2.05.2011

Packers gone viral: Fan music video tributes find instant following online

The “Packarena’’ — their parody of the then uber-popular Spanish dance track “Macarena” by Los del Rio — hit like a tidal wave the first morning they played it.

“The phones are smoking and people are requesting it all day long. Despite the inability to send music over an Internet connection, the song spread rapidly by cassette tape — $5 per copy to benefit the Child Abuse Prevention Fund — and hit the national spotlight when it was played to wake up the astronauts on Space Shuttle Discovery in honor of Wisconsin-born member Mark C. Lee.

“It was viral before there was viral,” Clemens said.

They’ve all contributed Packers tribute songs to the Internet that are vying for fans eyes and ears during the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV on Sunday.

The climate is unrecognizable compared to 1996, as social media and technology advances have leveled the playing field and created a tinderbox for fan-created songs and parodies to catch fire – fast. Several of the songs have already gained national attention and hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, one of the modern Web tools enabling so many Packers songs to gain exposure.

“YouTube has opened up a creative avenue for anyone,” said Matenaer, who now is a radio host for B93.3 in Milwaukee. She marveled at the memory of having to order cassette tapes to hand out to fans and mail to other radio stations.

“What I used to do in radio and TV is no longer magic,” added Clemens, who began his broadcasting career in the 1980s and now works for Sirius NFL Radio in Wisconsin. Maurice Pelman produced and recorded, along with his musical cohorts of Higher Education in Madison, the current YouTube hit leader among Packers tribute videos, “Fly Like a Cheesehead.” Pelman highlights an important caveat to the hit-making wizardry of YouTube and other new media tools: You still need a quality product to get the engine started, said Katy Culver, who teaches journalism and strategic communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For every “Fly Like a Cheesehead” there are 10 videos that sputter into obscurity.

“Green and Yellow,” the remake of rap star Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” by Milwaukee hip-hop artists Prophetic and Pizzle, may boast the most professional gloss of all the Packers tribute songs. Because members of the production team, including director Stan Perry and producer Xavier Ruffin of Milwaukee, have burgeoning individual careers in the local hip-hop scene, they set a high standard of excellence for the project.

The stringent standards have helped the song reach more than 235,000 hits on YouTube, airplay on 12 Wisconsin radio stations (including the No. 1 song on 95.9 KISS-FM’s nightly Hot 8 @ 8) and even airtime on ESPN’s “SportsCenter’’ — all in a little more than two weeks.

“Tapping into fan passion with the right kind of message is key,” Culver said. “You don’t have to like hip-hop to enjoy the songs. You don’t have to listen to certain radio stations. The ability to engage a multi-generational audience, coupled with musical artists recording for creativity’s sake rather than money’s, is uniting Packers fans like never before, Culver said.

“I’ve never felt so connected with such a wide variety of people,” Pelman said.

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