When exasperated employee Marina Shifrin used an interpretive dance set to Kanye West’s ‘Gone’, she probably just meant to quit her job in a particularly cathartic manner. Instead, she has set off a chain of events that has led her particular choice from Ye’s back catalog into the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.
Shifrin posted a video where she dances along to the song in an empty office while subtitles spell out the reasons she chose to quit her job. It’s a garden variety viral video, and it has the views to boot; since its release, it has been watched more than 15 million times. A response video from Shifrin’s former employer with the same soundtrack has added four million more.
While Shifrin has made a number of public appearances as the viral video star du jour, the real winner has been West, who has seen a song he released in 2005 rocket up to 18th place on the Billboard charts. The song’s placement is the result of a change Billboard made in February, when it began incorporating YouTube views into its rankings to account for the viral success of the ‘Harlem Shake’. So, at least for now, Kanye’s top charting hit isn’t a cut off Yeezus . It’s ‘Gone’.
‘Gone’s chart position underscores how ridiculous Billboard’s new rankings are. If a DJ plays a song on the radio, it gets counted once, no matter how many people are listening. This gives an inordinate amount of power to a YouTube viewer spamming the replay button, even if his decision has nothing to do with Shifrin’s song choice. If Billboard wants to underscore YouTube’s effect on the music industry, it should really do it in a separate chart instead of peddling the notion that ‘The Fox‘, as ridiculous as it is, is the sixth-most popular song in the world right now.
On the other hand, ‘Gone’s renaissance will also show labels that unlicensed use of music in UGC videos can have a dramatic, positive effect on the recording artist. Thank you, dancing office lady.