RLCS, Revista Latina de Comunicación Social
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| doi 10.4185/RLCS-2013-969en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS # 68 | 2013 |
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Lipdubs as a tool to conquer social influence. A study of four paradigmatic cases made in Quebec, USA, Catalonia and the Basque Country

Txema Ramírez-de-la-Piscina-Martínez [C.V.] Titular Professor of Journalism at the University of the Basque Country (UPV / EHU). HGH Research Group (Hedabideak, Gizartea eta Hezkuntza / Media, Society & Education) - txema.ramirezdelapiscina@ehu.es

Abstract. This article summarizes the principal conclusions of an investigation carried out by the author into lipdub as an instrument used in order to get more social influence. The analyzed lipdubs are the following: “I gotta feeling-UQAM”, performed by students of Communication in Quebec, (in early 2012, it was the most viewed lipdub on the Internet); “The Grand Rapids” (this lipdub holds the record for hits per day on the web); “Lipddub Indepèndencia” (it held the world record for the number of participants – 5,771) and, finally, “Lipdub Kukutza”, the most viewed lipdub in the Basque Country. This work claims that, at this time, a good lipdub can be a crucial tool for social movements in order to overcome the invisibility with which the mass-media often punishes any expression which challenges mainstream tendencies.

Keywords: lipdub, viral culture, social movements, postmodernism, mass-media.

Contents: 1. Introduction. 2. Main objectives, methodology, hypothesis and research-questions. 3. Origin and definition of lipdub. 4. Viral culture. 5. Features and components. 6. Analysed lipdubs. 6.1. I Gotta Feeling (UQAM). 6.2. The Grand Rapids. 6.3. Lipdub - Independència - World Record (Official). 6.4. Lipdub Kukutza. 7. Main conclusions. 8. References

1. Introduction 

Nice to watch, easy to spread and fun to make. That’s the lipdub, a modern communication phenomenon which has been increasing unstoppably since its birth in 2006. Lipdub or lip-dub is a type of music video that has had animpressive developmenton the net thanks to websites like YouTube or Vimeo. Maybe, as happens with all events that become popular on the Internet, sooner or later, their popularity may decrease, making them 'out of fashion'. But now lipdub is the newest. This tag triumphs in our society, the newest. Although it seems extremely simple, everything labelled as such continues creating a particular atmosphere that becomes attractive to important sectors of public opinion. Even though the phenomenon is becoming unfashionable, it is evident that its value needs to be examined. That is the reason for the following questions: What exactly is a lipdub? Where do they come from? What are they for? How are they made? Who makes them?

2. Main objectives, methodology, hypothesis and research-questions

The main objective of this research is to investigate the principal features of one good lipdub and determine the keys to getting a successful video on the net. Apart from that, the researcher wants to study the values which are socialised through this phenomenon and check if the quality is a sine qua non condition in order to get the maximum audience. Also, the work has explored the profile of the typical audience of this kind of music video.

The methodology used in this work is based on an analysis chart made by the author which summarizes the principal features of each lipdub, all of them brought together in four main categories:

General figures: Title, link, upload date, total hits and hits per day, duration, languages used in the video, opinions (I like it / I don’t like it), category, main tags, number of commentaries, socialised values.

Participants: Number (approximately), profile, authors of the video, reasons for the video.

Song: Name, author, kind of music and language used.

Other points of interest: Subtitles (cc), quality of the production, image definition, credits, making of video, statistics.

Taking into account this model of analysis, the research began from the following hypothesis and research questions:

1. Hypothesis

The success of phenomena like lipdub on the net is due to the growing desire for wider social sectors to create new spaces in the public sphere, using new instruments of social communication in which the subjects are common citizens and not political, social, cultural, artistic or sporting elite.

R.Q. What is the profile of the protagonists of these videos?

R.Q. When do these videos get their "peak" audience?

2nd Hypothesis

Lipdubs are part of the artistic expressions socialized by post modernity and, as result of that, they often glorify hedonism, individual freedom and the myth of eternal youth.

R.Q. What are the most shared values transmitted through this type of communicative expression?

R.Q. What kind of music is most used?

R.Q. Which category prevails?

R.Q. What are the languages most used?

3rd Hypothesis

More and more different social groups use new instruments such as lipdub in order to raise public awareness or social agitation. This kind of method is specifically appropriate to try and catch the attention of young people or other sectors which are traditionally reluctant to be convinced by conventional methods.

R.Q. What is the profile of the audience?

4th Hypothesis

The Internet audience rewards the quality in the production of this type of artistic expression.

R.Q. What is the image definition?

R.Q. What is the production quality (technical resources used, the work of actors, lighting, photography, etc.)?

RQ What type of complementary information does it supply (subtitles, credits at the end)?


3. Origin and definition of lipdub

The term lipdub,in fact, means lip dubbing. It is a type of video that combines lip synching and audio dubbing to make a music video. It is made by filming individuals or a group of people lip synching while listening to a song or any recorded audio then dubbing over it in post editing with the original audio of the song. Lipdubs can be made in a single unedited shot (shot filmmaking) that often travels through different rooms and situations within a building in a travelling style using a steadicam. Lipdubs have become popular with the advent of mass participatory video content sites like YouTube or Vimeo. While the video is being recorded, the attention goes from person to person, one by one. Lipdub needs the complicity of extras (non-professional actors or participants), in order to project an image of strength and cohesion. Successful videos require methodical preparation, for example thinking in advance about all possible camera movements.

Figure 1. Lip Dubbing: Endless Dream


The first lipdub. Author: Jakob Lodwick, the founder of Vimeo (2006).

