By Carol Cain
Senior Producer and Host
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters”
It’s the hottest video to hit to YouTube in a while as Rob Bliss gives Eminem a run for the money of being hippest guy in Michigan.
In less than two weeks, nearly two million people have viewed Rob Bliss’ Lip Dub Video which the 22-year-old music student created after being ticked off by Newsweek which labeled his beloved Grand Rapids a dying city in a recent listing. (It also included Detroit and Flint).
Bliss, who has developed a reputation for doing things in a big way like staging a huge pillow fight downtown and putting up a gigantic water slide — was incensed by the portrayal and decided to do something.
He came up with the lip dub video to show his town was vivacious. He directed the video which featured city leaders and citizens from all walks lip-syncing to Don McLean’s 1970’s song “American Pie” … all 9.5 minutes.
The video is an Internet sensation and is creating a lot of buzz for his hometown as Chrysler’s Eminem commercial pitching the auto company did for the Motor City. (By comparison, the Chrysler spot has had 10 million views on YouTube since February.)
“This whole thing greatly exceeded my expectations,” said Bliss. “I had wanted a million views in all and it passed that in less than a week.”
As of Thursday night it had over 1.7 million views. If you haven’t seen it already. Now is the time.
Ironically the song chosen was recorded before Bliss was born. After deciding he needed a lengthy tune with a nostalgic theme to sing to, it simply became his perfect melody.
Bliss didn’t have the money to underwrite the $30,000 costs of the video but charged ahead anyway on a leap of faith that others would feel strongly and open up their checkbooks. He gained sponsor dollars from Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Metro PCS, Avanti Law Group, Peter Secchia and others.
Bliss put out the call and an army of nearly 5,000 people showed up in the downtown area on a Sunday.
Shot over five hours — it featured people taking turns lip-syncing the song. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell appeared as did Secchia and numerous others.
The video has been featured on “Inside Edition,” NBC’s “Today Show,” an Australian network, Ders Spiegel (the German newspaper) and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm tweeted Bliss to tell him it was “cool.”
“He’s a creative, brilliant, and courageous young man who has pulled off the most amazing events in downtown Grand Rapids,” marveled Secchia.
Amid the applause, the most important thing to Bliss – Newsweek’s response as the magazine waved the white flag and retreated – telling Bliss it loved his video.
“They made a truce, it was a good PR move,” said Bliss.
Bliss admits the project was gargantuan even by his P.T. Barnum standards.
He started out by mapping the project in his mind, and eventually had a team of 45 to help with filming and production.
The toughest part: Mother Nature.
It was originally scheduled to film on Sunday, May 15 but delayed due to rain.
The May 22 rainout date appeared iffy before the sun broke through just before filming began at 10 a.m.
Now armed with his lip dub video success, what comes next?
“I’m not quite sure. I’m a music man, I take it day by day and see where it goes,” he said.
He learned a lot about working with people and hopes to do more collaborations.
He’s having conversations with the folks at ArtPrize –- another unique event in Grand Rapids started by Rick DeVos which awards the world’s biggest prize, nearly $500,000 in all, to artists from across the globe during the fall.
What words of advice does Bliss have for others wanting to do something big and unique?
“Eliminate all fear,” he said. “Forget whether you will make money or not. Just keep searching until you find that one beautiful idea and run with it.
“Don’t look back. And stop doubting yourself.”
Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of the Emmy winning “Michigan Matters’ airing 11 a.m. Sundays. You can read her columns on business and politics in the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at 248-355-7126 or email@example.com.