Cy­ber stars

YouTube stars are liv­ing proof that tal­ent is a mar­ketable com­mod­ity.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - HAU BOON LAI bl­hau@ya­ n In this col­umn, writer Hau Boon Lai pon­ders the lives, loves and lib­er­ties of celebri­ties.

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.

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