The people involved in the video recording sing in playback or lip sync. They hear the song performed on a portable audio player. The quality of the audio they are hearing does not matter, because the original song will be inserted later in the final edition of the video. The fashion of the phenomenon is, undoubtedly, a consequence of the development of the net. All kinds of groups, associations, universities and companies have used this instrument to spread their ideas or concerns throughout the world. Teamwork is essential in this kind of music video, and an atmosphere of complicity and entertainment among participants is crucial. Teamwork, creativity and a participatory environment are the necessary tools.

References to current actors or criticisms of popular people are very common in lipdubs. The Spice Girls Wannabe's (1996) video clip is considered a pioneer in lipdub (in fact, today it would not be considered as lipdub). In truth, the term lipdub was born on 14th December 2006. The author of the term, Jakob Lodwick (founder of Vimeo, the video social network) created the lip dubbing expression through the edition of this video: Lip Dubbing: Endless Dream. He explained its occurrence as the following:

“I walked around with a song playing in my headphones, and recorded myself singing. When I got home I opened it in iMovie and added an MP3 of the actual song, and synchronized it with my video. Is there a name for this? If not, I suggest "lip dubbing".

As with a lot of phenomena on the Internet, the enthusiasm about lipdub spread very quickly. Personal initiatives quickly became collective works and the business world immediately realized the benefits of these innovative methods. The formula was perfect to promote, for example, a corporate image. It was very good: cheap, natural and fresh. According to Jacob, De la Croix and Hallet's (2010:13), the first corporate lipdub was created byU.S. web agency Connected Ventures in 2007 (Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger). A year later, this trend arrived on university campuses. The pioneer was the German University Hochschule Furtwangen. They have the honour of making the first university lipdub

Figure 2. The first university lipdub in 2008


Hochschule Furtwangen University (state of Baden-Württemberg) made the first university lipdub in 2008

Later, they also created universitylipdub.com platform, a very helpful website for people who want to get involved in these kinds of initiatives.

Lipdubs are a great and useful instrument for all non-profit groups which have the intention of expanding their ideas, social activities, or proposals around the world. In 2010 the World Records Academy certified that the Catalan video Lipdub per la Indepèndencia won the world record as the most numerous in terms of participants.

5,771 local people took part, in the town of Vic (Barcelona) in Catalonia.

Figure 3. Most numerous lipdub (in terms of participants)


This lipdub in favor of the independence of Catalonia and the Catalans Països was recorded on October 24th, 2010, in the town of Vic. The selected song is Flama and the group Obrint  Pas.

4. Viral culture

As post-modern French philosopher Guilles Lipovetsky said (Lipovetsky, Hernandez, & Lopez, 2002; Lipovetsky, Vinyoli, & Pendanx, 1995), mass consumption has revealed an entirely new way where new forms of socialization and individualization appear in all their fullness and this formula breaks the prevailing pattern which was the model in the XVII and XVIII Centuries. We live in a flexible society, where the needs of stimulation, sex, the human factor, spontaneity, humour, sympathy are essential. Hedonism is everywhere. Personal liberation, relaxation, freedom of expression, honesty... will become the new gods. Society wants to live here and now. The logic of individualism dominates everything, and the right to personal development has been made sacred by human beings. Narcissistic values are the mirror in which our society tries to finds its authentic model. We have gone from personal individualism to a totally individualistic pattern.

In the context of post-modern society, a lot of people are going to convert information and expression into an obsession. At the same time, we can be broadcaster and receiver of information, subject and object of communication. Communication has become a god, often without paying attention to the content. Express something by the simple fact of doing so. As Lipovetsky says, “we live in an empty age” (Lipovetsky et al., 2002). The flow of messages is constant but communication speed makes sustainable social conscience difficult. Nothing is permanent, everything is ephemeral. Fascination with new technologies, fashion seduction... the new attraction fascinates all sectors of society and classes. Hedonism has become the backbone of modern culture.

In that context, short, fun audio-visual messages have a good chance of being successful, because citizens are continuously looking for “something different”. That is more evident nowadays when the technological paradigm is king. Websites like YouTube or Vimeo are the perfect speakers for new phenomena such as this. Lipdubs use viral marketing and the viral culture's techniques (Del Pino, 2008). Lipdubs use social networks in order to sell products or spread services, ideas and messages. Their echo is expanded like a virus. The Internet hugely amplifies the extension of their influence. If the video is good, it could get a great audience in a short time. A large number of videos often get enormous audiences thanks to “word of mouth” communication. This way could even –in certain contexts– be more effective than the mass-media. But is all this really something new? Or are we reinventing the wheel?

Videos transmitted via lipdub or flashmob, as with the rest of expressions included in the context of CMC (Computer Mediated Communication), reflect very well the desire and need of anonymous citizens to be present in the public sphere. In contrast to the exaggerated prominence that the traditional, political, cultural, economic and social elite have in the mass media, the participants involved in this kind of videos demand a new redistribution of public spaces. They are saying: Hi! We are here!

In a strict sense, it is not possible to say that this phenomenon is something new. In fact, this occurrence has a connection with important artistic trends, like performance art, which began developing in the decade of the 60s, in the USA and in Europe (especially in France). On the other hand, experts coincide in saying that the real pioneers of performance art were really troubadours and poets of the Middle Ages (although that term was not used then). Later, in the 60’s and 70's, an important group of artists like Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and others such as Joan Jonas, used this label –performance art– to denote this expression. During these decades of the 20th century, political left wing and artistic movements used a wide range of these techniques in their urban actions or in their concerts, in order to express their emotions and statements. They were the voice of the artistic currents of the vanguard. In those performances, improvisation, creativity and collective participation were fundamental.

