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Viral pop culture X account Pop Tingz made Julie Ragbeer a star. Now more young artists want to pay for a chance at fame.

When Julie Ragbeer wrote the lyrics for her album Perplex six years ago, it’s doubtful she expected hundreds of thousands of people on X, formerly known as Twitter, to describe her as a “queen.”

Ragbeer, 24, is a college student from New Jersey who has been trying to break into the music industry since she was 19. Perplex came out in 2023, and she told Yahoo News she recorded it in her bedroom. (“I’ve never been to an actual music studio.”) As someone who grew up on the internet, she knew that one of the cheapest ways to get noticed — potentially by the right person — was to go viral. She has been running a Taylor Swift stan account for years and knew she just had to tap into the right audience.

So she decided to pay an undisclosed amount of money to Pop Tingz, a popular X account that’s similar to but unaffiliated with Pop Crave or Pop Base, which operates by posting celebrity news and updates. The staff for Pop Crave and Pop Base are anonymous, and while there are websites attached to them, the accounts rarely post links or sources, which allows them the flexibility to sometimes break serious news.

However, Pop Tingz clarified to Yahoo News over X direct messages that their account is run by one person, unlike Pop Crave or Pop Base. The person running the account did not reveal their name with Yahoo News. Pop Tingz has 165,000 followers, while Pop Crave and Pop Base each have well over 1 million.

Paying for promotion

Ragbeer said she’s paid for X promotion before. In 2019, she allegedly paid an undisclosed amount to Pop Crave for a post, which was deleted as recently as Feb. 26. In mid-February, she decided she was going to try again and reached out to several X accounts to promote her music. Neither Pop Crave nor Pop Base responded to a request for comment from Yahoo News.

“When you’re an independent artist, you kind of have to [pay for promotion],” she told Yahoo News, adding she paid for everything out of pocket. “I had a very strict budget. So I chose some accounts that [didn’t] work out and, thankfully, Pop Tingz was very accommodating.”

Ragbeer did not feel comfortable divulging how much she paid for the Pop Tingz post. Despite X jokes about payment being $5, Pop Tingz told Yahoo News that they usually charge anywhere from $100 to $500 for a promotional post. The cheaper end of the spectrum is reserved for artists who have been promoted on Pop Tingz more than once.

The promotion far surpassed Ragbeer’s expectations. She told Yahoo News that she had 20 X followers when she first messaged Pop Tingz, and she now has over 9,000. People started making memes about her, and the promotional Pop Tingz tweet has over 11 million views.

“I thought maybe I would get like a few fans or a few listeners from this and then it just blew up,” Ragbeer said. “I’ve been messaged about doing collaborations, so I’m definitely thinking about that. But I also don’t want to over-release [music] at the same time.”

The person behind Pop Tingz didn’t expect it either. In fact, they said they went out on a limb to promote Ragbeer in the first place.

“I’m selective with my posts and I don’t post just anyone who pays,” they told Yahoo News. “I’m usually a fan of their work or enjoy their art. Julie happened to be an outlier.”

More up-and-coming artists request Pop Tingz promotion

Before long Pop Tingz was flooded with requests from other up-and-coming young independent artists who wanted to ride Ragbeer’s wave. Sebastian Akselberg, 19, a music producer based in Norway who worked on a couple of Ragbeer’s songs, made a new X account just to get promoted by Pop Tingz. Ragbeer described their relationship as “like Jack Antonoff and Taylor Swift.”

“We met on Twitter,” Akselberg told Yahoo News. “In 2018, I had a fan page for Ariana Grande and she had a fan page for Taylor Swift and that’s how we met. She mentioned she was doing music. And I said, ‘Oh, I’m doing music as well.’”

Akselberg said he had no idea Ragbeer was reaching out to X accounts for promotion. He said one morning he woke up and came across several posts about Ragbeer on Reddit and X.

“I texted her, I was like, ‘Why are you on Reddit right now?’ She’s like, ‘Oh, I went viral,’” he said. “I thought this was a joke.”

Akselberg wanted in and messaged Pop Tingz too. Akselberg did not tell Yahoo News how much money he paid to be promoted but did send screenshots of the PayPal receipt to verify he had paid the account.

Another young artist, Carlos Edwards, told Yahoo News that she reached out to Pop Tingz after seeing how much buzz Ragbeer got on X. She did not disclose how much she paid for her promotional tweet.

“I’m an artist, so any chance at promotion to get people to hear my art I’ll take,” she said.

Lightning did not strike multiple times, however. While Ragbeer exploded on the internet, Akselberg and Edwards saw only small bumps in followers and streams.

But despite the very modern way they were promoted to the masses, both Ragbeer and Akselberg had very old-school markers for success they hoped to achieve. Ragbeer wants to hear her music on the radio; Akselberg wants to have his own vinyl.

Akselberg also clarified that it was never “a secret” that people could direct-message big accounts like Pop Tingz and pay for promotion.

Why aren’t the X posts labeled as ads?

Pop Tingz did not disclose in the tweets that they had been paid to promote the singers. While some of the X replies and Akselberg’s statement seem to allege it’s never been a secret that people could pay for promotion on X, these are still advertisements that aren’t being disclosed.

Pop Tingz did not reply to a question from Yahoo News about labeling the tweets as ads.

However, there have been conversations about X’s ethics regarding ads since Elon Musk took over the company in 2022. In October, Mashable pointed out that many users were noticing ads that weren’t specific to a brand nor labeled as paid promotions. X did not respond to a Yahoo News request for comment.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules in place holding social media companies and influencers accountable for ensuring that all ads are labeled “clearly and conspicuously.”

“If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship (‘material connection’) with the brand,” the FTC says. “A ‘material connection’ to the brand includes a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship — such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services.”

Politicians are allowed to receive financial endorsements from other people and businesses, but they must disclose that they received those endorsements.

The question seems to be, should the same be expected of a viral X account?

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