Cory Wolff

PUTTING IN WORK: Musicians, please stop using the word ‘viral’

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“Yo, man, I’m trying to get this to go viral.”

Ugh. I receive e-mails like this all the time.

Listen, I know it’s tough to be a musician. My path in the music business was, and still is, very similar to what an aspiring artist would encounter. I know you want your music to be heard. I know that you want to make a living from it.

But we need to stop saying the word “viral.”

It’s very rare that something actually goes viral, and even when it does, how often is it actually music? Usually, it’s something stupid, or funny, or a fail. Not that I don’t enjoy a good fail here and there, but viral media is almost never music.

When someone tells me that they’re trying to get something to go viral, I think of the lottery. It’s like you lost your job and instead of looking for a new one, you say, “I’m just going to wait to win the lottery.” Not. Gonna. Happen.

So if you’re really dedicated to making a living from your music, you won’t bank on virality. It’s called the music business for a reason. You need to treat it as one. Successful businesses are filled with “sweat equity,” meaning that a lot of work was put in. They don’t just put out a product and hope for the best. They plan and execute. Remember that – plan and execute.


1. Target audience: Who is our target fan? How will we reach them?

2. Social media strategy: Which platforms will we focus on? How will we grow our following?

3. Partnerships: Who can we work with that will help us create awareness with our target audience?

4. Marketing/PR: Are we going to advertise? If so, where? Do we know any bloggers or journalists? Do we have any marketing ideas, like photo contests or remix competitions?

5. Live: Are we going to tour? If so, where?

6. Money: Do we have any? Where will the upfront money come from? Did we create a budget, and where will we actually make money?


1. Shut up and do it.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t wait for it to happen – make it happen.

Written while listening to “False Hopes” by Doomtree

Putting in Work: The Beauty of Music & Business is a bi-weekly column filled with thoughts, inspirations, and experiences from a music marketer born and raised in Scranton. Let’s step our game up together.