She was bragging about her daughter being on the radio while leaving the restaurant, a proud mother who would tell anyone within earshot of the success of her offspring. As she walked away though, a young woman whispered, “But is she Vine famous?” It wasn’t said jealously, her tone seemed more unimpressed by the achievement of radio. The surrounding women, all in their early twenties dropped names like Little Terio and Lil Meatball, who never had been on the radio but were superstars on Vine. It was how they dismissed the radio that surprised me, as if it was a social media account anyone could sign up for. Careers have been made and established on the airwaves, but the internet age is overthrowing the old regime, rewriting the rules. The radio was once the platform that every recording artist sought, then it was blogs, now it seems, that Vine, Instagram and Snapchat is where you go to find the next big star. Songs can be born and thrive in the culture without ever sniffing a major label, MTV or the radio. You may think OG Maco's a one hit wonder, but over on Vine and YouTube he's continuing to make viral hit after viral hit.
What do OG Maco, Fetty Wap and Bobby Shmurda have in common? Each rapper was able to first achieve acclaim through social media. Their hit singles circulated through short clips, parodies and memes before ever touching the mainstream media's spotlight. The music became an ongoing trendy topic with endless hashtags contributed. They were swept up in giant social media group project, and their music blew up in the process. There was no need for blog coverage, they reached the people while the writers shuffled through email submissions.
A few months ago no one even knew of Fetty’s existence, now his song has reached number four on Billboard. No site can claim they broke him, it was the people, primarily young people, who took "Trap Queen" and made it into a sensation. Calling the radio stations and requesting a song every hour feels like something their grandparents did. Fetty, like the rest of the artists named, is a product of kids in their late teens and early twenties being creative and comical, cross promoting themselves and the music at the same time. Soon enough artist will be making songs with Vineability in mind, submitting their wares to Vine celebrities instead of bloggers for marketing.
It’s a feasible future, but one that I never foresaw. My time isn’t spent on Vine, I refused to Snapchat, and this resistance is also the reason I don't know many of the artists that are household names to my younger brother and his friends. That's what's really affecting a generation that lives on their cellphones. They live on apps, not blogs. They go there to discover music, checking out the songs in their favorite videos. A friend sent me an Instagram video today, one that had Young Thug's "Stoner" playing in the background
If you Google, T-Wayne’s "Nasty Freestyle," you’ll find a YouTube video with over 5 million views. And it's not just that song, if you scroll through the related dance videos you’ll see hundreds of thousands of views in addition. Search through Vine and Instagram and you’ll see an even more endless supply of dances and imitations. Add them all up and the song's probably been heard 10 million times, maybe easily 20 million times, and even that could be a low estimate.
No one blog has posted his video though, not a single thought piece written on the growing buzz. He’s not spitting lyrical miracles, but that won’t stop him from touring the country, making more money per show than artists with albums on Billboard. This one viral hit could fill his piggybank unbeknownst to us. How many more rappers will emerge in this fashion? Cultivating a buzz, creating an audience, without seeking a hand from the blogosphere. It’s already happening on SoundCloud with producers, touring the world from instrumentals and remixes. Soulection’s roster is full of producers who only need to upload a song and their following has it instantly. Not every artist will be able to sneak in through this method, but it seems to be an increasingly popular one. Fads are temporary, but there’s always one after the next.
Imagine a future where blogs are obsolete and micro-entertainment becomes the new infrastructure for breaking new artists. Instead of blogs being the gatekeepers, reposts and revines determine who breaks into the industry. Personality is becoming crucial, Kevin Gates' Instagram videos make more headlines than his mixtapes. Plies relevancy is determined by Sweet Pwussy Satday, not his mixtape downloads. Social media has broken the barrier of separation, the applications are becoming the middle man between the creators and their congregation. A position that the blogs have held for over a decade could lose that leverage in the next few years; we may already have lost it. It’s a scary thought, I grew up on the blogs. They directed me to the newest music, the best up-and-coming artists, I'd rather not see them become a clickbait graveyard. Potholes recently announced its hiatus from the blogosphere, Kevin Nottingham has been on hiatus, the more artists break through in new ways the more I imagine more blogs fading into obscurity. It seems unlikely that social media apps will replace blogs as the music industry's digital movers and shakers, but at one time radio and the record labels laughed off the idea of blogs being important. At one time, broadcast television didn't see Netflix as a threat. Now, the streaming service is worth more than CBS.
Vine is the kind of platform you get lost in. The clips are so short, you can be stuck on the app for an endless amount of time. Similar to how Tumblr's infinite scroll is detrimental to productivity. Same with Snapchat, Instagram and any app that is visually entertaining and easily digestible. Facebook is slowly dying, the kids are fleeing from the app that was made for them. Before, only college kids with an invite could join the fun. Now your mother, grandmother and great-great grandmother are commenting on your status and sending obnoxious pokes. No teenager or young adult wants to be supervised online. Once Facebook became integrated in cellphones, it was time to abandon the post-Myspace promise land. Now all these new platforms are becoming the stomping ground for anyone looking for a fun outlet. Somewhere to connect with people their age and the celebrities they admire.
Nathan just sent me a video of kids doing a dance called “The Whip” to a Migos song. Various clips that I assume were shot and edited on an iPhone has accumulated over a million views on YouTube. We’re used to celebrities and major media corporations introducing popular trends, but dances like The Whip, Yeet and the fairly new Dabbin are created by the unfamiliar, ordinary teens, and somehow reaches the people sitting on thrones. Beyonce did the Shmoney Dance before Epic Records signed Bobby, Donte Moncrief unleashed The Whip after scoring a touchdown, a thirteen-year-old boy captured cyberspace attention with only 8 seconds worth of video, even Earl Sweatshirt is Dabbin onstage now. They are curating what’s trending, what’s popular, creators of moments that will be mimicked and reprised until the source is forgotten. Once the world has it, the originator gets lost in the wave...until they create another viral hit. It’s the progeny of the Crank Dat Era, when YouTube was flooded with videos of dances. That's what made Soulja Boy a star, not the traditional gatekeepers who never understood his popularity. Atlanta was infected with dance fever, in the classrooms, hallways, skating rinks, clubs, weeks of practice went into perfecting routines. My best friends would spend hours in their basements getting ready for Saturday, if Instagram and Vine existed back then, maybe they would be famous now.
It’s easy to become popular, harder to stay relevant. There will always be someone with a better dance, a hotter beat, more money, unless you have something special to offer you’ll only be remembered during Throwback Thursdays. OG Maco is proving to be bigger than “U Guessed It.” He has an incredible work ethic and the music is only getting better. He’s an example of how the internet can produce a celebrity and the artist might be able to sustain, but it's still too early to tell. It’s also getting to the point where the dancers and comedians are becoming bigger than the rappers they satire. Soon enough, they will be seen dancing in their own songs. Hosting their own Comedy Central series, crafting careers from videos that take less than a minute to view. It only takes a cell phone with a camera and a bit of ingenuity. Andy Warhol predicted that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes in the future. We are that future. In fact, fifteen minutes now seems antiquated. Try six seconds.
The question is, will you do it for the Vine? I won't. My soul is too old to keep up with the youthful times. I'll be here typing until they stop making computers without keyboards, communing with the spirit of those clacking away on typewriters. That not so distant future may come far sooner than I'm ready for.
PS: I just got a text that read, "So i was on vine for 3 hrs the other night. 3 HOURS." I rest my case.
[By Yoh, aka Yoh Warhol, aka Yoh Grandpa, aka @Yoh31]