Today, flashmobs or smart-mobs (Rheingold, 2003) are claiming something similar. In these mobilizations, people meet in a particular place and in a specific moment without knowing each other in advance but with a clear objective. The procedure to organize these sudden (the origin of flash) mobilizations (mob) is not traditional mass media, but new technologies (mobiles or social networks). Smart-Mob is also used to emphasize that these encounters are, in fact, “intelligent people's meetings”. Thanks to this type of mobilizations, all kinds of messages and protests have been expressed or organized. In some cases they have had an important influence. This happened, for example, in Spain on March 13th, 2004. The demonstrations organized against the Government of Aznar (PP) in front of the headquarters of this party, were determinant. Through those mobilizations people protested against the massive manipulation of information attempted by the Government concerning the authorship of the attacks by Al Qaeda. According to experts, those smart or flashmobs had a great influence on the next day. On March 14th, elections took place in Spain and the PP party suffered an unexpected electoral defeat.

The mechanisms used in viral marketing and flashmob influence the expansion of lipdubs. These techniques have been used since ancient times in the world of advertising. Mattelart said that “these strategies are old stories” (Mattelart, 2000). This is very clear and evident in the case of viral marketing. In short, they are old techniques applied to new media (Del Pino, 2008). The viral effect adds novelty and grandeur to the phenomenon. Alfonso Mendiz says more (Mendiz Noguero, 2007, p. 57): Novelty is not a consequence of media formats; it’s a result of the use of them. Anyway, according to the majority of authors, it is evident that to transform the essence of a message its forms need to be revolutionized (in the words of Del-Pino, revolucionar en las formas para evolucionar en los fondos).

Viral marketing creates viral culture. Technique is very useful and valid in several contexts, not only in the business world, but also among social movements. Thanks to the Internet, the cost to individual broadcasters is very low and allows communication person to person (one to one). Furthermore, it is necessary to add the “sneezer effect”. This term is used by Godin to illustrate the contagion effect provoked by someone when he or she sneezes (Godin, 2001, 25-31). People have the tendency to assimilate new ideas quickly. It is not only that: people fascinated by this media behave more actively in the expansion of new ideas. They participate in the communication process as volunteers, both actively and spontaneously. Sneezer is a key element; it is essential for viral culture. In Godin’s opinion, these people are the heart of the idea-virus because the complicity and identification with new ideas is the key to the seduction process and to the articulation of them. There are different kinds of sneezer (Del-Pino, 2008: 68): experts, sellers, collectors, obsessive fans and amateurs. All of them are necessary for viral dissemination of ideas. Godin distinguishes only two categories of sneezer: promiscuous and powerful. The first are always open to new ideas and the dissemination of virus. In fact, they are not opinion makers; their opinion is not always taken into account, but they are very present on social networks. Sometimes they can work in exchange for money. In fact, multinational companies such as Amazon, for example, have hired promiscuous sneezers to expand its ideas through the net. Powerful sneezers, however, are pure opinion makers. They are very creative people but do not work in exchange for money. As a result, their credibility and objectivity are very highly regarded in important circles, and obviously, their opinion has a greater impact on society.

Independently of what kind of sneezer is acting, it is very clear that the dissemination of idea-virus needs the work of both of them. The more active the sneezer is, the greater the echo of the idea will be. The expansion of lipdubs is a result of this dynamic and is a direct indicator of viral culture.

5. Features and components

The following reflection is attributed to Federico Fellini: A good video is like a good wine. It lasts just a moment, leaves a taste of glory in your mouth and creates and recreates the same experience with each new taster. The quotation varies depending on its user. Some authors put film in place of video. Anyway, it is, without a doubt, an interesting thought.

It is now time to introduce another point about the necessary features and components of a good lipdub. Summarizing the principal contributions made by experts (Bosch-Dols, 2011, Johnson 2011, Del-Pino, 2007) we could say that there are seven essential features necessary for making a successful lipdub. These characteristics need another seven key components in order to achieve the main goal: social influence. Features and components are not as directly related as the table below could suggest. However, it is advisable, when editing a lipdub, to conveniently mix these components, always thinking about the following features:

Figure 4. Features and components of successful lipdub


It is important to state clearly at the outset: Making a good lipdub means hard work, involves a lot of people with minimum technical knowledge and, above all, engages people who are very clear about the message to be sent. Let us now analyze the principal features of a good lipdub: cost free, click friendly, gratifies the user, spontaneous, authentic, participatory and fun.

Cost free. The message transmitted by a lipdub must be free of charge. Otherwise, the receiver would reject it. The opposite is impossible to understand today in the era of the Internet. This culture is widespread around the world and it would be ridiculous to try to oppose it. Nowadays, the most usual and normal thing is to create free e-mail accounts, using free software and enjoying other free services on the Internet; access to the net is even free in more and more public spaces. So it would be totally crazy to think that somebody would be prepared to pay to download a lipdub.

Click friendly. Complex systems are destined to failure. Today, being on the net means being fast and easy. Time is crucial. Websites, audio files, videos, posts, must be easy to download. It is the same with lipdubs. Easy download ensures rapid extension of the message. It would be totally unthinkable to force somebody to fill in a form or a survey in order to view a video. Click friendly means few mouse clicks to achieve fast and fun results.

Gratifies the user. Crisis, negative messages and bad news are all too present today in the media, so the user of the net really appreciates pleasant sensations, good moments and relaxed atmospheres. Citizens rarely hear / read / see this kind of message in the mass media. Therefore they are necessary messages which draw a smile or generate complicity. Users of the Internet also value debate issues, reflections they can share in groups; easy messages to carry around and easy messages to transmit fast. New technology users do not accept passive attitudes. They demand to play an active part in the process of communication. The current media is dominated by the paradigm of advertising. All messages come into our homes, our computers, tablets or mobile phones without asking permission (pushing). However, receivers who consume a lipdub are guests to the pull of the message (Del-Pino, 2007: 74). The paradigm is reversed.

