In a recent article, the tech columnists at the Globe & Mail took it upon themselves to define the term ‘viral’ to all you noobs out there. In the process, they managed the classic left-handed compliment slap endemic to Canadian pop culture.
“The runaway success of “Americanarama,” a song by Canadian indie band Hollerado with an impressively choreographed music video, is a perfect example of what people today call “viral.”
Especially because it isn’t truly viral by all definitions.”
The column then goes on to list the definitions, etc. Which is fine. It’s just a definition. What I took exception to was this part, where they corral the lead singer in order to couch some quotes from him. It gives one the impression that the singer was admitting that the video wasn’t even all that successful, and the columnist is justified in taking them down a peg. Nice one, G&M.
“Some might suggest Hollerado’s video didn’t really go viral and was simply very popular with a niche of online users: those who follow indie rock, music videos, or viral marketing in the music industry.
At about 750,000 views, the video hasn’t reached enough eyeballs to be considered in the same company as some of 2010’s biggest viral hits, like the Double Rainbow clip, the “Bed Intruder” song, or almost anything by the kings of viral music videos, OK Go.
But lead singer Menno Versteeg said viral or not, “Americanarama” had a huge impact for the band.
“In the U.S., we went from having zero radio play to having some,” Mr. Versteeg said.
“For the week it was ‘viral’ we were getting emails from all over the world and people who had never really paid attention to us started to pay attention.”
And while the video was clearly passed around more for its visual appeal than for the song itself, people were paying attention to the music.
At the same time the video was working its way around the web, Hollerado was touring with another indie band, Free Energy, and was in the opening slot. Many in the audience had never even heard of Hollerado. But there was a moment of recognition nightly that reassured the band that the video was actually winning them fans.
“We’d be playing a show and people would be bobbing their heads. And then we’d play “Americanarama” and at every show, we’d see people in the audience go, ‘Oh! It’s that band! It’s the band from the video!’ and they wouldn’t have known (who we were) until they recognized the song,” Versteeg said.“
“We worked really hard on this and it’s been a great help to us but then, all of a sudden, you’re on YouTube and seeing a bird-sitting-on-cat video has got like twice as many hits as us. So really, is it that a big a deal what we just did, if bird-sitting-on-cat has doubled us?” Mr. Versteeg said.”
This is something that drives me nuts about pop culture in Canada – someone in media always thinks it’s not good enough unless another bunch of people, preferably from somewhere else, agree. Oh, the self-loathing! It’s actually one of the reasons I started writing for this site when Mike Valiquette put out a call for volunteers. There’s some rad stuff going on up here, I just want to tell you about it. Other media outlets might want to tell you about it, but they’ll slap it around a bit just so you know that they know that it isn’t really cool.
Well, I like double rainbows well enough, but I especially like that video and what some lo-fi animation has done for this indie band. To see the video plus the making of, refer to this past post.
This article also mentions “Peanut Butter Jelly Time.” The Globe and Mail might as well have mentioned “Hatten är din!” for that current, on-the-zeitgeist feel.
The flip side to this is when media call something a “YouTube sensation,” when they know it isn’t. I remember CBC Radio One’s Ontario Today tagging “Law School Husslin'” as just such a “sensation.” The video has 18,103 views right now. It had around 8000 when the piece aired on Ontario Today in August 2010.
Given how “Law School Husslin'” was for University of Western Ontario’s law talent show, that’s a more-than-respectable number, but “sensation?” That’s a classic case of overpromotion, something as bad in Canada as the backhanded compliment. Maybe I’m off-base.