In June 2020, Blackpink debuted the video for “How You Like That,” which was then their first new song in a year, on YouTube. About 1.6 million people tuned in to watch the clip’s live premiere, which was a record for platform. Just a couple months later, that record was broken by BTS’ YouTube premiere of their “Dynamite” video, which is estimated to have had somewhere between 3 and 4 million people watching live. That is where the record stands today.
There’s one key factor those two videos have in common, both with each other and with every other video that has ever premiered on YouTube since the feature was introduced in June 2018: the countdown.
Every YouTube premiere is preceded by a colorful countdown that features vibrant, abstract animations and a clock ticking its way down to zero. Every countdown also includes the same song playing front and center, a two-minute instrumental track that stirs up anticipation with its nostalgic electronic synths, drum machine percussion, and orchestral string plucks. It comes across like a brighter cousin of Washed Out’s “Feel It All Around” (which is famous for the snippet of it that was used as the Portlandia theme song).
The song was supposed to be minutiae, an accompaniment to something of greater priority than it, but it has become emblematic of an era, like how the Nintendo Wii’s system music has become nostalgia bait for 2000s kids. It has replaced 009 Sound System’s “Dreamscape” as the unofficial YouTube national anthem.
Commenters on YouTube re-uploads of the song agree, as they’ve shared a variety of feelings about the track. One person noted, “People in 2030/2040 will be like: This is soooo nostalgic!! Only real ones remember this.” Somebody else wrote, “This is honestly such a fitting song for YouTube Premiere countdowns, it just perfectly goes with your imagination running wild about what you’re about to see.” Another user painted a picture of the end of YouTube with “Space Walk” as the soundtrack: “I feel like this is something that would play in the final minutes of youtube before the site shuts down. Just this music and a few minutes to remember everything that has happened on this site over the decades before it all goes away.”
The song is beloved and has been heard millions (perhaps billions) of times at this point. Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You,” the most popular all-time song on Spotify, has nearly 3 billion spins, and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the YouTube premiere song — across every YouTube premiere ever, music video or otherwise — has been heard more times than that.
The odd thing, though, is that the story behind the YouTube premiere song and the identity of the person (or people, or something else) who made it is mostly a mystery.
Some answers about the track can be easily found: A quick Google search for “YouTube premiere song” reveals that the tune is called “Space Walk” and it’s credited to an artist named Silent Partner. Beyond that, it’s not immediately obvious where the song comes from. One thing we can tell is that the song wasn’t specifically made to be used for YouTube countdowns: The oldest uploads of the song on YouTube date back to early 2015, which pre-dates the premiere feature by over three years.
YouTube themselves offers a free download of the song as part of the audio library in their YouTube Studio, a set of back-end tools for video creators to freely use. The song’s listing there notes it was added to the platform in November 2014 and describes its genre as “ambient” and its mood as “bright.” Downloading the MP3 file of the song from YouTube and viewing its ID3 tags — metadata used by programs like iTunes (rest in peace) to indicate the file’s title, artist, and so on — doesn’t reveal much more info, aside from the fact that the album is listed as “YouTube Audio Library.”
As far as publicly available information about “Space Walk,” this seems to be the end of the road. However, we can learn a bit more more about Silent Partner, but not much more.
Silent Partner seems to be a Kevin MacLeod-type of artist. For those not familiar, MacLeod has made thousands of songs available under Creative Commons licenses so creators can use them for various purposes, and indeed they have. His work has become popular because of that fact and because he works in a variety of genres. In his vast library, there is bound to be at least one song that is suitable for any sort of project. If you’ve spent time on the internet, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ve heard his work.
Similarly, Silent Partner has “about 1,383” songs available in the YouTube audio library (which seems like too specific a figure to preface with “about”) and they’re listed under genres spanning from electronic to hip-hop to classical. All of the songs were added to the platform between September 2013 and November 2014.
Outside of the YouTube audio library, Silent Partner has a mostly silent web presence. There’s a SoundCloud account that has a bit over 2,100 followers and a YouTube channel with around 500 subscribers, both of which have uploads of some songs from the YouTube audio library. It seems that is the entirety of Silent Partner’s online footprint.
The most recent upload on the YouTube channel, a song called “Get Back,” was posted on July 3, 2016. The latest post on SoundCloud is from May 15, 2018, although the two most recent uploads before that are from 2017 and 2015.
The closest thing we have to any biographical info about Silent Partner comes from the About section of their YouTube page, which reads simply and appropriately, “…silently here…” It’s not clear if Silent Partner is an individual person, a band, a collective of artists releasing music under one overarching label, or something else entirely.
The only other “statements” we seem to have from Silent Partner are their handful of SoundCloud comments, which are mostly brief responses to positive feedback about their music and telling inquiring creators they are allowed use Silent Partner songs in their projects.
What we can gather from SoundCloud, though, is that it seems Silent Partner has an interest in Buddhism and/or meditation: The four accounts they follow on SoundCloud are Khyentse Foundation (which provides “support for institutions and individuals engaged in all traditions of Buddhist practice and study“), Samye Institute (a “place where students from all corners of the globe explore how to work with their minds in order to realize the liberating wisdom and compassion of the Buddha”), Tergar Meditation Community (which “supports individuals, practice groups, and meditation communities around the world in learning to live with awareness, compassion, and wisdom”), and Study Buddhism (which uploads podcasts about Buddhism). Most of Silent Partner’s liked tracks on SoundCloud are also about similar topics.
All of these biographical discoveries come with the assumption that these accounts are actually affiliated with whoever is behind Silent Partner. All of the uploads on both SoundCloud and YouTube were posted after the songs were made available on the YouTube audio library, so it’s completely possible that somebody who has nothing to do with Silent Partner downloaded a bunch of their MP3s and re-shared them to pose as Silent Partner. It’s not like a potential imposter would have had an established Silent Partner web presence with which to compete.
Beyond YouTube and SoundCloud, the only other online resource that seems to have info about Silent Partner is IMDb. On the site, Silent Partner has a few dozen credits spread across TV shows, movies, and other projects from between 2007 and 2021. Meanwhile, fans of various other creative endeavors have taken to the comments of Silent Partner uploads to share where they came across their music, like one person who heard a Silent Partner song in a video from mega-popular YouTube personality Miranda Sings (aka Colleen Ballinger), or others who discovered Silent Partner through Thunderf00t, who has nearly a million YouTube subscribers.
Despite a greatly appreciated effort, a YouTube representative was unable to provide Uproxx with more information about Silent Partner or how “Space Walk” was chosen as the YouTube premiere song. SoundCloud direct messages sent to Silent Partner by Uproxx have also gone unanswered. Last year, an attempt by a BuzzFeed journalist to get in touch with Silent Partner via the comments section of a SoundCloud upload was also not fruitful. It’s not just us who wants to know more about Silent Partner but can’t get a hold of them.
Somebody out there made this music, but for some reason, they’ve opted to not come forward and claim their deserved praise. Maybe anonymously enjoying the success of “Space Walk” is enough for them. Maybe they’re somehow unaware of the impact their compositions have had. Maybe Silent Partner is no longer with us.
So, who or what is Silent Partner? That question has two answers. One is that Silent Partner is the artist behind “Space Walk,” one of the most-heard pieces of music of the past few years. The other is that we don’t know who they are and perhaps never will, making the answer to this question one of the premier unsolved musical mysteries of our time.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.