Back Dorm Boys – Where Are They Now?

One afternoon in early 2005, two sculpture majors at the Guangzhou Arts Institute were goofing around in their dorm room, recording a short lip sync video to Backstreet Boys songs “As Long As You Love Me” and “I Want It That Way.” Huang Yi Xin and Wei Wei, now known as the “The Back Dorm Boys,” quickly became household names in China, and were among the world’s first viral video megastars–receiving millions of hits and international media attention. (One fun fact: Their lip syncing video on YouTube received nearly 5 times as many hits as the official Backstreet Boys version.)

Most of us know that part of the story. But did you know what happened next? I assumed that Wei Wei and Huang Yi Xin graduated and disappeared into China’s mammoth urban workforce. Instead, they leveraged their YouTube stardom to become multichannel Chinese pop stars. Motorola deals. A Sina.com blog. And a 5-year contract with a major Chinese talent agency, Taihe Rye. (More information on Wikipedia.)

Their story is worth remembering when nonprofits and businesses ponder the power of “going viral.” What’s interesting is that the Back Dorm Boys managed to provide greater exposure to Chinese pop songs than any major record label ever could–and without spending a dime. (Watch a few of their non-backstreet videos here, here and here.) I’m curious to see whether they can repeat that success with their own recording career.

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