Youth Impact Report 2011: Web Wizards

Impact: The singer behind YouTube’s hit “Friday” single proves recording artists can sidestep label contracts, radio airplay and much of the music industry.
Next: Despite numerous offers from record labels, Black is forging ahead independently, for now. “There have been multiple offers, all very lucrative, but we are trying to build Rebecca’s brand, not give it away,” says manager Debra Baum.

Causes: Orange Wood Children’s Home, a shelter for children who have been victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment.

In February, Rebecca Black’s mother paid $4,000 to a Los Angeles production company, Ark Music Factory, so her daughter could record a song written by one of their inhouse producers and shoot an accompanying video. Unbeknownst to Black, the video for “Friday,” her heavily auto-tuned pop number, was uploaded to YouTube. Comedy Central comedian Daniel Tosh stumbled upon it, making fun of it on his blog, which resulted in 100,000 hits and more jeers, with some viewers calling it the worst song in the world. But the Anaheim Hills teenager would have the last laugh.

“Friday” went on to garner nearly 170 million views before being pulled from YouTube in June because of copyright issues. The downloadable MP3 version of “Friday” outsold Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never.”

Other musicians rallied to Black’s defense: Lady Gaga called her a “genius,” and Katy Perry invited Black to star in one of her musicvideos and sing onstage with her. And yes, as it turns out, Black can sing.

Now Black is parlaying her notoriety into what she hopes will be a bona fide pop career, signing with veteran music manager Debra Baum (Paula Abdul) and recording a five-song EP with producer Charlton Pettus (Tears for Fears).

“Some people have looked down on me for using YouTube because they are used to the old way of trying to get signed and getting radio play,” says Black. “But the Internet is a really big platform for recording artists. All you need is you and a camera and your voice.”

Black’s second single, “My Moment,” was rolled out in much the same way a record company might release a song, debuting on “Entertainment Tonight.” Within 24 hours, it had attracted 24 million views. “We can shift the paradigm,” Baum says. “Things aren’t what they used to be in the music industry — and Rebecca is proof of that.”

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