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Kanye fans tally 700,000 ‘Hey Mama’ streams to protest Taylor Swift
Are we entering the stream-as-protest era?
The plan started with a far-flung idea back in August: If enough West die-hards banded together and played one song on repeat the day of Taylor Swift‘s album release, they could potentially hamper her opening numbers on Spotify‘s streaming chart. West and Swift have a nearly decade-long rivalry at this point, stemming all the way back to the 2009 VMAs when West interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech, and continuing up to the present era of snake emoji. Earlier this year, Swift quietly weaponized streaming herself by relaunching her entire discography on the same day that her other professional nemesis—Katy Perry—released her new record. So to West’s fans, a counter-stream might have seemed like an opportunity to give Swift a taste of her own music industry medicine.
The idea for the protest originated on Reddit‘s r/Kanye, where one loyal fan pointed out that certain details of Swift’s Reputation release seemed oddly tied to West’s life in that it was slated for release on the reported date of his mother’s death. (Swift’s label has categorically denied any link between the dates.)
Basically, Taylor Swift has released a Kanye diss track, taken shots at Kim’s Paris robbery, and has stolen Kanye’s font and cover art style for her new album Reputation. Most importantly she is planning on releasing it on the anniversary of Kanye’s mother, Donda West’s death — November 10. […] Please all share this around to get as wide a reach as possible and outstream Taylor, simultaneously showing respect for Donda and utmost support for Kanye himself.
It just so happens West has a song called “Hey Mama”—and thus a plan was formed.
If this scheme sounds half-baked, there was apparently a lot of math put into its organization. According to Uproxx, teenage West fan Rhys Halkidis calculated that “Hey Mama” can be played 144 times over the course of 12 hours, which “would take 31,250 fans to hit the numbers that Swift was streaming on her single back in August.”
As the Ringer reports, more than 7,000 fans eventually signed up for the Hey Mama Day Facebook event. Halkidis even distributed a 30-hour playlist that alternated between “Hey Mama” and The Life of Pablo’s “Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission” hundreds of times—the idea being that “in case Spotify caught onto the same people listening to the same song over and over, the intermission would hopefully make it harder to trace.”
Swift never ended up releasing Reputation to streaming services (it’s still only available for purchase in the iTunes music store), and while the Hey Mama Day participants didn’t hit their 4.5 million stream goal, numbers now show that they still had an impressive turnout: over 700,000 streams. For reference, it usually takes around 500,000 streams for a song to chart on Spotify.
It’s possible that either Spotify heard about the plan and kept “Hey Mama” off the charts on purpose, or that the streams didn’t fall within an exact 24-hour window (Spotify did not return request for comment), but no matter what: a 12-year-old song about West’s mom got 700,000 more streams last Friday than it normally would have. Dang.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.