How An Indie Act Gained 7 Million New Listeners

6676 Six months ago, the Swedish band Fulkulter launched TheUglyDance.com. It's a simple, yet genius idea.

The site lets visitors upload a picture of themselves to a small body and it dances wildly on command.

While you watch yourself do The Ugly Dance, a song by the same name plays in the background. That's it.

Anders Tjernblom, one of the band members, had toyed with the idea of creating a dance application for a decade, and finally did it. Once he had the site ready, he wrote the theme song to go along with it.

To date, The Ugly Dance has gotten 7 million unique visitors.

Fulkulter didn't have some great promotional plan, it just happened. The site went viral once, twice, and just kept going. It started by sending a link to a couple friends. A few days later, a few thousand people created their own dancers. Then, someone shared the link on a Swedish blog and along came 30,000 visitors.

"Two weeks after the release, and 700,000 visitors later, I thought everything was under control," Tjernblom writes. "Then the Americans came." Tjernblom didn't have a business model in mind, just a neat idea. And while the execution of the site is perfect, it's clear he didn't focus on retaining any of these viewers either.

The first dancing character is free, and if you want to make another, say to send to a friend, a message prompts you to donate either $1-5 to the cause or skip.

No "The Official The Ugly Dance" T-shirts or social agenda, just a ten minute time-burner and a reason to share it with a friend. "There appears to be no link to the band's MySpace, which they were trying to promote. Due to the fact that most people are on Facebook and Twitter now, I think it would have been a better idea to put those links in the foreground, but most importantly; there has to be a way for people to connect," analyst Bas Grasmayer writes on TechDirt. "A simple Facebook 'Like' button below the Flash application would have gone a long way."

This is the challenge of going viral. Engineering it is nearly impossible, and even when your clearly going viral, it's often not clear how to capitalize on the attention properly. The Ugly Dance certainly isn't in vain; it gained one indie act 7 million listeners, but for the most part, those didn't transfer into song or merch sales.

"A few very kind people have donated, but they are few," Tjernblom said. Tons and tons of people did, however, create their own The Ugly Dance videos:


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