Spontaneous. At least that is the image which a good lipdub should transmit. It is like someone suddenly had a brilliant idea and he or she was able to put it on a video; or as if someone took a video camera and began recording images spontaneously; or if someone convinced a group of friends to sing a well known song in playback. This is not true. In spite of the image of freshness suggesting the contrary, there is normally a lot of hard, quality work behind a good lipdub. An example of spontaneity was the first lipdub done by Jakob Lodwick, a self-recorded playback of the song Flagpole sitta.

Authentic. People who are involved in the video, who are performing, who are making the video have to spread an image of truthfulness, because the sensation of authenticity is essential for the success of the message. For that, it is decisive that participants are very clear about what exactly is the main purpose of what they are doing, what is the key of their “performed madness". In short, they need to believe in the project. Otherwise, too much time and a lot of energy and resources will be wasted. And today, nobody likes wasting time.

Participatory. Today, the average number of participants in a lipdub is around 200 people. This is a lot of people. A project like this requires a large number of accomplices. But, although quantity is important, more important are the people's mood and attitude. While the project is being carried out, the harmony and good feeling among participants are essential.

Fun. People who are taking part in the lipdub have to enjoy the situation. This atmosphere has to be reflected in a natural way, without over-acting. If, during the recording, participants feel good, if they are really having fun, it is much easier to achieve the main objective. Then, the circle is completed.

These characteristics are not sufficient to create an attractive and successful lipdub. Based on these features, it is necessary to consider the following components in order to achieve the perfect video. These are the following: Specific, powerful and imaginative message, enthusiastic activists, well-known song, adequate direction, a minimum of technical resources, appropriate duration and wide social diffusion.

Specific, powerful and imaginative message. Before making the lipdub, it is essential to know what it is being made for, what are the objectives and values being spread, who is the potential target group and how far the promoters want to go with this initiative. The message should be straightforward, not complex, without needing additional interpretation. As mentioned above, current society requires everything “here and now”. At the same time, the message should be powerful and clear. If it is vague, indirect or difficult to interpret, the possibilities of achieving success are ridiculous. Imagination, creativity, humour, intrigue, irony and complicity are also welcome. In addition, if the message is emotive and touches the heart, all the better to achieve the aim much more easily. The rules used in advertising are also useful here. The leaders of the project may have a brilliant idea, but if they do not do the work with the correct format, the result could be a complete disaster. It is essential to respect the features and the idiosyncrasy of the promoter group. There are many types of lipdub: set in university campuses, corporate lipdubs, political, or those that only want to have fun... Each one has its peculiar strategy, but all of them have the same goal: to spread a clear and specific message.

Enthusiastic activists. This type of video is not improvised. Although when people view the video a sensation of improvisation is transmitted, the reality is quite different. It is necessary to have the complicity of an enthusiastic activist group, a team ready to work hard; people able to share ideas, human beings who believe in concrete projects, in teamwork. Making a good lipdub means a lot of meetings and many contacts. Voluntary work is normally the rule as there is no money for activists. They are citizens working in favour of an idea or in defence of a specific project. For that reason, it is very important that the pioneers are actually a sneezer team, a group of entrepreneurs, and enthusiastic people capable of overcoming difficulties and beating possible setbacks. Their energy has to be contagious and expansive. We have to take into account that the participation of the maximum number of people is fundamental in this kind of initiative. Therefore, the initiators’ core has to be powerful, dynamic and enthusiastic. The main goal is clear: access to a massive public.

Well-known song. The song selection is determinant. The song is the driver of the video, the axis around which everything pivots. It is a crucial piece. The song will mark the profile of the target group and will define the seduction strategy of the audience. If the selected song is well known, the possibilities of seducing a massive audience will be greater. The songs used in lipdubs are usually very popular. The objective is to invite the viewer to take part in the performance, to feel the same sensations that the participants are experiencing in the video. The most used styles are pop and rock, but they are not the only ones. The minimum characteristics of a successful song should be the following: well-known, great rhythm, appropriate melody and a chorus which is easy to remember. With these components, success will be easier to obtain.

Adequate direction. There are important differences among lipdubs. Nowadays there are companies dedicated to producing lipdubs professionally. In spite of the majority of the work being voluntary, the technical resources are usually insufficient. Every lipdub needs a director with a minimum level of experience in the audiovisual world., The director should at least have some knowledge of art, image, sound, edition and photography. The team manager has many tasks to guide and coordinate related with pre-production, production and post-production of the film. The director cannot manage everything. Each task needs one or more people responsible for it. The director has to reach a consensus on a timeline with the rest of the work team. This is very helpful and necessary.

Minimum technical resources. A minimum of technical resources is essential to make a lipdub. For example a steadicam, a portable music system and video-editing programme. The last two can be very cheap or free. The first one, however, is more expensive. Steadicam is a brand of camera-stabilizing mount for motion picture cameras that mechanically isolates it from the operator's movement, allowing for a smooth shot even when moving quickly over an uneven surface. During the recording of the video, the direction team has to carry with them the portable music system, close to the steadicam. While the song plays, participants walk through the designated itinerary and do lip sync as best they can, following the lyrics of the song. In theory, lipdubs have to be done in a single unedited shot (shot filmmaking), but this requirement is often not fulfilled. It is advisable to record the video at least twice. In this way, any problems in the performance can be corrected later. After recording, a video editing process is required. There are several programmes to do this, many of them are also free software. This programme should allow the song to be added later. In this way, the recorded sound is replaced by the original song. These minimum technical resources will improve the quality of the lipdub.

Appropriate duration. As Fellini said, a good video lasts just a moment, but it has to be a 'taste of glory' moment. How can we measure that moment? The most successful lipdubs on the net last between three and ten minutes. There are exceptions, of course; videos that last more than 10 minutes, but they are special cases. It is much more difficult for those videos to maintain the attention of the receivers. It is very easy to escape from them.

