They’re closing in on 35 years in the music business, but rock and roll legends Guns n’ Roses are still finding new ways to make history. They were used to setting and breaking records during the 1980’s for both sales and tickets, but it’s been a few years since they could make that claim. Now, they’re free to boast again – and it’s all thanks to the (relatively) new frontier of the internet.
When the band made their iconic music video for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in 1988, they probably weren’t considering how it might be perceived by their own grandchildren. People back then were still new to the idea of videotapes. DVDs were still a dream in the mind of a technological genius, and the idea of streaming was completely unfathomable.
Music videos were supposed to be filmed, rotated on MTV as much as possible, and then forgotten about. If a band was particularly big, they might be able to stretch its life out a little further by releasing a VHS music video collection. Guns n’ Roses, who have never been opposed to making as much money out of merchandising as possible, did that years ago. Now, the video from their most famous song is back in the news yet again – and it’s all down to YouTube success. It’s reached one billion views.
The Billion Views Club
At the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, one billion views is a staggeringly high number for any video to achieve. The world population is a little over seven and a half billion. To reach one billion views suggests that one in every seven people on the entire planet has seen your video. That’s not an exact science, because many of the band’s biggest fans have likely watched the video multiple times, but it’s still an astonishing number.
The video isn’t the first to reach the landmark. More recent artists have hit and surpassed that number, and sometimes it’s even been done by musicians who wouldn’t be considered household names. In fact, the first-ever music video to hit the one billion mark was a novelty track. It was “Gangnam Style” by Psy, which reached the total back in 2012, and inspired a viral dance craze in the process of doing so. Since then, it’s gone on to pass three billion, and continues to rise. Wiz Khalifa, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift can all also proudly call themselves members of the one billion club.
What makes the achievement of Guns n’ Roses so special is that “Sweet Child O’Mine” is the first music video from the 1980’s to reach such a level. It hasn’t had the benefit of being new, going viral, or being re-released in order to do so. It’s got there solely on the merit of being such a great and memorable song that people have gone back to listen to it over and over again. It’s an organic achievement, and that arguably makes it more impressive.
So what is it about Guns n’Roses which has kept people coming back for more for over three decades? Their back catalog of songs is unquestionably impressive, but they’ve released only one new album in the past twenty years, and even that didn’t have many members of the original lineup on it. The majority of the original band are back together now, but there were years – decades, in fact, when they were doing nothing at all. Axl Rose was largely a one-man band for much of the 1990’s and 2000’s.
The answer probably lies in the fact that they’ve always found a way to stay relevant to the here and now. When it was announced that the original band was back together, the subsequent tour sold out almost immediately. Rumors that there may now finally be a new album in the offing have made headline news in many major music publications. Even during times when they’ve had nothing to release and nothing to say, they’ve explored new mediums and found new audiences for their back catalog.
A few years ago, the video game ‘Guitar Hero’ took the world by storm. “Sweet Child O’Mine” was one of the most popular tracks on the game, and wasn’t the only Guns n’ Roses number to get a look in. People who hadn’t even been born when the songs were released were suddenly playing along to them and falling in love with them at the same time. New Guns n’ Roses fans were created in the process. They’ve been found their way into the casino with their own mobile slots game. Millions of people all over the world play mobile slots on websites like Kong Casino, and so for music fans, it makes sense to gravitate towards a mobile slots game that features one of the best-known bands of all time. It isn’t difficult to imagine that some of these mobile slots players were encountering the music for the first time. The rockers don’t have to release new music to find a new audience – the new audience is finding their old music instead.
Although hitting one billion views for their old track is likely to please the band, it’s also old news for them. They already have the only 1990’s track to reach one billion YouTube views – “November Rain,” which came out in 1992. Considering all the great bands who were around during the 1980’s and 1990’s, the fact that only Guns n’ Roses have been able to achieve this kind of mass viewership is a testimony to both their legacy and their enduring appeal. To put the figure in perspective, more than half a million people view each of the two videos every day on the platform. That’s more than some major artists get for their biggest hits in an entire year.
The media might try to tell you that rock and roll isn’t where it’s at anymore, but based on the viewing habits of the general public, we would have to disagree!
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.