An intro to Lofi music and Lofi Girl - Hypebot (2024)

Lofi Girl and her gentle beats for relaxing and studying have spread across the internet, jumpstarting a new era for the Lofi genre with a unique aesthetic that combines pop culture nostalgia with cozy vibes.

by Nicki Camberg from the Chartmetric Blog

After over two years of continuous streaming, the mega-popular livestream “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to” hosted on the Lofi Girl (formally called ChilledCow) YouTube channel was stopped on July 10, 2022, due to aDMCA takedown. The stream and accompanying image of an anime girl studying with her cat received 668 million views during its 20,843-hour run, became ubiquitous on the internet, and powered the lofi hip-hop genre to virality.

Within a few days, a replacement stream was started and the channel’s subscribers, who currently stand at 14 million strong and hail from all over the world, flocked back to watch and participate in the active live chat. Currently rankingamong the top thousandmost-subscribed YouTube channels, Lofi Girl has racked up nearly 2 billion views from their 143 videos, with a majority of that viewership coming from their livestreams. Right now, there are five active livestreams:lofi hip hop radio 📚 – beats to relax/study to,synthwave radio 🌌 – beats to chill/game to,dark ambient radio 🌃 – music to escape/dream to,peaceful piano radio 🎹 – music to focus/study to, andlofi hip hop radio 💤 – beats to sleep/chill to. In the past few months, they’ve released theirfirst music video, partnered withLego, and signed a deal withWarner Chappell France.

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It’s become a global phenomenon, complete with amerch store, avatargenerator, countlessmemes, andcommunitywith aSubredditandDiscordserver where fans createartand discussloresurrounding lofi girl and the recently introducedsynthwave boy.

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Lofi Music and Aesthetics

However, the genre is less defined by artists and more so by its listeners and creators. It is music that is most commonly played in the background and not paid close attention to, and fans rarely have favorite artists but instead favorite playlists. There’s no shortage ofartists, often in their teens,producing lofi music in their bedroomsand posting it to SoundCloud or YouTube, remixing and distorting audio bites from various media sources and piecing them together with simple backing tracks to create chilled-out beats with intentionally lower sound quality and a raw edge. Those who are successful can find genuine profits, and it can be less laborious than more traditional music genres — a member of lofi duo Bonsai Beatstold CNBCthat the pair were able to generate nearly $60k in a year from 85 songs. What’s even more remarkable is that the artist claimed that it only took a combined three hours to create those tracks. There is a bit of a formula to the music, which has a tendency toblend together, though the community is self-aware of this: as themost upvoted poston ther/LofiHipHopsubreddit jokes, the only difference between lofi and smooth jazz is the addition of “rain sounds and anime samples.”

Instead of waiting for album drops, fans wait for playlist updates, which happen frequently. According to Chartmetric data, basically none of the 237k songs that have been added to Lofi Girl’s most popular Spotify playlist,Lofi Girl – beats to relax/study to, have lasted over a week and it seems that songs are changed on a daily basis.

Though the most well-known, Lofi Girl isn’t the only curator of these low-fidelity beats. Searches on YouTube and Spotify for this music result in pages and pages of hyperspecific streams and playlists with specific visual aesthetics defined by a lack of capital letters, imagery derived from a variety of anime, video games, and old-school cartoons, moody color gradients, and general nostalgic cozy bedroom and/or nature vibes. Spotify also maintains an officiallofi genre pageand their most popular lofi editorial playlist,lofi beats, has over 5 million followers.

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Pop Culture Elements

Lofi artists often incorporate audio samples or reimagine songs from movies, TV shows, anime, and other forms of media. As a genre born and cultivated online by an audience generally in their teens and 20s, it is highly referential and nostalgic, invoking memories within listeners of better times back in their childhood. It’s no coincidence, then, that lofi playlists often feature cover images with distorted or moody screenshots from animated content likeThe Simpsonsoranime. It’s built into the sound’s history — Japanese producer Nujabes has been called thegodfather of lofi hip-hop, largely due to his work on the soundtrack for the 2004 anime,Samurai Champloo,which becamefoundationalin the genre.

