Vine darlings "Us" to perform at next week's Shorty Awards

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on March 27, 2014

From The News Desk

Remember when social media was a niche thing? Back in the day only college students had Facebook, and Twitter was a tool for testing out odd quips. Them glory days now up and gone, and they've been replaced by a new era where online social behavior eclipses our every move.

To bolster this realization comes an awards ceremony catered to -- you guessed it -- social media. It's called the Shorty Awards. In all fairness, the Shortys have been around for six years now, so this isn't really a new development. But it's being thrown in lavish midtown Manhattan-style, so it seems the ceremony has evolved with social's mainstream trajectory.

The event's producers, however, still want to showcase the social media underdogs. So today they've announced that the Los Angeles-based band Us, best known for their Vine account, will be gracing the Shorty stage for a live performance. The band is made up of a cute, twee married couple who reached relative online fame by happily crooning tunes into their smartphones.

Back in December, Us (that is, Michael and Carissa Rae Alvarado) released a series of Vines with the hashtag #6SecondCovers. In case the title wasn't obvious enough, the two would perform clips of well-known songs, showcasing their youthful visages and easily-consumable harmonies. People seemed to like it. This campaign led to tens of millions of re-Vines, helped the band gain 2.6 followers in a matter of months, and even sparked the attention of high-ups including Good Morning America and a major music label.

Republic Records shortly thereafter decided to sign Us -- the first Vine-initiated record deal. "Republic is going to send out a re-release of [our original] record," Carissa, one half of the duo, said.

Since #6SecondCovers, Us has continued to use Vine to promote their original music. A few weeks back they teased one of their upcoming songs which, according to them, caused more than 10,000 singles per week to be sold, as well as helped the track climb to number 22 on the iTunes pop charts. "That was just because of the Vine campaign," said Michael, the male counterpart of the group.

It's no surprise that Galant and the other Shorty co-founders accosted Us for a live performance. The Shortys first began in 2008 as a way to creatively highlight which social accounts to follow. According to the ceremony's co-founder and executive producer, Greg Galant, the idea was to have people vote for their favorite social accounts via tweet. The votes, of course, used a hashtag, which within 24 hours of the hashtag's launch led to it becoming the top trending term on Twitter -- an apt genesis for a social media obsessed gala.

Since then, the awards have continued to adapt to each year's new social trends. "As social media has evolved we've had to evolve," said Galant. This year it includes more mainstream presenters like rocker Andrew W.K., Retta of "Parks and Recreation", and H. John Benjamin of "Archer." Its awards have also changed with the times: This year's awards include "Best Non-Human," "Kickstarter of the Year," and "Best Instagrammer."

In that vein, Galant says Vine is going to be "front and center" this year. While the video-sharing platform had become somewhat mainstream at the time of last year's ceremony, he says it wasn't until later in 2013 that people really began to see it in action. The two Vine categories this time are "Vine of the Year" and "Best Vineographer."

So who better to represent this year's awards than a couple of Vine stars like Us?

Galant sees social media Cinderella stories like this as precisely the kind of content the Shortys should promote. "We use the Shorty Awards show to figure out what's been happening in social media," said Galant, "to turn it into an opportunity for an artist." He explained that the Shortys helped showcase some of Amanda Palmer's most innovative social moments. If anyone remembers, the Shortys was where Palmer sung the best and worst tweets thrown her way to the tune of "Friday" by Rebecca Black.

Michael and Carissa say they are still brainstorming precisely what they are going to perform. My guess is that it won't be as in-your-face as the likes of Palmer, but their excitement for the event is palpable, as is everyone's involved. Even Vine co-founder Rus Yusupov will be there to introduce the event.

It'll be interesting at the very least to see how social media can be turned into an awards ceremony. I'll be there live for the April 7th event, mostly out of personal curiosity. Now that we have an Oscars for tweets, it'll be fascinating to see what kind of gimmicks ensue.

Perhaps most pressing will be whether or not a social media ceremony will top the Ellen selfie. But really, I hope not.

Let's instead just let the cute couple sing.