How Microcelebrities Were Used to Turn a Song About Selfies into a Global Hit

Let’s begin by reviewing the song “#Selfie” by Chainsmokers.

Now let’s move to the New York Times Magazine to try and understand how this song was manipulated into a global hit.

The peculiar trajectory of theChainsmokers — who, in the span of about seven months, went from fledgling D.J.s on the fledgling-D.J. circuit to having a record deal, a platinum song and a few thousand panting tweens in a stadium in New Jersey screaming their names — could not have happened in the pre-Internet era, let alone five years ago. It all began in August of last year, when their manager, Adam Alpert, sent a Facebook message to Oliver Luckett, C.E.O. of the social-media publishing companytheAudience. There had been some press about howtheAudience was able to get the D.J. SteveAoki major Internet prominence; he had already been popular on the club circuit, but through data culling and strategic, aggressive posting and brand management, Luckett’s firm had managed to amass millions of followers forAoki across several platforms. Alpert wanted the same for theChainsmokers.In early December last year, Luckett sat down with Alpert and the band. They played him this song they’d made and posted online free. “That’s it,” Luckett said. “That’s your ticket.” But the D.J.s were hesitant. They wanted to be taken seriously as electronic musicians, and that song was a joke.

It was called “#Selfie,” and Luckett had immediately recognized its potential to capture the zeitgeist by lampooning it. In the song, a whiny woman complains to her friend about various problems, real and perceived: a guy she likes, booty calls, nausea, fake models, Instagram filters. At the end of each verse, she threatens to leave whatever restroom she’s in and go back to whatever party she’s at, and she says, in the most obnoxious voice imaginable, “But first, let me take a selfie.” Then the beat drops.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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