What was once simply a platform for people to share videos of their dogs skateboarding has now become one of the most important tools in the ongoing quest for fame. Is YouTube able to change the fame game forever?
YouTube is good for many things: It provides countless ways to help people avoid doing work; it can teach you how to finally apply eyeliner properly to your top lid after years of getting it wrong; and it makes us realize that cats and dogs are quite possibly more funny than humans. But in the past few years, YouTube has evolved from a forum that simply allows us to share videos with others to one of the most important tools in becoming famous.
We don’t mean the kind of famous that comes from being excited to the point of tears at the sight of a double rainbow; that kind of flash-in-the-pan fame lasts only as long as the public’s infinitesimal attention span (thanks a lot, Sesame Street). What we’re talking about is true, sustainable fame, the kind of world renown and exposure that defines a true celebrity and that lasts far longer than 15 minutes. You know, Justin Bieber famous.
Justin, of course, is the perfect gauge for the kind of fame that can come from being discovered on YouTube. Only a few short years ago, Justin was just another young, bright-eyed kid trying to get his music out there through the internet. Now, after being discovered by his manager, Scooter Braun, Justin is one of the most ubiquitous people on the planet, with the adoration of armies of girls who would pledge their lives for him and the respect of some of the music industry’s most influential figures.
But even though Justin was discovered relatively recently, his initial fame was regarded as something of a phenomenon. Very few people before him had achieved the kind of celebrity he experienced simply by being discovered on YouTube. For the most part, people were becoming famous the old-fashioned way: through pounding the pavement, winning a reality show competition and leaking sex tapes.
Now Justin’s impressive story stands to become the norm as it becomes more and more clear how valuable a resource YouTube is for finding the next big star. Austin Mahone, the latest 16-year-old music sensation, was, like the Biebs, discovered online. He is now following right in Justin’s footsteps, performing sold-out concerts in huge venues and leaving in his wake a stream of swooning teenage girls. As well, big-time producer Nigel Lythgoe‘s new show, Opening Act, features him and his colleagues scouring YouTube for talented nobodies, to whom they grant the opporunity of being the opening acts for some of the biggest names in music. There is no competition element and no public voting; it is strictly a way to grant wide recognition to the very deserving and highly skilled folks on YouTube. YouTube has officially begun to be taken seriously as a gold mine of bankable, worthwhile talent.
We’re interested to see what happens in the next few years as far as YouTube’s growing role in the fame game. Will YouTube soon become the primary way to achieve lasting fame? Will YouTube itself change to accommodate its potential development into something far more important than a place to post videos of your cat playing with a Barbie doll? And does this all mean the beginning of the end of get-famous-fast shows like American Idol? Randy Jackson better have a solid plan B.