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.
Update (March 3, 2022): As of January 2022, the mystery has been solved. Keep reading for context and find an update about Silent Partner’s true identity at the end of this feature.
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.
Update: Nearly a decade after the first Silent Partner songs surfaced online, the artist behind them has finally revealed themselves.
On January 27, 2022, a new Silent Partner channel popped up on YouTube. It is designated as an “Official Artist Chanel,” complete with a music note icon next to its name, which serves as YouTube’s version of a verification check mark for artist pages. Videos from the aforementioned older Silent Partner channel are now listed on both the old and new channels. The new channel also features a few dozen new videos of songs, which were uploaded between January 27 and 31.
Also of note is the channel’s “Sound Familiar?” playlist, which features popular videos that make use of Silent Partner music. The collection includes things like Google ads and one of Miranda Sings’ most-viewed uploads.
The verified channel’s “About” section is where things get especially interesting, as it offers the big reveal of who Silent Partner really is, as well as an outline of how all those songs came to be. It reads:
“In 2013, YouTube reached out to producer Bryce Goggin, asking if he was interested in creating music for their new Audio Library which aimed to give billions of video creators access to free, safe to use music.
His answer was simple – ‘Yes’.
Goggin, who’s worked with the likes of Phish, Sean Lennon, Space Hog, and Pavement, recruited a close circle of session musicians to help take on the mighty endeavor.
The team worked out of his studio in Brooklyn NY, creating a diverse collection of over 1k songs that would go on to be used in hundreds of millions of videos.”
(Thank you to Twitter user @nomad_hyena for bringing that to my attention.)
Goggin, as the YouTube bio indicates, is a music industry veteran. His earliest dated credit listed on AllMusic is as an assistant engineer on Valeria Lynch’s 1989 album Energia. Since then, he’s worked on projects by the Ramones, Swans, Dinosaur Jr., Nada Surf, The Apples In Stereo, Toots & The Maytals, and a host of other recognizable artists. He’s done some live performing, too, like when he joined Pavement on stage in 2010.
In a 2004 interview with Tape Op, Goggin explained his professional origins:
“Well, when it came time to pick a career or a college, I went to SUNY Fredonia and enrolled in their Sound Recording Technology program there [from 1983 to 1987, per Goggin’s LinkedIn] and wound up in a studio by choice. […] It was an interesting program — you spent two years as a music major, did some physics, acoustics, electronics, computer science, like a mélange of stuff, as well as five or ten hours in a recording studio. […]
I had a friend who ran an instrument cartage company. I was schlepping gear for studio musicians. So I had my head in and out of lot of recording studios in New York for about six months. One day I was schlepping Steve Holly’s [Wings drummer] drum kit around, and he mentioned that a new studio was opening up and they needed some bodies there to work. It was a place called Sound On Sound. It was an excellent facility to be starting out at just because the equipment was world class but there wasn’t a lot of work going on there. […] The facility was down most nights and weekends and the owner Dave Amlen was generous enough to let all his staff experiment with recordings. I had a bunch of friends that I had gone to college with who were living close by, so I did a lot of experimental jazz recordings with them.
In the evenings I was also able to work with a guy named Steve Kilby from the Church on a project he was working on with Donnette Thayer from Game Theory. The project was called Hex. There were also a lot of talented engineers who came in and out of that place: Alec Head, Joe Ferla, Ed Stasium, Paul Hammingson, Lenny Kaye. I got to peer over the shoulder of an awful lot of world-class engineers and producers.”
Goggin owns Trout Recording, a Brooklyn recording studio he established in 2002. He remains active today: His most recent credit on AllMusic is for mixing Bodega’s Broken Equipment, which comes out on March 11, 2022.
On January 28, Silent Partner uploaded an official video for “Space Walk,” set to the classic YouTube countdown visuals he helped make iconic. To bring this story full circle, the video’s description was cobbled together using passages from this very feature.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.