‘Learn to Fly’ Cover Goes Viral, Teaches a Rock Star Lesson in Video Marketing

‘Learn to Fly’ Cover Goes Viral, Teaches a Rock Star Lesson in Video Marketing

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If you a are Foo Fighters fan, then you’ll know that frontman Dave Grohl is a pretty stand-up guy. The former Nirvana drummer has earned an enviable reputation as one of the most talented, yet most approachable rock stars in the business. His fans love him, and last week a video featuring 1,000 of them went unexpectedly viral with (to date) 18.5 million YouTube views.

If you have yet to see this gem of a video, just pull it up and watch right now. Rockin’ 1000’s “Learn to Fly” cover is not only amazing, it’s a lesson in what you should be doing with online video to gain visibility and accomplish your goals:

Why is this video so special? Well, not only is it the most watched YouTube video uploaded in the past 7 days, prompting a response from Grohl himself, it is also the result of a crowdfunding campaign two years in the making. Instigated by a man named Fabio Zaffagnini who raised just under $50000 to persuade the iconic band to play his home town of Cesena.

learn to fly video youtube 2015
Rockin1000’s ‘Learn to Fly’ Cover was most watched YouTube video uploaded between 07/29/15 and 08/04/15 (Data via Tubular)

The video pulled together an incredible 250 drummers, 250 singers, 350 guitarists and 150 bass players for one cause – to bring the band to Cesena for what will surely be the gig of a lifetime for that town. Here’s Dave himself, with a reply to the request of the Italian Fans – “We’re coming, I swear, we’ll see each other soon”.

No date has been set but then Grohl is famously recovering from a broken leg, an injury so severe that it stopped the band from headlining the main stage at Glastonbury this year. We’re pretty sure that something will be arranged soon though. (We love you too Dave, so will forgive the vertical – this once):

9 Video Marketing Lessons from ‘Learn to Fly’

The ‘Learn to Fly’ cover video stands alone by itself as an example of some insanely fantastic creativity. But, it was made with a specific intent, and was months in the making. What lessons can video marketing teams learn from this?

#1 – Make Cool Stuff

You would think this goes without saying, but above all else, make content that people like. And by people I mean you. If you enjoy what you are doing, chances are pretty good there are at least 1000 people out there who also think it’s awesome and in the case of this video there are another 16.6+ million people who also agree as of this posting.

#2 – Collaborate

You know those 1000 like-minded people who also thought what you were doing was awesome? Collaborate with them and celebrate your shared awesomeness. You could make 1000 videos and collaborate with a different person in each one, or like this video you could just collaborate with them all at the same time and make a mega hit.

#3 – Be Willing to Work for What You Love

Although this video was under 8 minutes in length, it took more than a year to organize and pull off. The video was born from a simple concept: convince the Foo Fighters to play a concert in Italy for these awesome fans. From there the creator of the project, Fabio Zaffagnini, tried to think of the most amazing way he could influence their decision and this video was the answer.

#4 Follow the Five Second Rule

The five second rule doesn’t just apply to food dropped on the floor, it also applies to video. While the audio served as the common thread throughout the video, you’ll notice that very few of the clips last for longer than 5 seconds and those that do are usually enhanced by a panning or zooming effect that keeps the view changing. This is a critical piece often overlooked in video. If your video is ever-changing viewers are encouraged to keep watching.

#5 – Music is King on YouTube

When it comes right down to it YouTube is most used as an outlet for music. According to Tubular data, the top 7 videos for the last 90 days are all music videos. If your video is music centric in any way, post it first to YouTube to maximize exposure. You might have some difficulty if you are posting original songs, but posting a cover can help you get some exposure and gain an audience for your original work, especially if you post it early with a hit song.

#6 – Tap into an Emotion

This video was a pure joy to watch and they made sure you knew it was a joy to make. So many of the clips were of people smiling and rocking out that you would be heartless to not feel something watching this video. For me, it was a happy feel good track. For my wife it touched her that so many people could come together for the same cause. In the end we both felt something that not only made us enjoy the video, but want to share it with others.

#7 – Interact with Others

Obviously the Foo Fighters should have shown gratitude for this show of love from their fans, but they didn’t have to. They featured this on the front page of the band’s site and lead singer Dave Grohl also posted a response (in Italian!) to their YouTube page. Not only did the cover garner a lot of attention for the band, but by linking to the video and responding to it, they extended the buzz even further for themselves and capitalized on the viral hit.

#8 – Get Right to It!

Have you ever heard of the Wadsworth Constant? It states that the first 30% of every YouTube video is worthless and can be skipped. It’s shockingly accurate but the point is to get right down to the cool part of your video first. Despite the fact there was a back story to this video (told after the 4 minute mark) the creator got right to the point. Every moment you aren’t getting to the point is just another opportunity for the audience to get bored and move on to the next video.

#9 – Get Personal

Consider your audience. The creator of this project didn’t set out to get millions of hits and create buzz. He created the video for 5 people, the Foo Fighters. When creating your own video, don’t think about the large audience you have to please, but of the specific fan or type of fan you are trying to engage with your content. Make something that speaks directly to that person and engage them in a 1 on 1 conversation, or in this case a 1000 to 5 conversation.


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