We chat to Amuse licensed Swedish singer-producer duo, UNDRESSD, to find out how their new song ‘Forever Young’ generated over 2 million streams.
Written by Leni - 27 June, 2019
It was the summer of 2018 when Swedish singer-producer duo UNDRESSD were driving their car on vacation and heard Alphaville’s classic ‘Forever Young’ come over the radio. 10 months later, their EDM remake of the 1984 anthem has amassed over 2 million streams on Spotify and catapulted them to the top of the viral charts, just 4 weeks since the track was released.
Music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have revolutionized the way in which DIY artists are able to promote and distribute their music. “There’s a lot you can do yourself these days,” says UNDRESSD producer Erik. “You don’t have to print CDs or vinyl and sell them. You don’t have to rely on press coverage to promote yourself. It’s been cool to see producers who have produced a song in their bedroom, put it out on the streaming services, and become an overnight sensation. That couldn’t happen 10 years ago because those channels were not available.”
Signed by Amuse on a licensing deal, ‘Forever Young’ was supported with a campaign that included PR, playlist pitching, digital marketing and radio plugging. “We had this evergreen track in a contemporary costume with a summer vibe that we knew was going to be liked by people as long as they could find it,” says Sebastian Geels, Key Account Manager at Amuse. “So we made sure the timing was right, releasing and marketing the song as soon as summer came to Sweden so it could get a chance in the summer playlists on the streaming platforms, where we knew it was going to perform well.”
Leading up to the release of their track ‘Forever Young’, the band developed a pre-promotion campaign, designed to build hype around the song before it was released. “The first piece of promotion we did for ‘Forever Young’ was creating an Instagram campaign. Every day in the week leading up to the release, we shared a short video clip using our artwork and the intro as audio overlay. We posted the videos with a short caption, teasing lyrics from the song,” says Elina. “For the first post, we shared a video with the caption ‘Let’s dance in style,’ and asked our followers to guess which cover was coming up next. A lot of our fans began interacting with the posts and helped us tease the release in an interactive way.”
Just a week after releasing the cover, UNDRESSD’s Erik and Elina learned that their song was beginning to go viral in Finland and quickly decided to take action. “We always try to do a campaign about the song when we are viral in a specific country,” says Erik. “We knew going viral in Finland was the first step of the song’s growth, so we immediately created a social media post about it, tagged Spotify Finland and a big local radio station, and hoped they would see it and do something about it. We will never really know if they took action after seeing our campaign, but the song kept growing and growing.”
“We are now number one on Finland’s viral chart,” adds Elina. “It may not be directly because of that, but it’s definitely a combination of action we took after seeing the trend.”
Amuse credits the song’s initial growth to support from Spotify, who added the track to pole position in a number of summer playlists. “People who found it there saved it to their own Spotify libraries, enabling them to easily access it again to go back to play it on repeat,” adds Sebastian. “We could use this momentum to tell a story to TikToK, radio and Apple Music, that if given a chance on their platforms, the track should perform very well. And it did. TikTok then supported the track in Sweden, Apple Music put it in several playlists and three radio channels, including Rix FM, NRJ and P4, also added it to rotation.”
With a successful career in the music industry before his time with UNDRESSD, Erik was also able to leverage his existing connections with YouTube channels, blogs and playlist curators to further amplify the song in the early stages of it’s release.
“I’ve been working in the music industry for a long time and it took me years to build those relationships,” says Erik. “You should know that it can take years to build relationships and it’s really important to maintain those relationships for all your future releases.
“As much as I like to tell artists to put their music out there and do everything they can to spread the word, I would also say be very careful,” he continues. “You only have one chance to get their attention. If you send your song to a label and they don’t like the track, they might not open the next email. But at the same time you need to send them the song. It’s hard to give people advice on that.”
Despite only having 349 followers on Instagram at the time of writing, UNDRESSD credit their “always on” social media strategy for helping them build their dedicated fanbase. “It’s super important to interact with your followers, because when they are commenting and interacting, other people see it and want to be a part of the trend,” says Elina. “As you grow as an artist, you have to do it. Don’t look at your follower count, pretend that you’re Ariana Grande and go for it," Erik adds.
“There are a few promotion channels on YouTube that posted ‘Forever Young’, and one of them had over 800,000 views and 300 comments. We took the time to comment back to as many as possible. It makes people feel special and they really enjoy that we respond to them. After that, many of them started following us on Instagram, so even if it’s these small things, everything is helping the song grow.”
The greatest benefit of the music industry’s grip on independence is that it allows artists to own their culture and brand and keep full artistic control over their music. This recent shift in power from major labels to independent artists has also led to many acts openly stating that they don’t want commercial support.
'Forever Young' is the first release that UNDRESSD were open to label support on and the band signed the track with Amuse on a licensing deal. The deal offered the band PR, playlist pitching, digital marketing, radio plugging and branding support.
“We are always careful with signing because I really like the idea of doing it yourself,” says Erik. “For our first two releases, we did it ourselves. But I’ve known about Amuse for a while now, and I really like the licensing deal they offer artists, I think it’s fair for everyone involved.
“They believed in our song, and us as artists, from the beginning. And that’s most important to us,” added Elina. “Many labels will want to release your song and hopefully make some money, but we felt like Amuse really believed in our song and us as artists.”
With the growth of the streaming-generation, listening habits of users can be viewed in real time. Artists can now learn how many people are listening, where they’re listening and how. This has shifted the power of deciding viral hits from the industry to the listeners and artists are taking note.
“We do try to analyse trends and look at the data,” says Erik. “We know that a good melody and lyrics that are personally relevant to your audience are both super important ingredients to a big track. Luckily for me, I really like and enjoy the top tracks. I don’t listen to them only to analyse their formula, but I really do enjoy them and I think that helps a lot. I always look on the viral charts to see what’s trending, not only in streams but sound wise.
“The viral charts aren’t based on streams, but are based on what’s trending with people. So that’s where we focus. I go there to find new trends and sounds that we can use. But of course, it’s super important to have your own vibe in the track. You can’t just copy the formula of a trending song and expect success — you should blend it with your own style.
“We also always try to keep things interesting by following the dynamics of big songs, you need dynamics to keep the listener interested. With ‘Forever Young’, we build layers in the production to keep things interesting. For example, verse one starts only with the guitar and snaps. In verse two, the kick comes in much faster. That’s a cheap but effective trick. I believe one reason to this track’s success is that it’s very easy to listen to. The production is not too commercial but not too complex.”
As music becomes more available to listeners through streaming platforms and social media, dedicated fans are craving more intimate experience with their favourite artists. While streams may only generate small payouts from the DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music, merch, live performances — be it tours, music festivals or local shows — and brand partnerships are quickly becoming three of the most lucrative, money-generating spaces for musicians in the digital-music era.
“Everything comes back to your branding,” says Elina. “Build your own brand and use social media to interact with your followers, making sure that people like to follow you as a person, not just as an artist or for your music.”
“You have the opportunity to build and promote your own brand these days and that’s crucial,” adds Erik. “The power is coming back to artists, but the artists still need a team around them. Many years ago, the power was at the labels. I believe that the power is coming back to the artists and that they can build a strong team around them. That’s what we’re trying to do with Amuse.”