We spend billions of hours online every year, a lot of it searching for the latest viral videos.
What was once just a harmless, fun hobby has now become a new career – uploading random videos to the web.
In fact, one Bay Area boy is among the latest stars to rise out of YouTube fame.
And it all began with an innocent sneeze. Two-year-old Lazlo of San Francisco gave a big ah-choo , followed by words that have been heard by hundreds of thousands of people around the world:
“Boogers. I have boogers.”
Lazlo’s parents say the phone started ringing off the hook with interested buyers of the clip. “Almost immediately, once it was on Tosh-Point-0 and people started looking at it on YouTube, we started getting offers for us to sell it to people,” said Amy Berger, Lazlo’s mother.
They’re the same kind of offers that creator of Nyan Cat, Chris Torres, got a little over a year ago. Torres, an artist, was doodling for charity when he got a suggestion to meld a cat with a toaster pastry. He uploaded the image online as a Twitter avatar, but unbeknownst to him, a YouTube user paired the cat with a Japanese song, “Nyan, Nyan.” It wasn’t long before the YouTube views started to skyrocket. The count sits now at more than 82 million views.
“It was getting so huge, I was getting literally hundreds of emails a day from people wanting to work with me.”
Now the video has been played on many big networks, from CNN to Comedy Central – all with the help of a Portland-based agent, Ben Lashes, who has fewer than a dozen clients, whose fame all grew out of internet memes, or icons.
“Its moved from the Wild, Wild West of the Youtube internet world to more like the industrial revolution of it all.”
Lashes is, himself, a former star. He was a rocker signed by a Berkeley-based label, so he knows it’s all about protecting all intellectual property, from patents to trademarks. Lashes says it’s around $1,000 for every million YouTube views.
Even better is the merchandise that grows out of this fame. For Torres, it means making Nyan Cat the next Hello Kitty. He’s close, too. Just some months ago, Jakks Pacific, one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world, contacted Torres. Now, this accidental kitty has turned into a six-figure deal. Nyan Cat is getting its own toyline debuting at Toys R Us stores across the country in mid-October.
The fame has also led to commercial deals. Lashes’ other famous cat client is Keyboard Cat. Creator Charlie Schmidt of Spokane, Washington uploaded an old 1986 video of his late cat Fatso playing on a synthesizer. That was in 2007. It went viral with millions of hits, as did a Keyboard Cat Reincarnation video with new cat, Bento. He was featured in a “Wonderful Pistachios” commercial that aired during Game Six of the 2010 World Series. The cat got the most views out of the company’s six commercials.
Says Lashes, “Snookie was the next biggest commercial and Keyboard Cat kicked her butt - by threefold!”
That two-year contract resulted in two six-figure totals. Schmidt, a former freelance artist, says this is now his full-time gig.
“On the average it’s been a six-figure thing each year. Since then, it continues to grow.”
Both Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat have not only toy deals, but plenty of cat apparel sold in stores and online. In the meantime, Lazlo’s booger clip was featured on Japanese programs to Nickolodeon. His parents are considering how far to push this fame, but are being cautious at the same time.
“Yeah, we don’t want him to be labeled the booger kid forever,” says Berger, laughing. “But we’ll just see what happens!”