Amped blogger John Huldt discusses the weird world of viral videos and how guitarists can try, but perhaps fail, to make the best of them. Mainly, the meme is the name of the game, and if it involves cats, even better...
Ah, the internets.
This vast sea of unpredictability where stars are being born overnight and forgotten before the day is over. Where virality is king and epic win and epic fail tends to determine what sinks or what floats.
Since record labels aren't signing anyone anymore and the idea of "developing an artist" is about as mythical as the shroud of Turin at this point, artists has been forced to find other ways of gaining fame and fortune (well, maybe not the fortune but a couple million hits on Youtube makes you famous, right?).
Social media has taken over the role that labels and PR departments used to have, to promote and make an artist known in the public eye. This is a great thing. And this is a terrible thing. Because, the internet has completely leveled the playing field so anyone can put anything out there. This is of course fantastic for artists because all you need as a smart phone/laptop and you can share everything you do with the world. But it's also a terrible thing because EVERYONE can share everything they do with the world, which they also do. So, the noise is staggering!
This has also given rise to the world of gimmicks. I saw a video of a guy playing the Mortal Kombat theme on guitar while wearing a lamp screen on his head. Video goes viral. Another example is the kid who put up a rock version of Pachelbel's "Canon" which is still the most viewed guitar video online with well over a 100 million hits. Of course the companies (labels, instrument makers etc) notice this so with a video going viral, it's pretty much the modern version of "getting signed". It is what the artists of today covet the most.
So, what do I do? Like every other guitarist on the planet I start cranking out videos, hoping one of them will have that magical whatever it is that makes it generate a ton of hits and then everybody will love me and I'll be rich and famous and have a house on the moon and living with Elvis. Or something like that (I hear he made a bomb PB&J sandwich).
I was thinking and thinking of what I could do and for every great idea I had, there was 14 videos on it already online so it was back to the drawing board. Then it came to me! I've always been a huge John Williams fan and I've seen a few guitar videos of arrangements of his songs (mostly Star Wars) of changing quality but I figured I'd take it up a few notches.
I was gonna make a medley of some of his most popular scores, arrange it for guitar and then keep all fingers on both hands crossed and hope that people would like it. I did some research and there was no such video up already so I figured my chances were pretty good.
So, I went to transcribing and working out what songs in what order and how to fit it all together. For the record, trying to compress an 80 piece orchestra into 6 strings and 4 fingers is a terrible idea. Don't do it! Then again, if I was any smarter I would have a real job. Anyways, I spent a couple of weeks trying to work out an arrangement that was remotely playable and then probably another two weeks diligently practicing it to where I felt I could play it decently enough to at least put it on video.
So I did. And nothing happened. Beside the usual subscribers that comment on most things I post, not much happened. Coincidentally, around the same time a friend of mine posted a video on my Facebook wall saying, "Hey John. You should do a cover of this". The video was of a song called Nyan Cat. If you haven't seen it, it's a 8 bit looking cat flying through space with a rainbow coming out of it's ass and THE MOST ANNOYING F#*%ING SONG EVER playing in the background.
'Haha', I thought, and figured I'll just do this for the hell of it. I saw there was about a million guitar videos playing this song already in all shapes and forms so I had no hopes on this one making any noise. I did, however notice that none of the versions had gotten the melody exactly right. Being the kind, generous and loving nature that I am, I thought I'll put up a tab on my Facebook page as well if anyone wanted to learn it.
I made the video before going to the gym one morning so I'm in my sweat pants, a hoodie with holes in it, greasy hair and I could only sit through about a minute and a half of the song before my hands and head had had enough. Did I mention it's the most annoying song in the world? It's about 30 seconds of music that keeps repeating so I figured I had gotten the point across. I click upload, leave the computer running and go to the gym.
When I got back, I had an email from Youtube saying that because my video "Nyan Cat" was so popular, they offered me to monetize my videos (that is, have ads running on them when people watched them). WTF I said to myself and at that point it only had about 400 hits. Albeit within a couple of hours but nothing major. Then within the first day it had several thousand hits and it just kept going up. At this point, Nyan Cat is sitting at around 155k and my super ambitious labor of love John Williams medley is hovering around 5k. Go figure. Nyan!
John Huldt is a Swedish guitar player who has called Los Angeles home since 2006. He works as a session and studio musician, he has 2 solo albums out, he works as a composer, band coach, guitar teacher at LA Music Academy and is the lead guitar player in LA metal band Ampora.
Find him and his music at:
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