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Amateur artists leap for fame via YouTube

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Updated : February 16 2017

In 2008, a talent manager discovered a Canadian teenager singing cover songs on YouTube and signed him to Raymond Braun Media Group.

The then-14-year-old went on to take the world by storm with mega hits. His name is Justin Drew Bieber.

Since Bieber’s rise to superstardom, a flurry of YouTube stars looking to move beyond their 15 minutes of fame have been flocking to the largest video-streaming website in the world.

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Amateur artists broadcasting their content on YouTube pose in this photo taken Wednesday at Google Campus Seoul. (YouTube)
A group of Korean amateur musicians gaining popularity via the platform -- calling themselves “music creators” -- met with reporters in Seoul to talk about transforming their 15 minutes of fame into a lasting reputation as artists.

“At first I thought, ‘Who’d want to watch me sing?’ but my friends persuaded me to upload the videos,” said YouTuber Jfla, whose real name is Kim Jung-hwa. Her channel uploads the cover songs along with songs she has written herself.

Kim’s channel has surpassed 470,000 subscriptions and she is currently looking to make an official debut as a singer in England.

For years, internet celebrities in Korea have been using a variety of broadcasting platforms, including Afreeca TV that allows users to stream videos while chatting with fans in real-time.

But YouTube broadcasters say that the platform’s international distribution has an edge over its competitors.

About 90 percent of Kim’s viewers originate from outside Korea, while some 70 percent of Lee Raon’s viewership is from other countries.

Lee, whose YouTube name is Raon, said she was able to reach fans of Japanese pop culture by covering songs from popular animations.

“When (the fans) search the tracks from animations, my name would pop up. ... But I intentionally add variations (to the song) which is why I think they end up liking my covers,” she said.

Unlike Kim or other YouTube singers, Lee’s previous occupation had little to do with music; she was a certified dental hygienist.

“I wondered what I really wanted to do. I wanted to try something that I really like while I was still young,” she said. Lee started recording at home with a 20,000 won ($17) microphone.

Lee, who recently quit her job as a hygienist, said she wishes to expand the scope of her work and hold offline performances outside the country as well.

“I think the best thing about internet broadcasting is that even someone who is not a professional can do it. I urge anyone who wants to be an artist to try,” she said.

According to a YouTube official, the company offers an online community from which beginner-level users can get information. At the YouTube creator hub, the company invites experienced YouTube creators to help others who are just getting started.

When one’s channel reaches 100,000 subscribers, a manager from YouTube is matched with the creator to offer advice.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)

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