G Is for Gangnam Style: #10YearsofYouTube

May 08, 2015

In the world of YouTube, there are hit videos and then there is Gangnam Style. Standing at a jaw-dropping 2.3 billion views, to refer to the perennial favorite as “viral” would be a gross understatement -- this video was a global pandemic unlike anything the world had seen before.

Just how big is Gangnam Style? With 11,000+ years of watchtime, the total amount of Gangnam Style served up by YouTube thus far would be enough to fill nearly 50 million standard VHS tapes (remember those?).

At its peak, the track was searched for more than 5 million times in a single day and raked in as many as 14.9 million daily views. And that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of covers, parodies, flash mobs, dance routines and tributes to the now ubiquitous clip. From Ellen to President Obama to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon and beyond, nobody has been immune to the reach of Psy and his mesmerizing dance moves. The list of achievements goes on and on and on.

But the influence of Gangnam Style cannot just be measured in the video’s total views, watch time and sheer numbers of fans. Perhaps even more remarkably, the K-pop crossover hit helped introduce a whole new infectious sound to the rest of the world. Prior to Gangnam Style, a typical K-pop track would receive the lion’s share of its views from Asia. Take Big Bang’s early 2012 clip for “Fantastic Baby,” which received more than 50% of its first month’s views from Asia, with 15% coming from South Korea directly. Just a year after Gangnam, however, global views of K-pop videos jumped to ~30 million views a day, with more than 95% of their views coming from outside their country of origin. The effect helped formerly regional South Korean favorites like 2NE1 and the aforementioned Big Bang crossover into YouTube’s mainstream, earning a combined 1.5B views and 7,600+ years of watch time since Gangnam Style was first unleashed on the world.

While Psy still currently resides in a class of his own, all signs point to the 1+ Billion Views Club not being so lonely for Psy in the months and years to come. Already joined by Justin Bieber -- “Baby” crossed the historic threshold two months after Psy -- tracks from the likes of Katy Perry, Shakira, Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor and Miley Cyrus have the big 1,000,000,000 mark well within their reach. Not to be outdone, Psy himself is looking to again join in on the fun, with his 2013 chart-topper just 175 million shy of the billion-view milestone. Your move, Biebs.

Curious who else ranks up there with Psy? Here are the top 10 most-viewed music videos on YouTube.

-- Kevin Meenan