By Nestor E. Arellano
Who says you can’t buy fame in the social net? Well I did, last year. And I guess I’m having crow for dinner.
Tens of thousands of teenagers on March break will probably be cranking up Rebecca Black’s iTunes hit single Friday anytime to herald the weekend – not withstanding, or perhaps because, of the fact that it has been called the “the worst song ever.”
When Rebecca’s feel good ode to the final day of the work week aired on YouTube in Feb. 10 it garnered a few thousand views. By this Thursday, “Friday” had hit more than 12. 7 million views on YouTube, had been the among the top trending topics on Twitter for more than three days and at 99 cents a pop was among iTune’s number 69 top selling songs.
Sample these lyrics:
Yesterday was Thursday/Today it is Friday
We so excited – we so excited
We gonna have a ball today/Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards
I don’t want this weekend to end.
The 13-year-old Rebecca’s song, which appears to have broken all odds to become a breakout Internet success, is called by the Rolling Stone magazine an “unintentional parody of modern pop” which according to Billboard is “straight out of Auto Tuned hell”.
Accumulating online friends, commenting on relevant topics online, making your brand visible on appropriate Web venues, developing content that’s valuable to your target market, building online credibility and for all these to bubble up – that’s what most of the social networking marketing gurus and SEO experts tell us are the hallmarks of becoming “Internet famous.”
Rebecca’s success, however, seems to be standing this notion on its head. People often associate overnight Internet successes to low-budget indie performances and garage bands. However, Rebecca’s success, and yes her song and music video, were actually manufactured by Los Angeles-based record label ARK Music Factory.
The company’s site says: “ARK community is for everyone! – Kids, teens and adults…ARK online radio features some of the hottest emerging talent from the United States and around the globe.”
“Our team at ARK have certainly recognized that raw talent alone is sufficient to get noticed. However to further advance as a professional within the music industry, it is absolutely essential for an artist to have hit singles and a well executed image – all within that marketable package.”
According to reports, ARK’s business essentially involves getting privileged young girls to their recording studios, hiring professionals to write songs for them and then “auto tuning” and recording the youth’s voice and creating a music video.
On the face of it, this appears to be nothing different from what a lot of online and social marketing outfits do for their client: polish their image, fine tune their message, run demographic studies, create a campaign, send it out to Internet and hope it goes viral – in a positive way.
In the case of Rebecca, her video did go viral for all the wrong reasons.
To be fair Rebecca probably thought she was just getting an extremely polished video she and her friends could share or some material that could help her give a dream career a helpful nudge. She probably hoped, but never expected to get 12.7 million hits on YouTube. She also probably never expected the snide comments and unflattering reviews her video is getting now.
Interactive media marketing expert Kevin Nalty warned against social media landmines in my story Don’t chase the viral dream.
He said a YouTube campaign “is never a sure thing that viewers will come.” He might have added: “Or they could come for all the wrong reasons”.
I asked my teenage daughter what she thought about the whole thing and she said she hated the song and belted out a mangled Hall and Oates favourite: “She’s a rich a girl, and she’s gone too far but it doesn’t matter anyway because — it’s Friday, Friday, Friday”.