Is Greyson Chance's serendipitous Youtube rise a ruse?
His meteoric ascent to millions of Youtube views and maximum-exposure media tour have some questioning whether there's a Big Media hand behind sixth grader Greyson Michael Chance.
Greyson Chance, the latest online singing phenomenon, has parlayed his Lady Gaga interpretation into the kind of instant celebrity that would make marketing professionals swoon. From a 12-year-old singing at a local choir festival to performing on Ellen Degeneresâ€™s TV hour and being profiled by Diane Sawyer all in one week is pretty heady stuff for anyone, let alone a sixth grader at Cheyenne Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Within the past two weeks, this aspiring young singer/songwriter has seen the rise of a Facebook page, a Youtube channel, and countless fan pages all joining to maximize his exposure.
All of which tell a story about how quickly things are changing online, says Miles Beckett, CEO of social entertainment company EQAL. Just a few years ago, he says, â€śyou would go to the site that fit what you were doing and get popular there and that was it. Now,â€ť he points out, â€śthere are all these places to go at once â€“ Facebook, Twitter, Youtube â€¦ and more, and you can leverage your content all over at once.â€ť
Another big change, he adds, is the sheer volume and quality of content flooding online. Flash celebrity is something he knows a bit about â€“ Mr. Beckett became an online celebrity back in 2006 when he and his partner created the seminal "lonelygirl15," a hit online video journal that became a media sensation when fans discovered "Bree," the diarist, was a fictional creation and not an actual pining teen.
â€śBack then, there just wasnâ€™t that much content worth watching,â€ť he says, â€śnow it takes a lot more to stand out.â€ť
The young Mr. Chance appears to have all the necessary components to stand out in what has become a very busy marketplace, says music industry analyst Jeff Snyder, who runs the Music Business Program at Lebanon Valley College.
He has high-quality camera work, high profile, catchy material, and an integrated marketing plan right out of the gate. The approach is so sophisticated, in fact, Snyder says, that it suggests the possibility of a stealth professional campaign. Where are the other families attending the choir festival event?â€ť he asks, and â€śwho filmed the performance in such a way as to focus on the adoring 13-year-old girls, all in perfect focus?â€ť.
It is hard to believe an unknown elementary school student could do so much on his own. â€śSomeone in that corner knows what they are doing,â€ť Snyder says. The boyâ€™s success points to a deeper trend. â€śNever before have so many individuals had the opportunity to achieve Warholâ€™s 15 minutes of fame without major labels or media companies. Just a FlipVideo, YouTube account, and a songâ€ť he says. The numbers are surprisingly tipped in favor of those who understand this.
According to Web analytics site TubeMogul, only 33 percent of videos on Youtube have been viewed over one million times. Fifty-three percent have fewer than 500 views.
This means that approximately 46 percent of all videos on YouTube have been watched over 500 times.
â€śSo in theory at least, â€ś Snyder adds, â€śthere is actually a 40-plus percent chance that a video uploaded to YouTube will be watched over 500 times.â€ť
As these young online phenoms accumulate â€“ think Justin Bieber and the 23-year-old Taiwanese singer, Lin Yu-chun, who recently wowed online international audiences with his interpretation of a Whitney Houston ballad â€“ the entire entertainment landscape is being flipped around, says Fordham University professor and author of "New New Media," Paul Levinson. â€śLiterally anyone can try their hand on the Internet,â€ť he adds. More and more, he says, the music industry as we know it will be less about talent discovery and more about distribution.
â€ťIt is,â€ť he says, â€śthe most revolutionary change in history.â€ť
If such a professional-quality, coordinated PR campaign raises the specter of yet another online ruse, Beckett himself says thatâ€™s yet another fallout of where the online environment has come in a few short years.
â€śIf Greyson Chance has a stealth campaign being professionally run, itâ€™s really hard to find that out now,â€ť he says. â€śEveryone knows what to do to make
it appear real.â€ť