How the Netflix Effect Made a Kate Bush Song a Hit
Why did a 37-year-old song top the charts for the first time ever during Memorial Day weekend? Credit the Netflix Effect.
“Running up That Hill (A Deal with God),” from Kate Bush’s beloved 1985 album Hounds of Love, has helped the artist achieve a loyal fan following and critical acclaim over the years. But “Running up that Hill” has never achieved a Number One ranking in popularity — until Netflix featured the song prominently in the plot of Stranger Things, Season 4, which dropped on May 27.
“Running up That Hill” appears in a crucial plot point during Episode 4. The song has resonated with viewers. By May 29, “Running up That Hill” hit the Number One spot on iTunes. It also appeared on streaming charts for the first time — skyrocketing to Number 4 (as of this writing) on Spotify’s Top 200 — right up there with Harry Styles and Bad Bunny. #RunningUpThatHill also has 47.3 million views on TikTok (and counting), and #KateBush was trending on Twitter over the weekend.
The Netflix effect is powerful because Netflix is one of the most culturally relevant brands in the world. Netflix shapes attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. For instance, in 2020 Netflix released The Queen’s Gambit miniseries, which tells the story of a woman’s journey to becoming a chess master. The show was so popular that it caused a surge in chess set sales and online classes. In 2019, Netflix’s Tidying up with Marie Kondo connected with American attitudes about materialism (and its consequences) so profoundly that the show actually created a spike in donations to thrift stores.
Stranger Things, set in the 1980s, has become a pop culture sensation by tapping into 1980s nostalgia — and has arguably engineering that nostalgia. A lot of that has to do with the use of music. Thanks to the work of Stranger Things music supervisor Nora Felder, the series has been credited for creating a resurgence in popularity for 1980s hits such as Toto’s “Africa” and the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Because many 1980s iconic brands appear in the series, Stranger Things has also helped the likes of Burger King and Schwinn enjoy a boost in cultural currency. (And Netflix is monetizing that relevance through merchandising tie-ins with brands.)
Netflix is far from the first brand to wield cultural influence. The entire entertainment industry on its best days creates culture. Consider the Beatles and Star Wars. Both have influenced culture enormously, including how we speak and dress. The Beatles are still one of the best-selling acts in the world long after they stopped recording, and Star Wars, in the Disney+ era, might be more influential than ever.
Cultural relevance is more valuable than the most effective PR and advertising a brand can buy. That’s because cultural relevance is authentic. Authentic connections are more long lasting and real. They are less prone to the changing consumer tastes. As the New Hollywood streaming industry evolves, the brands that shape culture will win.