicbids member played for you as an independent artist trying to share your music with the world?
I remember making my first Sonicbids account years ago and submitting for different things when I was 16. I was grateful for the doors it opened for me, and those experiences shaped who I am as a performer.
All artists want their music to go viral, but few have a plan to actually handle it. What are three lessons you wish you would've learned before "Strange Enough" that you would pass on to another aspiring artist?
Stop caring what people are going to think. They're most likely wrong.
Enjoy all the time you have creating music while no one is listening.
Get enough sleep and drink enough coffee.