What Makes Audio Go Viral

The truth is, we’re not going to answer that question here. But you won’t find an easy answer anywhere. What we can do is look at examples of things that went viral and try to learn from that for the future.

Before we get to the examples, let’s look to two very important individuals in the world of virality (yes, we’re assuming that to be a word): The entrepreneur and viral master Jonah Peretti and the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Why an evolutionary biologist? It was in his 1976 book about adaptation called The Selfish Gene where Dawkins coined the term, “meme”. Dawkins described memes as “self-replicating units of transmission,” just like a gene. But he also applied it to explaining human behavior. The modern definition of meme is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.

Jonah Peretti knows a thing or two about this in a more contemporary context. He’s a co-founder of The Huffington Post and is the CEO of the viral juggernaut, Buzzfeed (as well as the genius social experiments, BlackPeopleLoveUs.com and the Nike Sweatshop email).

Peretti says it’s more art than science, and it’s about being clued into the Zeitgeist, so you know what’s going to resonate with people. But essentially, it’s about what’s going to get people to share more than just click.

Here are two traits Peretti says are common to things that go viral (as told PandoMonthly earlier this year):

  • you can explain it in one sentence and get a little bit of a laugh in one sentence.
  • It hit something deeply personal that ties in with people’s sense of identity.

(He also says content is more viral if it helps people fully express their personality disorders, but we won’t linger on that one.)

And with that, here are examples of a few SoundCloud tracks that went viral.

This is What Crazy Looks Like Via Text Message
New Zealand comedy duo, Fletch and Vaughan got an astronomical amount of plays when they acted out the crazy text messages of a forlorn woman to a reluctant beau.

Here’s the post on Facebook

What’s interesting about this is how the stats breakdown compared to the version they put on YouTube and even to the views on the original Buzzfeed post where they took it from:

SoundCloud: 3.96 million plays
YouTube version: 696k views
Buzzfeed post: 1.36 million views

A French politician mimics another French politician on the radio (Radio France / France Inter)

The Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, does an impression of Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate for president back in 2007.


It was also picked by The Huffington Post (or Le Huffington Post) (and a couple of other places).

The Sound of a Dying Star (CNN Radio)

The title most likely helped this one (who wouldn’t want to listen to that?), but CNN Radio posted a report about an astronomer who simulated the sound of a star being devoured by a black hole and it took off. Even though the primary place was on the CNN SoundWaves site, it was easy for anyone to share it on Social Media, including The Huffington Post.

And speaking of BuzzFeed, here is a post they did with audio in one of their famous lists:
12 Sounds That Take You Straight Back To Your Childhood


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