YouTube stars are living proof that talent is a marketable commodity.
THEY are bona fide stars by now but Canadian boy wonder Justin Bieber and Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle first gained worldwide attention via the video-sharing website YouTube.
Their inspirational stories bear repeating here. Mum had in 2007 uploaded the then-12-year-old Bieber’s cover rendition of a popular hit at a local-level singing competition onto YouTube for friends and family to watch. She continued to post further videos of Bieber doing covers of other hits, and it gained the youngster a growing audience online.
Bieber’s break came in 2008 when talent scout Scooter Braun viewed his performance on the Internet and tracked him down, taking him to auditions in the United States and helping him net a recording contract, eventually becoming his manager.
Since then, Bieber, who is now 15, has released several singles and an album. The music video of his hit Baby has been viewed more than 330 million times over YouTube at last count, and according to several counts, is currently the most-watched video of all time.
The unemployed Boyle’s audition performance of I Dreamed A Dream on reality TV programme Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 was posted on the Internet and became an instant hit. In just nine days, the video was viewed over 90 million times on 20 different websites.
Boyle’s success on the Internet has translated into success in the real world – her début album has sold over nine million copies worldwide since its November 2009 release, a feat on many different levels, among them the best début album in Britain and the best début album in a decade in the United States.
The talents of the two Internet stars are evident, Boyle for her tremendous singing voice and Bieber for his musical ability – he had taught himself to play instruments such as the piano, drums and guitar.
Boyle and Bieber are not the only cyber stars to have made it – they are only the two biggest. Closer to home, the Philippines’ Charice, Taiwan’s Lin Yu Chun and Malaysia’s very own Zee Avi have also gone the route of the Internet on their journey to fame and recording contracts.
While there is no doubt that all these stars prove that talent, like cream, will rise to the top, the way they have done so, via the Internet, throws up some interesting issues that may yet prove to be not so great for everyone.
There is now no longer any excuse for not being able to become successful if one has the talent. The new adage will be that if one is talented, then he will be discovered. Conversely, if one is not discovered, then one is not really that talented.
After all, all one has to do is point, shoot, save, edit and upload, and the world will come knocking on one’s door, no?
On the positive side, you can’t get a more level playing field than the Internet. And I’m not just talking about the ease of uploading a video on YouTube. The Internet stars who have made it are proof that age (young or old), looks (with or without), gender, race and nationality do not matter.
But this positive development does have a negative consequence, which is that the majority of people will soon no longer be able to indulge in the pretence or the fantasy that their talents have not been recognised because of their lack of connections and opportunity, or because of prejudice.
You can imagine how a conversation between two competitive parents can go in future.
Parent A: My Adrian is so amazing. He can play the piano, drums, guitar, saxophone and flute. And sing too.
Parent B: Oh yeah? Is he on YouTube?
Parent A: Of course he is, and there are people who watch him from overseas!
Parent B: Oh, really? So, has anyone offered him a recording contract? Parent A: Erm, no... The way things are going, it won’t be that long before talent will have to be validated by a recording contract, or it will be put down as not being really talent at all. Will more people then be afraid to take up the challenge for fear of being labelled untalented?
This reminds me of the time a few years back when I was chatting with three friends who were mothers and the topic turned to a steady stream of celebrities who made shedding their extra kilos after they had given birth look like child’s play.
Instead of the inspirational stories they were supposed to be, my friends spoke of the stress they were put under each time news surfaced of yet another celebrity mum who looked absolutely stunning just a month or five weeks after childbirth.
“They make it look so easy that it made me feel so bad that I wasn’t able to do the same after my baby,” said my friend Shirley, stressed mother eventually to two lovely children.
My friends, though, had supportive spouses who just thought that there was more of them to love when they weren’t able to return to their pre-natal weight.
I hope the stories of YouTube stars will remain inspirational rather than become stressful, and that the people remain optimistic about their ability to follow in Bieber’s or Boyle’s footsteps while their families and friends are supportive whether success is achieved or not.
Level playing field: The Internet has helped young singers like Justin Bieber get discovered.