Vine stars are slowly become superstars too.
Say what you will about Vine, as long as you don’t say it’s a fad.
In March of 2014, a low-budget music video complete with crappy flame-laden word art was quietly uploaded to YouTube. On June 24th, a Vine user decided to loop a particularly silly six-second moment from the music video. The post went on to achieve millions of loops and parodies. That music video was "Hot N*gga" by Bobby Shmurda, and by July 11th, the authoring emcee was signed to a deal with Epic records - a deal that was big enough that it warranted Epic’s Executive Vice President of A&R Sha to say, "There’s no such thing as overpaying a young black man. This is an opportunity when someone can either take the money and go away, or take it and blow up." Sparked by "Hot N*gga’s" viral success, the Shmurda She Wrote extended play release from Epic charted in the top rankings of Billboard’s Hip Hop charts. Though, Nielsen Music indicates that it all trickles back to "Hot N*gga," which takes claims to more than 800,000 of the 1 million downloads to the artist's name.
In just two years of existence, Vine has taken the social networking universe by storm in both popularity and usage. Raking in 1.5 billion daily loops and with a reported 40 million users in 2013 (one can only assume that that number has grown since), the popularity and addictiveness of the "short attention span theater" is undeniable.
From the platform of a mere six seconds, so-called 'Vine celebrities' have been spawned. In a landscape like social media, wherein anything tangible is few and far between, folks like this have managed to turn clickbait into straight cash. Vine celeb Nash Grier-- a 16-year old whose style of Vine is simply quippy direct addresses-- was recently bestowed the honor of attending the White House Correspondents Dinner and is reported to make $200,000 annually and has a net worth nearing the millions. Comedienne Brittany Ferlan is developing a sketch show with "Robot Chicken" creator Seth Green and claims each of her (now endorsed) Vine posts are worth anywhere between $7,000 and $20,000 each, and claimed, "If I took every job I’m offered, I could be a multimillionaire right now, but I don’t want to flood my Vine with content," in a discussion with TheWrap.
While these stars, like any celebs, really, have odds of fizzling out, one thing that seems consistent in the use of Vines are the trends and running gags that they all engage in-- many of which stem from Hip-Hop/Rap songs that get highlighted on the app. In 2014, Fashion & Style magazine listed songs that Vine revolutionized, and all of them were rap songs.
The symbiotic relationship between Vine and Rap isn’t surprising. Both the genre and the app are platforms in which you can present condensed thoughts more rapidly than you can on the alternatives; you can’t strum, sing, and dance as effectively in six seconds as you can effectively rap a catchy hook and dance to it. However, given the meteoric rise in fame and in monetary value of some Viners, the question becomes can the authors of these songs obtain the same level of success as the ones who Vine about them. Songs like OT Genesis’ "CoCo," and "Lifestyle" by Rich Gang have become anthems for Vine users, but only poke fun at the lyrical content or artistic value of the songs by parodying them in six seconds or less, arguably devaluing the merit of the song in favor of exploiting goofy situations, or worse, stereotyping.
Despite the sometimes arguable contextualization of the music at hand, it undoubtedly publicizes and extrapolates from the song in a way that radio play simply would not be able to do in 2015. With over 8,000 six second videos being shared every minute on Vine, if the content posted catches fire, its consumption is essentially never-ending and uninterrupted. The format inherently serves as a breadcrumb trail to the artist who created the soundtrack to the short videos, and while the artists may not be compensated by Vine’s parent company Twitter (the same way popular Viners are compensated to make their content exclusive to Vine and not turn to YouTube or any other video hosting site), it does put them on the radar and on an immediate trajectory towards greatness.
22-year old Atlanta emcee OG Maco, who has a little over 3,000 followers on Vine, was made famous overnight due to his song "U Guessed It" being parodied on Vine by a user who has over 70 times the amount of followers than Maco. The video went viral and obtained 9.8 million loops in two days. In less than a month, Maco was able to ink a deal with Quality Control Records. Maco doesn’t seem to mind that the social media app aided his success telling Rolling Stone, "I'm just happy I'm rapping. I just stopped carrying a gun every day. I just stopped having situations. Look, man. You don't understand how recent this "just" is…I just got out of it."
Shmurda is 20-years old, and like Maco, had struggled with the gang lifestyle and the social ills that come hand-in-hand with it before the fame (Shmurda is currently up against four counts of conspiracy, criminal possession of a weapon, criminally using drug paraphernalia, and reckless endangerment that trace back to his years of alleged gang affiliation). Similarly, new sensation T-Wayne was stuck in his circumstances-- albeit different circumstances-- before Vine turned him into a star with a contract. The new 300 Entertainment signee was fledgling on YouTube, making dance videos posts for nearly a decade before the opening lyrics of his "Nasty Freestyle" ("First let me hop out the motherfucking Porsche") inspired a slew of new Vines, boosting the song further and further up the Hot 100 charts until the artist was undeniably worth a solid deal. Talking to Billboard, T-Wayne said of his suddenly changed circumstances with 300 Entertainment, "They gave me a good deal. They looked out for me on the deal because a lot of new artists don’t get those big deals anymore, which they kind of hooked me up with. They showed me a lot of love."
For users it may be all in good fun to revine something about "turning up on a Tuesday," but the buzz generated by the songs and artists who soundtrack these micro-clips are actually changing the lives of young, impoverished artists. This strategy contradicts a history of musicians cutting their teeth for decades before finally (if at all) catching some limelight.
So, yes. Don’t say Vine is a fad, because it’s a proven commodity. For the rappers who have been made famous by the virality machine-- Vine, an opportunity creator that was unavailable to any generation before them-- it is up to them to prove whether or not they are a fad or commodity. In the mean time, they are privileged with the chance to accrue some wealth to hold them down while they do so.