Wide social diffusion. The work does not finish with the editing of the lipdub, or with the uploading of it to YouTube or Vimeo. After that, the communication plan to make the video visible on the Internet begins. All the techniques related with the promotion of the product, connected with the tools of web 2.0 and with e-marketing are essential. That supposes a variety of tasks; for example the immediate uploading of the video to the organizer's website, a strategy designed to place the lipdub in a good position thanks to the correct use of the net's browsers and the use of social networks to improve the relevance of the video until it achieves the category of favourite lipdub. On the other hand, there are other interesting techniques available: the sending of a press release about the work to the media interested in it because the issue is close to them, or the massive distribution via e-mail of a short message announcing the uploading of the video to potentially interested organizations and/or individuals.
This formula does not guarantee complete success. Perhaps it is also necessary to define success or the way of measuring it. Maybe it would be more effective to speak about “social influence” rather than “success”.

6. Analysed lipdubs

Having outlined the features and components of a good lipdub, we can now examine four examples that, for different reasons, obtained significant notoriety on the Internet. Mainly, the criteria used for this selection were three: the impact on the net (visits on YouTube), number of participants in the video and a nationwide viewpoint (the most successful lipdub in the Basque Country until 2012,). This research has only taken into account videos categorized as lipdub. That means that other kind of expressions, like flashmobs, or music-videos haven’t been examined here because they were outside our main objectives, and because that research would suppose the implementation of a different methodology.

The research provides two different data in terms of number of visits: total visits and visits per day. The study was carried out on 5th January 2012. In accordance with the criteria mentioned above, the four lipdubs analyzed were as follows:

Table 1. Analysed lipdubs


This work systematizes the analysis through the use of a chart for all cases. Some videos showed more data than others due to the editors putting their statistics on-line. Thanks to that, it was possible to know, for example, the profile of receivers and which were the most popular areas where the video was watched. The proposed chart of analysis shows different data gathered in four sections: general data, participants, features of the song and other interesting information.

6.1. I Gotta Feeling (UQAM)

The first analyzed lipdub is I gotta Feeling (UQAM). It was the most visited lipdub on YouTube on 5th January 2012.

The video was made on 10th September, 2009. 172 new young students of the Faculty of Communication at UQAM (Université du Quebec a Montreal) took part in the shoot. The reason was to show “Initiation week”. The filmmakers, Luc-Olivier Cloutier and Marie- Eve Hébert, needed two hours and fifteen minutes to make the video recording. It is unknown how much time was necessary for the preparation of the video. At the beginning of 2012, the video had registered almost ten million visits only on YouTube. The key reasons for that could be the following: the frenetic rhythm of a well-known song, the implication of the participants, and especially the young, informal and festive atmosphere which surrounds the whole event. The resources used are not especially relevant.

 Table 2. I Gotta Feeling


The lip sync of the participants is not particularly good, but what is very evident is the desire of all of them to enjoy the party. In other University lipdubs, the presence of teachers was discreet. Here if it does exist it is not noticeable. Most of the protagonists are young girls. It is evident that during the recording of the video all the participants had a great time.

 Figure 5. Caption of I Gotta Feeling


Students of Quebec during the video recording.

The chosen song makes everything easier. The Black Eyed Peas is a very famous US group that plays American hip-hop, rap, R & B, pop and electronic music. They formed in Los Angeles in 1995 and have won six Grammy awards. In two years, the official music video of the song I Gotta Feeling had 107 million visits on YouTube (January 2012). When the students of Quebec uploaded their work, the official video was not on YouTube. It was uploaded on 22nd December 2009. Therefore, it can be said that the students of UQAM were pioneers. The official video is not a lipdub; it is a music video, made with good resources. The iconography is perfect and the sensual magnetism is very present in all parts of the 4 minutes and 52 seconds that it lasts. Without a doubt, that is the key to explaining its success.

Turning to the lipdub, the video of the students of UQAM had 19,495 comments on 5th January 2012. They were written in English and French. The majority were in favour, but not all. The language often marked the profile of the comments. In spite of the original song being in English, at the end the participants repeated the song's chorus (that tonight’s gonna be a good night), but in French (que cette soir sera une bonne soirée). It appears that some of the Anglo-Saxon population of Canada disliked this detail. In fact this was the origin of some xenophobic and/or sexist comments such as the following: French Canadian? Even worse; Ugh, French Canadians; f8enf9enThere are some hot women at this University. Too bad they're French. These comments reveal that the identity of Quebec is difficult to accept for some Anglo-Saxon people. Other comments criticise the defence of alcohol consumption that the video players seem to make.

This lipdub had an important echo both on social networks and in the Canadian media (Anglophone and Francophone). Even a year later the video continued generating reports in the media. The stars of The Black Eyes Peas also praised the work done by the students of UQAM.

Figure 6. Media coverage of I Gotta Feeling


CNN channel broadcast about the success of the lipdub.

