Alex Clare’s “Too Close” is the kind of hit people dream of having. Exploding seemingly overnight, the song is now charting around the world thanks to being used in a commercial for Microsoft Internet Explorer. We can certainly discuss the importance of sync placements in Film & TV in many hits today, which certainly helps. What it really shows, however, is that very few songs truly hit immediately, and the big hits require persistence, dedication and time.
The song’s journey with the public likely began when the video hit YouTube in March, 2011. The response was rather tepid, especially for a video released by a major label (in this case Universal Island in the UK). This was his second single, and performed at the same level as the first one. Despite accolades such as the “Megahit of the week” on Dutch radio station 3FM, the album came out and did not perform well. Subsequently, Alex was dropped from the label and he had to get a job with a realtor friend.
One could stay the story ends there: musician works for years to get his big break, gets signed, record flops, and he’s never heard from again. Instead, some people around him obviously believed in him and they kept working to get his music placed in film & TV shows. He finally got a call and approved the usage, mostly because he had nothing to lose by doing so. That usage proved to be the Microsoft ad. In March of this year and a year after the song was originally released, the ad began playing on TV and in movie theaters. Within a month, it had sold 100,000 downloads and hit the Billboard Hot 100. 2 months after that, and it’s a #1 song in Germany, Top 5 in the UK, and beginning to climb in the US.
Futurehit readers might take note that “Too Close” is atypical of a hit today. The intro is 31 seconds long, for one. However, the blending of a light pop sound with soulful vocals and an aggressive Dubstep chorus is the exact kind of genre blending I describe that eventually attracts a wider audience. Also, the context and usage is important which is why the sync placement plays such an important role.
Just as vital, though, is recognizing that you need to give a song time and not give up. Too often I see artists release a song only to stop “working it” a few weeks later. That may be justified in some circumstances. However, persistence is what is truly required to make something hit. Don’t get fooled by the fast paced nature of the internet to think that you always have to move on. You may have to consistently “make content” for that, but to succeed, you need to never give up and continue to promote the song you believe in.