By now, you've probably heard something of the Ali Spagnola saga: Well-intentioned Carnegie Mellon art student makes and markets a "power hour" drinking-game album of 60 original one-minute songs. She receives a cease-and-desist letter for using the trademarked term "power hour," spends three years (and $30,000 of her own money) fighting and eventually winning a legal battle to free the term for herself and future generations of party-minded college students, and becomes Internet-famous in the process.
You won't believe what happens next.
"I'm moving to L.A.," she says.
"I've got to make the follow-up to The Power Hour Album."
For a couple more weeks, at least, Spagnola is still in Pittsburgh. When I met with her recently at a South Side coffeeshop, she was dressed in jeans and a pink Power Ranger hoodie. "I was actually wearing this last night at the strip club," she told me. "That's how awesome I am today."
The strip-club visit was the latest of Spagnola's "Snapchat Stunts," which basically involve Ali and some friends going out and acting a fool. Anybody can watch it unfold in near real-time on Snapchat, or later on YouTube.
Today, Spagnola has well over 1.4 million followers on Twitter. Her Vine account, launched last April, numbers more than 360,000. That places Spagnola in the top 650 Vine users worldwide, a few spots above the likes of Zac Efron and Will Ferrell.
"I think most of my followers just think I'm a comedian," says Spagnola, "or like, make free jokes on the Internet for a living, which is not the case. There are plenty of times when they'll be like, ‘Oh, you do music too?'"
It's not hard to understand the misconception. Aside from the live power hour and the occasional cover song on YouTube, Spagnola's musical pursuits have been limited as of late. Her most recent album is still The Power Hour Album, released in 2011 — a lifetime ago in the social-media age, especially for someone with four albums under her belt.
"The app came up," she explains, referring to the mobile version she designed of The Power Hour Album, "and other stuff too. I was touring; I was doing comedy."
Until recently, Spagnola served as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Crew. "It's like ice dancing if janitors did it," she jokes. "I wanted to make some viral incident about getting fired from the Pens, but instead it was, you know, a pleasant resignation letter."
"My most legit job right now is Fandango," she says. "I make music videos for them about their upcoming movies. We've only done one so far, and it was to announce Transformers 4. I basically rapped through the first three Transformers movies in two minutes, so you don't have to watch them before you see the fourth one."
Since then, Fandango released a second music video written by Spagnola. In it, she plays a crazed Hunger Games fan camped outside a theater three weeks prior to the Mockingjay, Part One premiere. It's concise, clever, catchy and just the right amount of corny — everything that's made her so popular thus far.
The ultimate goal, Spagnola says, is nothing less than pop stardom.
"That's what I'm going for," she says. "To keep whatever Internet presence that I have, but make some music that still resonates."