Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

YouTube video by Willow Smith goes viral, leads to recording contract #cmtc10

Yesterday at the 2010 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire, my 10 year old daughter and I shared a breakout session titled, “When Student Published Videos Go Viral: Lessons Learned.” In our discussions we focused on four different viral videos which can be considered case studies for student media publishing:

  1. Jessi Slaughter (Jessica Leonhardt) (Aug 2010)
  2. Willow Smith and her song/video, Whip My Hair (Oct 2010)
  3. Greyson Chance and his Lady Gaga song remix (May 2010)
  4. Sarah and her response video to President Obama (Sep 2009)

See our session wiki page for more links and background information about each of these situations. Of these, Willow Smith’s is the video I learned about most recently thanks to a participant (Erica I think) in my #cmtc10 workshop, “Share Your Ideas: Platforms for Publishing.” According to the 9 Sep 2010 MTV article, “Jay-Z Signs ‘Superstar’ Willow Smith To Roc Nation:”

Just two days after Willow Smith’s kid-friendly club banger “Whip My Hair” leaked online, Jay-Z and his petite protégé called in to “On-Air With Ryan Seacrest” to confirm that he had signed her to his Roc Nation label. Describing Willow’s debut as “a hit,” Jay-Z said on Thursday morning (September 9) that he first heard the track before he knew it had been recorded by a 9-year-old. “I was like, ‘Man, that record’s a smash.’ And then [Roc Nation partner] Jay Brown said, ‘She’s 9,’ and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ And [then] he was like, ‘She’s Will and Jada’s daughter,’ and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ and it just went from there.”

After being online a little more than a month, Willow’s video currently has over 22.1 million views on YouTube.

For more background about Willow’s rise to stardom boosted (in part) by YouTube visibility, see Ryan Seacrest’s 8.5 minute interview with Willow from September, “Jay-Z Compares Willow Smith to Young Michael Jackson.”

Are students, teachers, parents, and administrators having regular conversations about digital citizenship at your school? It’s certainly rare for a video to go viral on YouTube, but the fact is anyone today with access to a video-capable cell phone and an Internet-connected computer can be global media publisher. The level of professional quality in the four videos highlighted in our session yesterday varied widely, and the circumstances are unique in each case, but there are important lessons to learn from all four. One important thing everyone should know about, related to cyberbullying and YouTube publication, is video flagging on Youtube. This was highlighted by both Sarah’s experiences and the Jessica Leonhardt videos.

Yesterday as Sarah and I drove up to Farmington, Maine, in our rental car, we were amazed to hear BOTH Willow Smith and Greyson Chance sing their latest songs on Radio Disney. After just discussing their YouTube-powered rises to fame, that seemed like a big coincidence.

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One response to “YouTube video by Willow Smith goes viral, leads to recording contract #cmtc10”

  1. Tyler Stubenhofer Avatar

    Surely cases like Greyson’s are unique; a video of his performance launched him. Willow, however, is the daughter of Will Smith. I’d hesitate to say that the video, itself, would have launched her career if her parents were not already famous.

    It wouldn’t have been impossible, of course, but having celebrity parents probably didn’t hurt.