Is Pitbull REALLY a Digital ICON?

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On Sunday night the Streamy Awards issued four very special prizes to individuals in new media who exemplified important traits. These ICON Awards went to creators who embodied the qualities of Inspiration, Activism, Entrepreneurship, and Convergence. Michelle Phan, Tyler Oakley, and Shay Carl respectively took home the first three prizes but it was the fourth winner that made social media sit up and say “huh?!” The ICON Award for Convergence, in this case meaning the bringing together of the worlds of traditional and new media, went to hip-hop recording artist Armando Christian Pérez better known as Pitbull.

On a night that honored online creators, naming Pitbull as an ICON alongside Michelle Phan, Tyler Oakley, and Shay Carl felt a bit…out of place. It’s a sentiment that was echoed on Twitter with dozens of tweets starting with “Wut?” “Why?” and “Uhh?” So obviously NMR set out the answer the question on everyone’s mind: what makes Pitbull an ICON in convergence between new media and old?

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A quick trip through the NMR archives provided the first clue. Pitbull is one of the first mainstream artists to actively embrace new media stars. His most recent music video for the single “Fireball” featured guest appearances by YouTubers Jenna Marbles and Bart Baker as well as Vine star Brittany Furlan. More important than the collaboration itself is the force that brought it about — namely Endemol Beyond USA, the multi-channel network that Pitbull has partnered with. Endemol, as you may remember is also the home of YouTube superstar and fellow ICON Award recipient Michelle Phan. Pitbull is among a growing roster of mainstream celebrities like Courtney Love and Julian Lennon, who have inked deals with the MCN to take their careers to the next level online.

That Endemol deal isn’t just about YouTuber’s busting a move in music videos. Pitbull and Endemol will also develop digital and television content together through the hip hop star’s production company Honey, I’m Home. The Streamy Awards also cite Pitbulls continued interest in the world of digital entertainment and his role launching eMerge Americas, a Miami based technology and entertainment conference which “aims to serve as the preeminent innovative thought exchange and to transform Miami into the technological hub of the Americas” according to the organization’s website.

The jury may still be out of Pitbull’s digital icon status among online video fans, but his resume definitely speaks to a higher than average level of engagement and interest in digital entertainment. Whether he’s a leader in the industry or not his involvement points to an important trend. More mainstream stars are putting a digital career at the top of their agenda and that’s going to mean taking a stronger interest in the creators and networks that already inhabit that space which could be good news for everyone, including the Streamys crowd.