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The Microfame Game

Step No. 1: Self-publish.

Once upon a time, aspiring fame seekers had to develop their talents, work hard, and hope to build an audience or be discovered by a power broker. Microfame, however, thrives on the simplicity of online publishing. Now, when anyone can write a blog post or upload a video within minutes, the act of creation is an instance of media exposure in itself.

Adam Bahner was a 25-year-old American Studies doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota when he started using his booming baritone, which sounded like James Earl Jones recording a soda commercial, to sing strange groove pop in his bedroom. But rather than just release the tracks as MP3 files, he videotaped himself singing the songs, which just added to the weirdness, as the guy is rather petite. About 20 million YouTube views later, you know Bahner as Tay Zonday, the deep-throated singer of "Chocolate Rain."

My line of parodic T-shirts got me a lawsuit. Zonday, on the other hand, got a call from Dr. Pepper, which asked him to record a spinoff, "Chocolate Cherry Rain." It garnered him another 4.5 million views on YouTube and a sizable amount of cash.

Microfame has no birthright. Although it is sometimes random, it's still an earned achievement, either through idiosyncratic talent like Zonday’s or, as we’ll see, media manipulation.