Once a YouTuber, always a YouTuber. Although some stars, like the creators of Fred and Annoying Orange, have managed to break through into film and television, they’ll forever be remembered for their online antics first and foremost. It seems as though anyone who makes their living and gains their popularity off the site is destined to remain labelled a “YouTuber.” Why, then, does this same logic not apply to musicians?
Let me explain. There’s a good chance you’re one of the over-35 million people who have seen Smosh’s “The Legend Of Zelda Rap” video. Smosh is undoubtedly one of the most successful and prominent YouTube channels; outside of YouTube, however, their fame is far less abounding. On the other hand, there’s an even better chance you’re one of the almost-1.5 billion people who have seen Psy’s record-breaking “Gangnam Style” video. Psy used the exact same medium, YouTube, to rise to stardom, yet he’s hardly considered a “YouTuber.” His incredible viewership led to a massive international following, while Smosh’s viewership remained on YouTube. Smosh’s subscriber count, however, completely trumps that of Psy (and anyone else for that matter).
There are several other big name artists, such as Justin Bieber and Soulja Boy to name a few, who were discovered on YouTube. Talent managers are able to find these artists with ease thanks to the site’s open platform and then turn them into hugely successful icons. Bieber, for example, has arguably climbed to the top of the music industry, and that all got started because he once posted a video of himself singing in his living room several years ago. The same can’t be said for Tay Zonday, whose early hit “Chocolate Rain” propelled him to the top of YouTube popularity, but couldn’t propel him any further outside of the video-sharing platform.
It isn’t always about making it “out” of YouTube, though. There are many artists who welcome the “YouTuber” title. DeStorm is a perfect example. His skill as a rapper, his work ethic, his content, and his consistency rival any other big name rapper you could name. However, his popularity resides primarily on YouTube. His most recent release, “King Kong,” has made some strides in landing his name onto several hip hop sites, blogs, and forums, but for the most part he is still considered a ‘Tuber.
Now this is where the line gets blurry. DeStorm is a popular YouTuber who releases consistent music and music videos through his YouTube channel. Riff Raff is a popular artist who releases consistent music and music videos through his YouTube channel, yet you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that labels him as a “YouTuber.” Lil B is another example of someone who releases via the site consistently and has managed to grow in popularity, yet I’d be surprised to see him at VidCon or Playlist. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for why DeStorm is considered a YouTuber and why Riff Raff or Lil B are not. It’s an interesting discussion to have, because the line that separates the two is far from clearly defined.
This brings me to VEVO. VEVO is a third-party service that distributes music onto YouTube for some of the largest names in the music industry. For example, Bieber has mostly abandoned his “Kidrauhl” channel that got him discovered in order to start releasing via JustinBieberVEVO. Someone like Rihanna, who is clearly not a YouTuber, can release a new video through her VEVO account and accrue millions upon millions of views and subscribers. Although it’s posted to the same site along with your neighbor’s cat video, VEVO is a completely separate beast from the rest of YouTube. Let me say that I love the YouTube community and I love being part of it. Being from a channel that was inside of the top ten in subscriber count, it rubs me the wrong way when we’re constantly being bumped down the list by Rihanna, One Direction, Eminem and Skrillex (and Taylor Swift soon … that one hurts the most). They are not YouTubers who create their own content and they are not who we’re competing with, yet they’re taking over the site. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it shouldn’t be taken negatively. It is simply a reality.
All that is to say: YouTube is a place for content creators. It is undefined as to exactly who is considered “in” and who is considered “out” of the community. I just hope that at least some people remember me as a YouTuber when “The EpicMealTime Movie” wins all those Oscars.
About the author: Tyler Lemco is a writer and cast member on EpicMealTime. You can follow him on Twitter @tlemco.