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Post Malone’s ‘Rockstar’ reached No. 1 through weird YouTube hack, what does it all mean?

There’s a complicated relationship between artists, record labels, and streaming services in this weird new world of music consumption.

Labels are trying to figure out a way to monetize streams, streaming services are trying to become profitable, and artists are now handcuffed by streaming services to have to have their music on these platforms.

The most prevalent of these streaming services is YouTube. You don’t have to pay for it, everything is on YouTube, but it’s also the least profitable for artists and labels in terms of monetizing ‘views’ or streams.

With Lyor Cohen now heading YouTube Music, perhaps there will be a change in the YouTube format and the business model. YouTube is also able to rely on revenue in ways that other streaming services can’t, they have other content besides just music.

Regardless, that relationship between label, streaming service, and artist has come into the spotlight of recent as Post Malone’s “Rockstar” has reached No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in an apparently contrived manner.

If you search for “Rockstar” on YouTube you’ll find this 3:38 long clip (the same length as the actual song) of the song’s chorus on loop. This particular chorus, “I been fucking hoes and popping pillies, man, I feel just like a rock star” is pretty insufferable, let alone for three and a half minutes.

But this snippet wasn’t posted by some random YouTube user trolling people trying to hear the full song, it was posted by Post’s label, Republic Records. The comments on the video have been disabled, there’s no clear label that it’s a snippet, and the video links out to all the various streaming platforms and Post Malone’s website.

So what’s going on here? Is this a stunt in order to improve Post Malone’s numbers on the other (more profitable) streaming services? Was this a hack that enabled to get Post Malone and 21 Savage to No. 1 on the Billboard charts?

The Fader reported yesterday that this YouTube snippet still counts towards the charts, in a way, “According to a person familiar with the situation, a view of the video counts for the charts in the same way that a view on a remix of an instrumental track would.”

And as The New Yorker’s Matthew Trammel points out, this stunt has basically doubled Post Malone’s streaming numbers,

“The video creates a mechanism through which anyone who has sought out “Rockstar” on YouTube must then jump to hear its complete version on another service—effectively doubling the single’s total play count across platforms.”

This whole thing is pretty bizarre. It’s wack to see Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” unseated by Post Malone, especially through some weird record label contrivance.

Is this the new way that record labels will try to monetize and promote artists? Perhaps this is a one-off, but it signifies the ways that the music industry is constantly searching for new methods to use streaming to their benefit.

Special shoutout to anyone who can sit through the entire 3:38 clip of the “Rockstar” chorus on repeat.