6.2. The Grand Rapids

This Lipdub is a landmark in the history of this kind of video. At the beginning of 2012, it held the record for the number of visits per day (nearly 20,000). Both the resources used and the participation were really extraordinary. It was made on 22nd May 2011 and four days later was uploaded on YouTube. In spite of holding the “New World Record” due to, according to their data, more than 5,000 people taking part in the video recording, in fact this is not totally exact. The World Records Academy recognizes this title as belonging to the Catalonian video Lipdub Independència in which 5,771 people took part. However, all the details of The Gran Rapids video are very impressive and well done. Here is the chart with the principal data:

 Table 3. The Grand Rapids


Grand Rapids is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. It has a population of around 200,000. Kent County is the administrative centre. Newsweek weekly magazine published on its website a report entitled Grand Rapids dying city. The report illustrated the theoretical decline of the city based on data extracted from the census. The work made the citizens’ blood boil. It provoked a lot of negative comments and criticism on social networks and mobilized social actors against it. The lipdub was the result of this anger. Aware of the sensation created by the report, Newsweek had to give explanations. They said that, in fact, it was not a work done by the magazine’s journalists, but by professionals of the website mainstreet.com. However, Newsweek accepted the publication of the report based on the agreement that they had with the mentioned website. In any case, they accepted that the published work did not really reflect the atmosphere of the city. They even applauded the initiative and declared they were in love with the lipdub.

The whole city was mobilized by this lipdub, from the mayor of the town to the fire brigade. The city centre came to a standstill for some hours. Throughout the video, different cultural and sports groups show their complicity with the initiative, with very visual demonstrations and fashionable performances. The aim of the project was to demonstrate that Gran Rapids was synonymous with fun and energy and not a dying city. Four factors were the key in this work: the implication of the participants, the art direction and production of the video, the selection of a well-known song and the support of important sponsors.

Figure 7. Caption of The Grand Rapids lipdub


Citizens of Grand Rapids (State of Michigan, USA) lip synching American Pie.

The implication of the participants. This factor was crucial. It was the necessary spark which lit the fuse. People were upset with the report and wanted to express their opinion. But they considered their reaction carefully. They did not want to organize a reactive answer; they preferred a pro-active reaction, charged with positive energy. Today our society is overcome with negative energy, therefore the receivers are grateful for messages with other connotations. Thanks to this lipdub, now we know that in this US state, apart from the lakes of Detroit and Michigan, there is a city called Grand Rapids, a creative and active town capable of reaction against a misinformed report. Without a doubt, this initiative helped to put this city on the map.

Art direction and production. The director, producer and editor of this video were Rob Bliss, Scott Erickson and SEF video company respectively. Their experience and leadership was essential for the success of the project. They created a professional, high quality product. This impetus was determinant in explaining the echo that the lipdub immediately achieved, as much in social media as in other areas of the Internet. The credits which appear at the end of the video illustrate the special awareness and dedication invested in the idea.

The selected song. American Pie was listed as the No. 5 song on the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) project Songs of the Century. American Pie is Don McLean's magnum opus and his signature song. He wrote it in 1971 and it tells the story of The Day the Music Died (on 3rd February 1959, as a result of a plane crash, the rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper –Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.– died). The parallelism between the hypothetical dying city and the theoretical the Day the Music Died was sufficient to ignite the spark of creativity. All experts agree the song is one of the major musical contributions to U.S. cultural heritage.

Support of sponsors. The long list of sponsors that appears at the end of the video illustrates the scandal provoked by the Newsweek report. The initiative had a budget of $40,000 (31,492 euro), money which was collected thanks to the voluntary work of a wide group of people. There were different levels among the sponsors: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. The money collected made it possible to use important material resources. An example of this were the final images taken by a helicopter.

All these factors explain the success of the lipdub. Another piece of information is that only 1.92% disliked the video. That is the lowest rate among all the lipdubs analyzed in this work. Important U.S. media such as NBC, ABC television broadcasters (among others), many newspapers and radio stations covered the echo achieved by the video in the social media. In all cases, the media highlighted the work of director Rob Bliss.

6.3. Lipdub - Independència - World Record (Official)

This is a lipdub in favour of independence for Catalonian countries. It was recorded on 24th October 2010; in the city of Vic. According to the World Records Academy, this video holds the title of most people participating in a lipdub due to the 5,771 people who took part in the recording. However, it is necessary to say that the Guinness Book of Records does not recognize the record yet. Apart from the controversy about official records, it is evident that it is a very populous and colourful video which had a very large and fast impact on the Internet.

The promoters of this initiative were varied. More than 30 different groups were among the promoters: separatist groups, small and medium companies, sports organizations, cultural groups and institutions like the Council of Vic, for example. The video’s main objective was to spread around the world the idea that Catalan countries have the right to self-determination and, therefore, they aspire to being an independent state. This statement was based on the peculiarities that characterize these countries, such as their common idiosyncrasy, language, and own culture. The recording in the narrow streets of the medieval part of Vic was complex. There were many people in a very little space. The organization was vital and the volunteers needed to overcome technical difficulties. Nevertheless, the organizers were not happy with the first recording and made a second one. The director and editor were Daniel Feixas and Santi Hausmann respectively. The screenwriter and stage manager was Giorgina Rieradevall i Tarres.Here is the chart with the principal data.

Table4. Lipdub-Independència


The keys of this successful lipdub are the following: the enthusiasm of all the participants, the significant choreography promoting the Catalonian identity, the frenetic rhythm imposed by the well-known song, the special effort made to get maximum expansion of the video using multilingual subtitles and the quality of the product.

Enthusiasm. All the 5,771 participants who took part in the recording worked with great enthusiasm, from the first minute until the end. That is very palpable in the video.

Identity. During the video several significant elements of the Catalan culture like gegants, gegantons, castellers, sardanistes, capgrossos, bastoners… appear among separatist symbols. The festive atmosphere contributes to the natural manifestation of emotions and feelings. As several comments say, there are some moments when the video can make your hair stand on end. At the end, all the participants join together in the main square of Vic, to sing Els Segadors, the national hymn of Catalonia while they demand Independence.

Figure 8. 1st caption of Lipdub independència


Expressions of Catalonian identity are continuous throughout the video.

