Meet king of YouTube and Chocolate Rain man: Tay Zonday
TAY Zonday is arguably the most famous person to move away from a microphone.
If that doesn't make any sense just stay with me for a little while.
Zonday, real name Adam Nyerere Bahner, is widely credited as one of the first YouTube stars.
The song that ushered him into fame was a catchy number called Chocolate Rain.
Although the references to social justice were probably lost on many of the viewers and smothered by his chocolate-smooth baritone voice, the video has almost had 100 million views on YouTube.
But it is the credits that appear with double asterisks 23 seconds into the video, explaining why Zonday turns away from the microphone, that have really captured the attention of the internet.
"**I move away from the mic to breathe in."
It's that simple. And since the video was uploaded in 2007, there are countless references to this technique in the dozens of Chocolate Rain parodies that have been created and uploaded.
Zonday himself created a much-more-polished sequel titled Cherry Chocolate Rain that even drew attention to his infamous sneaky breathing method and has ticked up nearly 15 million views.
The productive star agreed to sit down and remotely answer our questions. Ladies and gentlemen, Tay Zonday!
Where did the name Tay Zonday come from?
In January 2007, I wanted to create an entertainment name that was easy to spell when heard phonetically while not being used by anyone else. "Tay Zonday" had zero results on Google.
What's unique about YouTube fame?
The project cycles are much shorter on YouTube. Actors like Brad Pitt or Cate Blanchett can achieve fame through one or two film and television projects each year. Google has increasingly designed YouTube to syndicate recent, short-form content. While an actor might shoot for ten weeks and then ride the publicity of that project when it is released months later, YouTube forces success stories to be addicted to the teat of immediacy.
Is it possible to live comfortably on the money you make from YouTube?
It's no secret that YouTube now contributes to successful incomes. I'm not going to be voyeuristic. Most YouTubers who make money reinvest it in people and equipment to achieve production goals. I haven't seen anyone driving a Bugatti just to drive a Bugatti - yet.
How has your daily life changed since Chocolate Rain?
I have gone from being a hobbyist musician to an artist who pursues success in music, voice and film work full-time.
I enjoy opportunities to take part in successful art. Massive public attention can result from those opportunities, but it's never a motive for me.
How long does it take to put a YouTube video together?
This is a common question. There is no pattern, rhyme or reason to how long it takes me to "put a video together." The separate execution mechanics are predictable. I know how long it takes to record a video take. I know how long it takes to batch-convert takes prior to editing. But -- without being punny -- I don't know how many takes a project will take.
What are the ingredients of a viral video?
That's like asking "what are the ingredients of a world-famous CEO?" during sex. You don't know. You don't control it. You let the kid grow up and become what they become. Artists just make art. The public decides whether that art is viral.
What advice would you give a YouTuber who has a viral hit?
A viral hit is not necessarily a business unless you have a brand and iterate your brand.
Living a public life with clear consistent, branding makes it easier to monetise viral hits as a larger business -- if they happen.
Does Chocolate Rain fame overshadow any of your other work?
No. Most entertainers have "calling cards." William Shatner has acted in hundreds of projects, even if he is best-known for "Star Trek." I am grateful for my calling cards. Beyond that, they aren't relevant to present endeavours.
How different are Tay Zonday and Adam?
They became the same. At first, Tay Zonday was intended as an alter-ego. But the alter-ego reached a level of prominence where it became the person. Nobody wants Carlos Irwin Estevez; they want Charlie Sheen. It's great to have a government name and a brand, but I wouldn't say they're different identities.
What are your plans for the next ten years?
Nobody knows where long-form entertainment is headed. Some film and television has migrated to subscription services like Netflix and Amazon. Cable television is a elephantine yet problematic marriage of content revenue and infrastructure revenue. Youtube revenue has not scaled to be able to sustain big-budget long-form content like "House of Cards" or "Game of Thrones." Every company is desperate to establish themselves as a platform on devices, creating a market for entertainment consumers that is fragmented and frustrating.
I'd like to believe that in this whirlwind, I can continue to be a part of successful art.