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Closed on Sundayis one of the more well-known artists in this space. Pulling inspiration from beloved properties likeStar Wars,Animal Crossing, andPokémon(among others), the 30-year-old video game designer has been able to build a global fanbase of over 770k monthly listeners on Spotify. He’s not the only one, nor is he the first.Beowülf’smelancholic synth-y tune, “Today Is a Gift,” for example, utilizes a sound bite from the animatedKung Fu Pandamovie. It was released in 2018, a year before Closing on Sunday even discovered lofi music. Disney has also gotten in on the craze, releasing two albums —Lofi Minnie: Focusin 2022 andLofi Minnie: Chillin 2023 — that turn some of their most well-known songs from their IPs into lofi hip-hop beats, with branding clearly inspired by Lofi Girl.

Use as a Study and Work Tool

There are countless livestreams, playlists, and YouTube videos entitled with some combination of the words lofi, study, focus, and work. Walk through any collegiate library, and you’re likely to see students with their heads down, typing away, while a Lofi Girl live stream is playling in the corner of their laptop screen.There is even awebsitethat enables users to create their very own personalized lofi study environment.

Lofi music has also been adopted as a tool by those who identify as neurodivergent, especially people with ADHD. Proponents claim it helps them focus, and there’s something to that —According to Dr. Concetta Tomaino, the executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, the slow beats of lofi music are at the perfect speed to be relaxing, “engaging the brain in such a way that helps regulate then how the brain is functioning.”

The genre’s visuals also tie into this mentality. On social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, it fits right alongside content promoting a specific form of aesthetic productivity, typified in posts showing off beautiful workspaces and meticulously taken notes. It’s an idea of an achievable coziness — the looping videos in the livestreams depict young adults in relatable settings like bedrooms, cafes, and idyllic nature scenes. These are all environments that listeners are personally familiar with, and associate with the exact kind of calm stability needed to be productive

Lofi Beats to Experience a Pandemic/Socially Distance to

Lofi music experienced a huge surge in popularity during theCOVID-19 pandemic. Working from the quiet of their own homes, people needed background noise, and lofi music,besides being branded for this very purpose, is widely and freely available. Isolated during lockdowns, people were looking for community, in whatever form it may take. The fairly activelive chats and comment sectionsof the 24/7 lofi livestreams became a place for people to gather and commiserate in the early days of the pandemic, when times were unprecedented more than ever. Onearticleeven went so far as to call Lofi Girl “our social distancing role model,” as just like Lofi Girl herself, we were all trapped by ourselves in our rooms.

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Future of the Genre

What happens when the curator becomes the creator? Lofi Girl now has their own record label, Lofi Records, that sellsvinyl(fitting into that whole cozy bedroom aesthetic), releases compilation albums, and signsartists. Lofi Records alsocreates and releases musicthat is free for creators to use in their online content, most commonly things like Twitch streams, that enable users to avoid copyright claims. It’s an interesting idea, and one that is worth keeping an eye on. Will this be a sustainable model, and what connotations does it have for the future of the industry?

There’s also been a recent wave ofAI generated lofi adjacenttracks taking over Spotify, which is worrisome for lofi artists themselves. Beyond that, the past few years have seen the growth of hyperspecific lofi genres beyond lofi hip-hop, including alternative, house, rap, sad, indie, folk, and more. As the sounds become more niche, it will be interesting to see how new aesthetics, artists, and trends will develop in the lofi space. Who knows what the next few years will bring for lofi music, but for now, we’ll always have Lofi Girl and her beats to relax/study to.

Alana Bonilla on 04/17/2024 in Music Business | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tags: lofi, music, music business, music industry, musician, musicians

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An intro to Lofi music and Lofi Girl - Hypebot (2024)
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