The song. The symbiosis between the objective of the lipdub and the message of the song is perfect. The rhythm imposed by the song The flame adds vitality to the video and makes the viewing easier. Another important factor is the appropriate duration: 06:36. Obrint Pas (Breaking Through) is the author of the song. They are a group from Valencia who play a mixture of rock, ska and reggae with dulzaina (a traditional instrument) rhythms, always in the Catalan language. The group helped with the production of the lipdub.

Figure 9. 2nd caption of Lipdub independència


Rhythm and vitality are very present.

Multilingual diffusion. From the beginning the authors of the video were clear that they wanted the maximum diffusion of their product and for that a multilingual perspective was essential. They used subtitles in eight languages: Basque, French, Galician, Spanish, English, Italian, Catalan and Korean and showed information about the video in nine (all those mentioned plus the Asturian language).

Figure 10. 3rd caption of Lipdub independència


Subtitles are in eight languages, among them Korean.

Professional quality. The video shows tidy and careful production. The participants demonstrate quite good lip sync. The image definition is the highest: 1080p HD.

When the research was made, the statistics of the video were on line. That was an important novelty. Thanks to that, Internet users could discover, for example, that the progress of visits was quite continuous and homogeneous in this case and how the profile of the audience was characterized by a majority of men aged between 35-64 years old. It seems like the political connotations of the video, apparently, seduced more men than women, or it is simply that men use the Internet more than women

Another data is the considerable number of comments (65,139). Among them, opposing points of view are very evident. There are very effusive comments in favour and against, and a significant number of people do not like the video (12.90%). It is evident that the Catalonian nationalist profile of the lipdub mobilized the Spanish nationalist view in its most enthusiastic perspective.

This video is a clear statement in favour of a concrete political and cultural idea. That does not fit in with other lipdubs available on the Internet where the mainstreams are hedonism and post-modernism.

6.4. Lipdub Kukutza

The promoters of this lipdub show the different activities that they used to do in the Youth Centre called Kukutza III, located in the district of Errekalde, in Bilbao. In 1998, youth groups from Errekalde occupied an abandoned old factory. This kind of occupation is quite normal in a lot of districts of the Basque Country. The building had four flours and 6,000 square metres. After the occupation, local youth groups managed the building through a self-management system until 21st September 2011. On that day, amid significant controversy, Kukutza III was demolished following a judicial order and using an important display of police force. During the thirteen years that Kukutza III was working, the place came to be an active reference of underground culture. Apart from traditional music concerts, all kinds of workshops and courses were organized there. The objectives were very diverse: juggling, puppet shows, traditional Basque dances, sebillanas dances, body expression, children, youth and adult activities, climbing wall, library, mechanics courses, medicine, plants, electricity workshops, second hand shop, vegetarian restaurant (where after finishing, all users had to wash their own dishes), theatre, etc. Thousands and thousands of people visited and used Kukutza III; people of all ages: children, young and elderly people. International demonstrations and meetings were organized there; for example, about circus or about juggling. Moreover, Kukutza III was a stage for poetry recitals, theatre performances and other cultural events. The local managers were committed to various ideas, one of those being particularly memorable: all possible economic benefits derived from performances held in that place were to be used to improve or maintain the building.

The initiative of the lipdub arose from the bosom of the Kukutza III. As a consequence of the claim presented in Court by the owner of the abandoned factory, the threat of evacuation and subsequent demolition increased considerably. In that context, the most active groups of Kukutza III decided to make a lipdub. On the one hand, they wanted to communicate all the different activities held in the building and, on the other hand, they used the video to mobilize people against the probable imminent demolition. Through this lipdub, they specifically wanted to expand a social network in order to promote the international demonstration announced on July 16th 2011, in Bilbao. The video was uploaded on July 2nd 2011, and was immediately successful on the net, becoming the most viewed lipdub in the Basque Country at the beginning of 2012 with nearly 200,000 visits.

Table 5. Lipdub Kukutza


According to statistics on line, during the first two and a half months, the number of visits was good, but the events which happened around 21st September 2011 were determinant in the explosion of the size of the audience. The traumatic evacuation of the building, its demolition and the subsequent serious incidents (dozens of people were wounded and arrested by the Autonomous Police) were televised and they had an important echo in the public opinion. As a result of that, in the next two months, the number of visits nearly quadrupled.

The controversy provoked by the police intervention attached an added value to the lipdub. In fact, after the demolition, the message of the video was clear: “Power destroyed this free space”.

Figure 11.1st caption of Lipdub Kukutza


The video shows different activities carried out in the Youth Centre Kukutza III (Bilbao)

The video has three very different parts. The first one lasts one and half minutes and runs without music. The only accompaniment is the environmental noise. In this part, some people appear going to the youth centre using different forms of transport: cycles, skateboards, wheelchairs, etc. Before entering the building, some circus characters on stilts and acrobats turn their attention to the camera. The second part begins after 01:33, just at the moment when the music starts playing and the camera enters the building. The song is Kukutza III like the place name and the author is the group called Zea Mays, born in the same district as the youth centre, in Errekalde (Bilbao). The song was / is very famous especially among Basque young people and it was made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of that space. The principal vocalist is Aiora Renteria, the singer of Zea Mays but she is not the only protagonist. Together with her, other vocalists and groups put their voices to the song: Naroa (group Amaiur), Fenómenos de la Naturaleza rap group and the well known Basque rock groups Berri Txarrak and Ken Zazpi. The third part begins at 7 minutes and 21 seconds into the video. The camera arrives at the top of the building, on the flat roof. From there, the view that appears below is a square where a hundred young people move their bodies following the contagious and lively rhythm of batukada percussion. At the same time, the video viewer is warned of the danger of possible imminent demolition and is encouraged to take part in the international demonstration announced for July 16th. Thus concludes the video after 10:34.

The necessary keys to understanding the success of this video are the following: the events surrounding the demolition on 21st September, the selected song and the enthusiasm demonstrated by the participants.

