By John Winsor
The story of the song Old Town Road is a preview of the new economy.
The rapper, Lil Nas X, was throwing stuff up on Soundcloud that he’d recorded in the closet of his bedroom. He was going through YouTube listening to beats. He listens to dozens a day. He came across a beat by YoungKio, a student and producer in the Netherlands. Young Kio makes 10 samples a day on his laptop in his bedroom.
YoungKio had mixed a beat with a banjo and some chords from Nine Inch Nails and put it up on YouTube. Lil Nas X came across YoungKio’s beat Halloween night. The beat inspired him to form a whole new genre called Country Trap. The night he released Old Town Road he could see it begin to move on Twitter. Lil Nas X knew how to create memes and started interacting with the audience on Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere to gain traction.
A couple of influencers, @elitelife_KD and @nicemichael, found it and started pushing it, adding to the momentum. As the song caught fire, a girl sent Young Kio the song. He’d never heard it nor had he met Lil Naz X.
On March 16 the song hit #1 on the Billboard country chart. It riled up the country music establishment and Billboard took it down saying it was not country music as it was produced by a rapper.
Lil Naz X took matters into his own hands and Tweeted, “twitter please help me get billy ray cyrus on this.” Soon after Billy Ray got the message and remixed Old Town Road with Lil Naz X.
By mid-April, Old Town Road was #1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart, becoming the most popular song in the world.
Old Town Road is a great example of a few people, micro-entrepreneurs, following their passion, working on platforms that remove the friction from doing the work they want to do and, shifting a whole industry. Music and other creative industries are far along in their digital disruption yet others are just beginning. Every business that has been built on an analogue business model with the goal of taking advantage of scarcities in their marketplace by removing some friction for their customers are now getting overwhelmed by hordes of micro-entrepreneurs, removing even more friction, that don’t need anything more than a phone and mic to go into business.
Businesses have a choice. They must rebuild their foundation on a digital business model or risk ending up on the dustbin of history.
Micro-entrepreneurs are the backbone and the engine of this emerging economy.