Songs For Screens: How Chvrches Scored a Synch Smash in Netflix’s ‘Elite’ With ‘Forever’Variety — Andrew Hampp
Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry was taking a break from making her bandâs upcoming fourth album when she began a self-isolated quarantine at her home in Los Angeles the weekend of March 13 â the same weekend that Season 3 of theÂ teen drama âEliteâÂ debuted on Netflix to an especially binge-hungry audience.
Though Mayberry was aware that the new season of the soapy, Spanish-language series features multiple, narrative-driven uses of Chvrchesâ song âForever,â a two-year-old album cut from the bandâs latest release âLove Is Deadâ (featuring production from Adele/ Sia /Beck producer Greg Kurstin), she had relatively low expectations, given that the song was never worked as a single.
âWeâve had things on film soundtracks or in certain TV shows or video games where you think, âThatâs gonna create a lot of traction,â and it doesnât necessarily,â says Mayberry, whose bandmates Martin Doherty and Iain Cook were quarantined elsewhere in L.A. and the bandâs home country of Scotland, respectively. âWe watched the show and we all thought, âWell, weâre probably all too old to get this.â And thatâs fine.â
Chvrches had been off the road since December and not promoting any new singles, so Mayberry was surprised to see a sudden uptick in mentions and comments on the bandâs social accounts as viewers across the globe started binging âEliteâ during many territoriesâ first full week of COVID-19 quarantine (the series has been one of the Netflixâs top 10 most-watched for the past 2 weeks.)
In the first week following the showâs Season 3 premiere, single-week streams for âForeverâ soared past 1 million, including a 900% month-over-month increase at Spotify and 500% at Apple Music. Shazam tags soared to nearly 250,000 â a 1,000% bump from the previous month. The song also cracked Spotify Viral charts in lots of territories where Chvrches had historically rarely-if-ever toured, including Mexico, Spain, France, Peru, Chili and Panama. In the U.S., the song garnered editorial placement on influential playlists like Spotifyâs Indie Pop (1 million followers) and Apple Musicâs As Seen On TV.
Perhaps it was the context: after âForeverâ scored the scene that led to a main characterâs murder in Season 1 of âElite,â the song was featured in several episodes throughout Season 3 as a narrative thread ultimately tied to the murdererâs reveal. Though the Season 1 sync didnât make much of a wave upon its debut in October 2018, this time fans took notice.
âWe were just sitting in our houses, doing nothing. And then we got an email from our manager where he was like, âWhat the f—?â and sent us streaming statistics,â says Mayberry. âAnd then I noticed itâs been played on a lot of radio stations in Mexico and Latin America. So yeah, it was not something we ever expected.â
And in the week ending March 29, âForeverââs listening activity continued to surge. The song was streamed more than 2 million times globally (twice from the week prior), including 171,000 single-day streams at Spotify on Friday March 27, and an additional 72,000 tags on Shazam. Major-market radio stations, including KROQ in Los Angeles, KITS in San Francisco and SiriusXMâs Alt Nation, began spinning the song. And a fan-made âart trackâ video on YouTube, posted upon the songâs original release in May 2018, now has over 1.1 million views, with a comments section full of âEliteâ superfans.
Much in the same way that Asheâs âMoral Of The Storyâ became a chart hit in over 20 territories last month following its lip-sync from a main characterÂ in Netflixâs âTo All The Boys 2,âÂ or the Gina Rodriguez scene in last yearâs âSomeone Greatâ thatÂ catapulted Lizzo and her song âTruth Hurtsâ to megastardom, the âNetflix bumpâ has quickly become the holy grail that music supervisors and record label marketing departments crave to achieve through some magic combination of character-driven storytelling and the perfect song.
âThe thing with songs in most Netflix shows is you see an initial spike and it lasts for two to three days then it naturally tapers off. But for this, weâre going into Week 4 now and itâs moving toward top 15 in worldwide consumption and continuing to expand,â says Nick Petropoulos, head of promotion at Chvrchesâ label Glassnote Records. âThis is not just fans finding the song from the show, sharing it and saving it to their libraries, but itâs also playlist editors adding the song on its own merit. Our hope and goal now through this weird time is that this could be a song that has a much longer life now.â
Dylan Lewis, Glassnoteâs head of sales, adds that the label has been tweaking the songâs SEO on services like YouTube and Spotify to make Chvrches and âForeverâ searchable with the term âElite.â The strategy also seems to have added to the recent boost in streams. âItâs as if weâre on a train and trying to change the track a little bit so the cars go in a different direction but the same destination,â Lewis says.
As the song gains traction at more formats and platforms, demand for Chvrches has suddenly reached all-time highs in markets like Mexico and Latin America â places the band has only played on the festival circuit but never as a headliner. âWeâve been trying to put together tours for those territories for a long time, but itâs just been very difficult logistically and financially to get it to work. So itâs really been amazing to me that music can just bounce over those geographical boundaries if thereâs something to help it with a push.â
Still, with production on the next Chvrches album on hold and its planned summer tour dates currently in limbo, Mayberry is quick to acknowledge the weird timing of scoring a sudden viral hit. âYesterday I put normal clothes on for the first time to do some radio one-liners and video IDs and things like that. I guess weâre just trying to find a balance between reaching out to people and not ignoring such a positive thing, but also not being a gauche ghoul thatâs trying to sell stuff when the world doesnât want you to be selling stuff.â
But ultimately, the songâs success âshows you can plan stuff and focus group stuff within an inch of its life, but if people donât want it they donât want it,â she says. âAnd I feel itâs very on-brand for Chvrches in a way, because we werenât trying to sell anything and weâve never had a big, banger song. Thereâs never a sure thing in the music industry, but yeah I kind of like that this kind of came out of nowhere because people are so passionate about the show.â
Songs for ScreensÂ is aÂ VarietyÂ column sponsored byÂ Anzie Blue, a wellness company and cafÃ© based in Nashville. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter atÂ @ahampp.