Atlanta rapper K Camp began releasing mixtapes in 2011, before signing to Interscope in 2014, building up a loyal following. However, the release of his track ‘Lottery’ in early 2019 changed everything.
The track initially had a slow build through platforms including Instagram, YouTube and Triller, but then a few months later users of TikTok pounced on the track. It’s since been used in nearly 30m TikTok videos that have collectively generated more than 3bn views.
How did that happen, and what happened next as K Camp and his team capitalised on the viral ‘Lottery’ (or ‘Renegade’ as many of those TikTokers knew the track) craze?
Music Ally was part of that team, so here’s our explanation – with the help of MDDN senior manager and head of A&R Naveed Hassan and K Camp’s business manager and DJ collaborator Genius – of how the viral growth was tracked; how the team worked closely with TikTok to amplify it; and why tweaking the track’s official title became a necessity.
Genius first got in touch with Music Ally in March 2018, after taking part in our training. K Camp was about to release a new single, ‘Racks Like This’, and Genius wanted Music Ally’s digital marketing department to help out.
“Working together, we ensured that every release and the overall K Camp web presence was completely optimised. They had loads of great music coming, and we wanted to use each one as a step to building K Camp’s audience,” says Patrick Ross, Music Ally’s SVP of digital strategy.
“K Camp had a lot of great songs in the bag, and we knew each one was a building block to getting him back on top. We just had to keep moving forward, dropping albums, mixtapes, and singles, until we got to the right track. This happened to be ‘Lottery’.”
The song itself had been recorded on tour, during an off-day in New York in February 2019. K Camp and his team liked it so much, they set a date for its release near the end of the tour that April.
“K Camp is an artist who releases frequently and has a pretty rabid fanbase. He likes to feed the core fanbase and doesn’t want to make them wait too long,” says Hassan. However, the death of rapper Nipsey Hussle at the end of March, the day before the scheduled release, led to a decision to hold back on promoting the track.
“K Camp and Nipsey were friends so this didn’t feel like the kind of song that was fitting for that moment,” says Hassan. ‘Lottery’ was released, but sat on the streaming services for a while – listened to by K Camp’s core fans, but not making bigger waves just yet. About two weeks later, however, the song started to be embraced by the dance-videos community.
“There are kids who do freestyle dance videos and they were uploading them to YouTube, Instagram and other places. We started to see that happen a bit more frequently than normal. Most of his records get embraced by these types of kids, but this was a little bit more intense,” says Hassan.
Music Ally’s digital marketing coordinator Isabelle Ljungvist takes up the story. She spotted that #LotteryChallenge was trending on Instagram, with dance videos featuring the track.
“It was a case of spotting what was going on and then leaning in to do what we could to enable the virality to spread,” she says. That included creating a playlist of YouTube videos using the song, as well as tracking the activity on Instagram. Music Ally encouraged K Camp to comment on and re-post the best videos, which gave the challenge a boost – as people knew he was paying attention.
At this point, K Camp’s team decided to shoot a music video for the song and, as Hassan explains, “pay homage to the dance community” by enlisting dozens of talented young dancers to feature. Meanwhile, producer Genius was also swinging into action with his Rare Sound / Mixtape Monopoly viral marketing network.
“Initially, ‘Lottery’ was moving in the ATL club scene and ATL Dance scene because we serviced the record to local club DJs in Atlanta from the start. Empire also dedicated marketing spend to independent playlisting/viral marketing with Mixtape Monopoly in two separate series around the record early on between April and September 2019,” he says.
Mixtape Monopoly was also looking for great fan-created videos using ‘Lottery’ and signal-boosting them, building on a similar campaign it had run for Megan Thee Stallion earlier in 2019. Some of those fans were famous, too: one of the ‘Lottery’ videos Mixtape Monopoly spread was by Chance The Rapper. The company also started to explore opportunities in social music apps.
“We engaged Triller for marketing early and got the #LotteryChallenge as a featured challenge on the app which helped the momentum. Around 5,000 Videos were created on the app. We took some of the top videos and repurposed them across social media,” says Genius. ‘Lottery’ was also taken to radio between September and November 2019, with the track peaking at number 44 in the US urban radio chart.
The real lift-off came in September 2019 though, when a 14 year-old girl in Atlanta called Jalaiah Harmon uploaded a clip of herself dancing to ‘Lottery’ to Instagram, which spawned a mini viral trend there, before spilling over to TikTok.
“From what we understand, a few folks on TikTok started to do it. Charli D’Amelio [TikTok star with close to 30m followers] did it. This was coinciding with the rise of TikTok and it just boiled over,” says Hassan. One quirk: the TikTokers were using the beginning of the track to soundtrack their dances, rather than the 30-second clip of the hook that K Camp’s team had been pushing earlier on.
“Reazy Renegade is the producer so this tag of ‘Renegade’ led into it becoming known as the Renegade Dance or Lottery Challenge. It went viral on TikTok and, before we knew it, Lizzo was doing a video to the song. The streams on DSPs were still going up,” he says.
“Even months after release, every week we would see a new peak in the song, which is pretty incredible. It continues to grow. It’s been an interesting ride.”
That ride has required some tweaks along the way. Early in 2020, for example, the decision was made to change the track’s official title (through the metadata supplied to DSPs) to ‘Lottery (Renegade)’ because, as Hassan explains: “That’s what kids were Google searching for”.
