Rebecca Black's 'Friday' and the spoils of our dumb internet
I've quipped this before, but in the future there will be courses in college devoted to Internet Classics. One man's "Shreds" is another man's "The End of the World," is another man's "Shrimp Running on a Treadmill with the Benny Hill Theme," and only time will tell which intentionally funny clips will remain embedded in our short little attention spans long enough to make it into the canon.
Of the unintentionally hilarious front , we've just added Rebecca Black to the 101 coursework. In less than a month -- and mostly over the past week -- her "Friday" video has logged more than 36 million YouTube view (and good for the top of Melinda Newman's Power Rankings last week).
I don't need to go in much as to why "Friday" is funny, but it's worth talking about why it's sad.
Going beyond the fact that Black's mom paid a bunch of hacks $2,000 to pop out a pop turd and matching video, her family gets to line those pockets with even more padding. Forbes and Billboard have weighed in on the statistics, and it looks like digital sales of "Friday" could fetch $25,000 a week at this rate, moving around 43,000 units on Amazon and iTunes. The millions of YouTube views could be $20,000+.
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Ark Music -- who cobbles together vanity singles for aspiring young singers for a fee -- will be collecting some cash from this firecracker due to mechanical royalties, but more importantly, they gain visibility. If teens are really going and getting themselves pregnant just to be on MTV's "Teen Mom," just imagine what is going through the mind of every parent whose little Beverly or William Jr. can carry a tune, and have a scratch to spare. College educations are expensive, you know.
There may be purchasers and viewers who sincerely enjoy the "Friday" tune, or they want to spin it ironically at the house party on Friday, and they're entitled to it. I personally have a hard time shelling out a buck for important stuff like groceries, or tipping my loyal bartender. There's plenty more people, too, who've just stolen it from the P2P spots anyway.
The latter at least carries a whiff of civil disobedience, in a system that through its various memes and idiocracy somehow reward the vapid cornballing of a 13-year-old girl. I can't be mad, I'm part of the reason why Rebecca Blacks end up on "GMA" and "The Tonight Show." I sent Insane Clown Posse's "Miracles" to a dozen of my friends when it came out and that stuff is poison. It's like wanting to saving the whales as you set an orphanage on fire.
It speaks to the fact that I just came from a week in Austin where hundreds of bands were surfing couches because they haven't found a creative way to stand out from their "competitors." They aren't bad artists, some are even great, and even great ones have carved a way to make a living; but signing and supporting mediocrity has been an MO in this industry for years, as we continue to nurture our stupid internet problem. Your favorite band is probably puttering around with gas money and recording debts while somebody like Black is weighing record contracts. Not to say a contract is a golden ticket -- #Winning -- but that the music-selling industry is as depraved as our web surfing habits.
That just makes me think of the Gregory Brothers, one of whom I interviewed a few months ago during the Great "Double Rainbow" Incident of 2010. Those guys kinda have one leg in and one leg out of the mess, having grabbed onto a trend people liked and making the records they want to off of its spoils. There are exceptions, not rules, to "viral," which is why Ark Music or the artist herself trying to replicate that success in anything more than 15 minutes is moot.
Wait, what's her name again?