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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next, let's talk for a moment about child stars - in particular, child music stars.

(Soundbite of song, "ABC")

INSKEEP: Michael Jackson was nine when he became a star. We're listening to "ABC," the Jackson 5's number hit from 1970. And then there's Stevie Wonder.

(Soundbite of song, "Fingertips")

Mr. STEVIE WONDER (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) Clap your hands just a little bit louder. Clap your hands just a little bit louder...

INSKEEP: Stevie Wonder got his start at age 13.

Now, these days, all it takes is a video going viral to make a kid famous. But when it comes to pint-sized entertainers, Internet fame doesn't necessarily make you a star when you grow up.

Brandon McFarland reports.

BRANDON MCFARLAND: You've all heard of those child performers whose uber-involved parents are convinced their baby should be a star. YouTube is the perfect vehicle for that. Parents can just upload a video to YouTube of their kid's act - the cuter the better.

(Soundbite of music)

LI'L P-NUT (Rapper and Singer): (Singing) You might be the one for me.

MCFARLAND: Exhibit A: Li'l P-Nut. This seven-year-old rapper has the swagger of a teen heartthrob and the manners of a Southern gentleman. He's been rapping, singing and dancing his way to millions of YouTube views, and recently made the leap to a daytime television cameo, performing on the "Ellen" show.

LI'L P-NUT: (Rapping) I know for sure you might be the one for me.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

LI'L P-NUT: Yeah, yeah.

MCFARLAND: This kid has more charisma in his baby teeth than most people could ever dream of. Think Kinzo(ph) tabletops meets "Star Search."

The challenge for young entertainers is sustaining a fan base that tends to outgrow them quickly. The careers of other young rappers, like Little Bow Wow and Li'l Romeo went downhill after they hit 16.

Jeff Rabhan, chair of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music.

Mr. JEFF RABHAN (Chairman, Clive Davis School of Recording Music ): Yeah, the 12-year-old girls that love the 15-year-old boys, when they turn 15, they don't love 18-year-old boys. They love the 22-year-old boys.

MCFARLAND: Adults aren't as fickle as kids. That means it's a safer bet for a musical youth to go straight for an adult audience.

(Soundbite of music)

MINI DADDY (Singer): (Singing) Hey. Hey...

MCFARLAND: Mini Daddy, age nine, specializes in reggaeton, a genre engineered for shaking your booty on the dance floor. In his music video, "El Nino Mas Bonito," he's outfitted with dark shades and platinum chains. He's even got two eight-year-old girls in cutoff shorts dancing behind him. And he's earned four-and-a-half million views on YouTube.

(Soundbite of song, "El Nino Mas Bonito")

MINI DADDY: (Singing in Spanish)

MCFARLAND: I don't know what the kid's saying out of those chubby cheeks, but the shock value of watching him puts him right up there next to the chain-smoking toddler.

(Soundbite of song, "El Nino Mas Bonito")

MINI DADDY: (Singing in Spanish)

MCFARLAND: But the flame of those viral videos is usually short-lived.

A word to aspiring musicians: Becoming a novelty almost guarantees the next effort will flop. It's a laughing-at-you-not-with-you kind of a thing. Here you are thinking you've arrived, and to your so-called fans, you're a spectacle. And when they stop laughing, your 15 minutes of fame are over.

(Soundbite of song, "Whip My Hair")

Ms. WILLOW SMITH (Singer): (Singing) I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth.

MCFARLAND: People will look at anything on YouTube. But there needs to be a strategy in place to catapult an amazing talent. Like Willow Smith, actors Will and Jada Smith's 10-year-old daughter.

(Soundbite of song, "Whip My Hair")

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) I'm going to get more shine in a little bit, soon as I hit the stage. Applause, I'm hearing it...

MCFARLAND: Little Willow, due in large part to her inherited celebrity, is the only kid that has a reliable shot at longevity right now. But Lil P-Nut and Mini Daddy have a foot in the door and more fans than they started with. Now, they just need to maintain the hustle that goes with that flow.

For NPR News, I'm Brandon McFarland.

(Soundbite of song, "Whip My Hair")

Ms. WILLOW SMITH (Singer): (Singing) My hair, I know I'll be fine....

INSKEEP: Brandon McFarland is a music journalist for Turnstile, an online news service from Youth Radio.

(Soundbite of song, "Whip My Hair")

Ms. WILLOW SMITH (Singer): (Singing) I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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