Rocks Off has been lucky enough to be the first to report on two people whose viral videos propelled them into that strangest of 21st century clubs; that of internet star. The term is still used with some derision today. After all, for every Ask a Ninja there's an Afro Ninja, but we'd argue that for every Jerry Seinfeld there's a Snooki, so up yours traditional entertainment mediums!
The two people we're talking about are Ally ASL and Steve Moore the Mad Drummer. Ally rose to stardom through videos of her sign-language interpretations of pop hits by Taylor Swift, Ke(Dollar Sign)ha, and Owl City. One public fight with YouTube over what constituted fair use later, and she was featured as ABC News' "Person of the Week" as the number of hits on her videos rose into the millions.
Meanwhile, people couldn't get enough of a video called "this drummer is at the wrong gig," in which Steve Moore of Rick K and the All-Nighters displayed some of the most theatrical drumming ever while performing ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man." The video was quickly picked up all over the world, and talked about on many major news networks, but first among all of them was Rocks Off's now-defunct Daily VJ column.
The video may have been called "this drummer is at the wrong gig," but Moore is still playing 200 shows a year with the All-Nighters. His sudden fame has opened doors to the highest echelons of the drumming world - he's played the Woodstick Festival, and will fly to Belgium in April to play the Adams Drummer Festival, and is currently in talks with legendary drummer Carmine Appice to collaborate on a DVD project.
"I met Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver a few weeks ago at NAMM," says Moore. "He freaked when he met me and said Tommy Lee had sent him the video. HELLO! Tommy Lee? So I tried to be a cool as possible and said, 'Ahhh, that's really nice man,' then I walked around the corner where no one could see me and started jumping up and down!
"However, meeting Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater has been the highlight for me," Moor continues. "I idolize Mike Portnoy. For him to reach out and show me such respect is the greatest gift I could ask for."
Moore's entire world has been changed by the viral video that brought him fame, but it's important not to write off his success as accidental. Moore is a dedicated professional musician who has been, to use his own words, "ripping my arms out of socket" over 20 years of playing.
His story is even more proof that the path to acclaim for some modern musicians will not come as a gift from the record-label gods, but through their own skill being accessible to the entire online world through YouTube.
By contrast, Ally ASL never really sought acclaim, and she's no musician. She's a quiet Texas girl inspired to pursue a career teaching the Deaf and Hard of Hearing by a deaf friend. It bothered her that there were so few opportunities for the hearing-impaired to experience the lyrics of modern music, so she began recording herself translating them to American Sign Language.
"I NEVER anticipated this to happen," says Ally. "I never even anticipated a few hundred views/subscribers, much less 17,000. It is absolutely incredible and extremely shocking to know that so many people have seen my face numerous times on YouTube yet have never met me. It's definitely been a surprise, but a humbling one at that."
Her newfound fame, however, has not derailed her from her true calling of teaching special-needs children. Opportunities have opened up for her left and right for workshops and live performances, but the ones she cherishes the most are the ones that somehow let her involve her students.
Ally has no plans to go out and seek further fame as an artist, preferring the testimonies of members of the Deaf community who thank her for opening the world of music to them and the adulation of her students who appeared on TV with her.
"For them to be able to be a part of this is wonderful," she says.
For Ally and Moore, the accessibility of YouTube has changed their lives and enabled them to achieve goals that may otherwise have been out of their reach. Moore is now receiving accolades for his hard-won skill, and Ally is reaching out to millions with her message of communication through sign language.
Power for the individual to succeed through YouTube and social media has never been greater, and though the Internet remains a capricious god, there is no doubt that it is allowing people to take the reins of their own futures free of ownership by corporate entities. Having watched our two friends climb the ladder of Internet stardom, we have to say that it seems like the happiest road possible.
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Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.