Events post-demolition. These incidents received important attention both in the Basque and Spanish media. Thousands of people were mobilized in Errekalde and the whole city against the announced demolition. The police intervention was seriously criticized from different sectors. Dozens of young people were arrested and injured. Due to this attention, a local issue was transformed into a global event. The severity of the police intervention provoked solidarity demonstrations in the whole of the Basque Country. The visits on YouTube rocketed.

The selected song. If, before the building demolition the selected song was appropriate, it was much more so afterwards. The song's chorus makes its particular contribution taupada bakoitzaz koloreztatuz zuri beltza (with each heart beat colouring black / white); taupada bakoitzaz irribarre bat (one smile for each heartbeat). The underlying philosophy which appears throughout the song facilitates the propagation of the message: –deiak bultzatuz erabakiak, ideiak batuz eraikia, ideiak nahastuz zabaldua– (take decisions promoting calls, build projects joining ideas, spread feelings mixing ideas).

Enthusiasm. From the first moment, the atmosphere of complicity among all the participants is very evident. They believed in what they were doing and this harmony increases throughout the video. The proximity of the demolition emphasized much more the necessity to appear enthusiastic and effusive.

Nevertheless, the video has some aspects which can be criticized; for example, the absence of subtitles and credits at the end, and the long duration. (Another political lipddub such as the video made in Vic, for example, had subtitles in eight different languages. That was one of the most important keys to its success: its multilingualism and its making of video.) Apart from that, the long duration of the video makes a complete viewing difficult. Before concluding, it is also worth mentioning that the lip sync of some of the participants is not very good. 

Nevertheless, this is a very meritorious work, an example of what collective management is capable of achieving and, above all, an example of the arbitrariness of power.

Figure 12. 2nd caption of Lipdub Kukutza


Another moment from the video.


7. Main conclusions

1. Six years after its birth, lipdub continues to be a phenomenon in permanent growth on the Internet. As has happened with other similar expressions included in the context of CMC (Computer Mediated Communication), its success is due to a desire and need of anonymous citizens to be present in the public sphere. In a strict sense, it is not possible to say that this phenomenon is something new, but a re-edition of old trends popularized in the 60s and 70s like, for example, art-performance. In this case novelty is not a consequence of media formats; but a result of the use of them. The viral culture protects this phenomenon and, thanks to the sneezer effect, incredibly amplifies its echo in society.

2. The four analyzed lipdubs show a flexible society; a pattern where the needs of the human factor, spontaneity, humour, friendliness, free expression of feelings, a mixture between a festive and clamorous atmosphere and the demand for social recognition are essential. Hedonism is everywhere. The logic of individualism dominates everything. The right to personal development has been made sacred by human beings. Narcissistic values are the mirror in which our society tries to finds its authentic model. As Guilles Lipovetsky says we have gone from personal individualism to a total individualistic pattern.

3. In spite of this dominant individualistic pattern, the analyzed lipdubs show the necessity of wider social sectors to create new spaces in the public sphere, using new instruments of social communication in which the subjects are common citizens and not the political, social, cultural, artistic or sporting elite. Nowadays a wide spectrum of social movements uses lipdubs as an efficient instrument in order to get more social influence and as a way of overcoming the invisibility with which the mass-media often punishes them, expelling them from the mainstream tendencies

4. Lipdubs are a specifically appropriate tool to attract the attention of young people. They are the main protagonists in the majority of videos. Moreover, they are compulsive consumers of new technologies and traditionally reluctant to be convinced by conventional methods. In addition to that, it is necessary to take into account the attraction ignited by the spark of social agitation among young people. In fact, many lipdubs have their origin in a situation that their promoters consider unjust or removed from reality. That situation acts like a glimmer of energy capable of converting negatively connoted events or ideas into positively charged actions. This phenomenon is very evident, for example, in the last three lipdubs.

5. The four analyzed lipdubs show that the Internet audience recognizes the quality in the production of this type of artistic expression. In addition to an appropriate duration, well known song and a contagious rhythm it is very necessary to consider other factors like image definition, production quality (technical resources used, the work and the number of participants, lighting, photography, etc.) and the presence of other complementary information like multilingual subtitles, credits at the end, statistics on line, making of video, etc.

6. Looking to the future, it is possible to predict that this phenomenon will continue at least in the next few years. If lipdubs are able to respond to the challenges that constantly arise from new technologies, new formats and new media, the survival of this kind of video is ensured. The Lipdubs of the future will be shorter, more spectacular, more massive and equipped with better technical resources. Social movements have an important ally in lipdubs, a necessary instrument to expand their social influence, a tool to make visible the invisible. That is becoming more important nowadays in a context where, as Ignacio Ramonet says, the transition from the mass-media to a mass of media is an increasingly evident reality.


The author of this article would like to underline the essential collaboration of Angela Jones in the final English version of the text. This work has contributed to a better understanding of the article.

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T. Ramírez-de-la-Piscina-Martínez (2013): “Lipdubs as a tool to conquer social influence. A study of four paradigmatic cases made in Quebec, USA, Catalonia and the Basque Country”, at  Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 68. La Laguna (Tenerife): La Laguna University, pages 054 to 086 retrieved on ___ de ___th of ____ of 2_______, from  http://www.revistalatinacs.org/068/paper/ 969_UPV/03_Ramirezen.html
DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-2013-969en/ CrossRef link

Article received on 22 November 2012. Submitted to pre-review on 25 November. Sent to reviewers on 29 November. Accepted on 19 December 2012. Galley proofs made available to the authors on 27 December 2012. Approved by authors on: 3 January 2012. Published on 8 January 2013.

Note: the DOI number is part of the bibliographic references and it must be cited if you cited this article.