This evening something incredible happened. Rage Against the Machine made it to number 1 in the UK charts with their single “Killing in the name”. Its the first ever download only Christmas number 1 and the biggest electronic sale of a song, ever.
How did this happen? Well you’ve probably heard that this campaign started as a Facebook group that quickly spread across other social networks and eventually into the media. The group set out to knock X-Factor off the top spot for this years Christmas number 1. I cannot comment much on X-Factor as I have never watched the show, however I did support the Rage campaign for a few different reasons.
Social media has been talked about a great deal in the last few years. Its thrown around as a buzzword and often over hyped in the process. Today though, it has shown its full potential. If everyone stands together on an issue we can make a big difference. In this instance the difference is relatively small (although Rage Against the Machine are donating the profits to charity), but the model works and this campaign proves it. Social media puts people in control rather than old media. This Christmas number 1 marks a tipping point in the balance that has always fallen heavily in the favour of old media. Year upon year we have been told what to buy at Christmas and we always oblige. The radio plays a handful of songs that the record labels want us to buy. This year we told the radio stations what to play. That is a massive change.
Our biggest challenge will be to pick this whole event apart to try and understand why it worked. Was it the choice of the song? The name of the band? The timing? The recession? or a mixture of all those things. If we can understand how to get people working and spending together on such large volumes then we can use social media to make other statements, on bigger issues (Digital Economy Bill?, Climate Change?).
Rage Against The Machine sold 502,672 singles and X-Factor’s Joe sold 450,838. Those numbers are quite large for a modern day single, but you have to wonder what the 19 Million people who tuned in to watch the final of X-Factor are engaging for. It proves that X-Factor makes good TV and crap music.
I am extremely pleased that “Killing in the Name” (a 17 year old song) has made it to number 1. The song and band were a big favourite of mine at school. Its an excellent early Christmas present and I’m pleased to have been part of it.