“It was very clear that ‘Renegade’ was what people were identifying it as. I think that was a very smart move to put it in the metadata and releasing it with that word in the title, then updating the metadata on YouTube so that the videos would surface. We were encouraging people to use the hashtag and K Camp was commenting back to people, liking posts and reposting,” adds Ross.
TikTok didn’t just play a passive role in the success of the track on its platform. As ‘Renegade’ took off, Hassan found Isabel Quinteros, who handled TikTok’s music partnerships and artist relations, on Instagram and sent her a DM. It turned out that TikTok had been trying to reach out to K Camp’s team as well.
“We noticed it started to take off when the frequency of posts using the song spiked from zero on 8 October to 25m views by 15 October, and doubling that by 20 November,” says Quinteros.
“Once we caught the wave, we leaned into it by playlisting the track and running a banner in our Sounds page. We also engaged with the artist and encouraged him to share some of the amazing posts to his socials, tagging the creators so they could get credit and also be excited to share.”
“It’s close to 30m creates now and over 3bn views of the videos, including that 15-second clip. It’s pretty wild,” adds Hassan. “I was at a restaurant not long ago and I heard a kid walking by me singing the song. That’s the first time that has ever happened to me.”
“Our company is headed by Benji and Joel Madden [of Good Charlotte]. Joel came into the office one day and said, ‘My daughter had a sleepover last night and there’s a bunch of girls at our house. They’re in their room and they’re all laughing and dancing. I walk into the room and they’re dancing to this song.”’It’s been stories like that over and over with this song.”
Patience, and not being over-pushy, has been a key part of the campaign thus far. K Camp’s team has also been learning some valuable lessons about how TikTok works, including the importance of “mega-influencers” like D’Amelio; the fact that 15-second track clips perform better than 60-second ones; and the importance even within those short videos of structure.
“They also recommended that videos or uploads that have a beginning, a middle and an end tend to work better – meaning that there is a setup in the video and then some kind of payoff. Also videos that include the person, or somebody’s face, within the first three seconds of the video [have an impact],” says Hassan.
“For us, it worked out really well with the dance because you see somebody’s face immediately. The way that the dance is set up, there is a very distinct beginning, middle and end. The way the 15-second clip ends is a payoff with how the dance unfolds. It was a natural thing that happened to really react with the algorithm that TikTok created.”
Quinteros reiterates that TikTok’s advice to artists experiencing a spike on the app is always to “lean in, create a video using the track, and join the trend”.
“The most common mistake we’ve seen labels and artists make is ignoring what’s happening in-app. We have an incredible community that rallies around an artist and really helps propel a single. It’s important to be timely and engage with the community,” she says. “Once you have a song go viral, the chances of having another sound hit increases. For example, Doja Cat has had five viral songs. Luh Kel has had six viral songs.”
One key challenge now is converting as many of the people who made or watched Lottery Challenge videos into fans of K Camp on other platforms, like streaming services.
“That’s the challenge right now – converting all of these ears that have discovered the song and are doing the dance but are maybe not an urban-listening audience or are not our core fanbase,” says Hassan.
“Yes, TikTok is a massive part of the story for the song, but continuing to grow it outside of that platform specifically is the next step for us. And also really trying to keep it organic… We’re actually in conversations now with Snapchat about a new feature they’re rolling out. It looks like they want to use the song as the first audio piece here.”
Hassan says that the track has seen a “tremendous update” on streaming services as a direct result of its social virality. K Camp’s monthly listeners on Spotify have more than doubled – he currently has just over 7.6 million – and this new generation of fans are discovering a back catalogue stretching back (on DSPs) to 2012. ‘Lottery (Renegade’ has been streamed just under 56m times on Spotify.
“In terms of cross-platform spillover, even in the early days when he was doing Instagram and then moved into YouTube and eventually TikTok, say a dance influencer network or a bunch of dance influencers from Germany posted about it, we would look at it on Spotify and we would suddenly see K Camp streams in Germany start to go up,” says Ross.
“The bulk of his streaming comes out of the US, but it was really interesting watching the global plot as every time a new dance influencer network in whatever country put a video live, within 24 hours or 48 hours we start seeing that country coming up in terms of stream listening.”
As for K Camp’s career now, he’s still signed to Interscope, but his team have also been working with Empire as part of what Hassan describes as a “downstreaming arrangement”. However, since ‘Lottery’ took off, discussions are open with Interscope again.
“Ultimately, we’re planning on doing a remix of the record and bringing in somebody else with a different audience and continuing the story that way. That is what’s on the horizon. It’s been a really interesting moment and it has just sustained so much longer than I would have guessed,” says Hassan.
“There’s a collective knowledge in the industry that, yes, when you have a moment that’s shaping up, it’s important not to take everyone’s attention off the hit; but at the same time, you can’t just stall and continue to ride that that single song because then it just becomes what the career is; it’s a 15-second thing.”
K Camp himself continues to write and record new music, and Hassan is keen to turn the spotlight back on K Camp and Genius’ creativity in coming up with the original track, rather than the marketing activity that has accompanied its viral rise.
“As much as I would like to take credit for a genius marketing plan that we put behind it, it’s really just a talented artist and a talented producer who made a song that the world just connected with,” he says.