A crowd of casual, nondescript white-shirted people hovered near the entrance of the dark-bricked Webster Hall on Tuesday afternoon, taking a break from this summer’s New Music Seminar. Leaning casually against the wrought-iron fence chatting were teenaged singers Christina Grimmie, her long brown hair dyed red, and Charity Vance, a classic Southern sweetheart with blonde hair and green eyes. The two have a combined 1.6 million fans on YouTube.
The New Music Seminar is a festival and conference celebrating new artists. The seminar portion of the event gives producers, writers and musicians including Sean Parker, Wyclef Jean and Andrew WK the opportunity to discuss and learn about the music making process. At night, the young and upcoming stars spread across the city to perform.
For its inaugural effort, the conference brought 150 artists to perform in 17 different venues. It also rounded up four YouTube stars for its main show on Monday night. The headliners were Ms. Grimmie; Ms. Vance; smiley heartthrob Tyler Ward; and the tall, surnameless singer-guitarist Noah.
So what’s it take to be YouTube-famous? Betabeat had the opportunity to chat with each of these four young stars.
YouTube followers: 1,597, 696
Christina Grimmie, also known by her Youtube account name zeldaxlove64, rose to fame with her collaboration with fellow YouTube singer Sam Tsui on Nelly’s “Just a Dream.” Her star rose even further with her cover of “Party in the USA.” Ms. Grimmie, who was homeschooled, has already produced an album, Find Me. She is currently working on her second album. Last year, her fans voted her up to sing “Higher” with Taio Cruz at the Coca Cola Red Carpet Live. “I’ve never been to anywhere super official like this,” Ms. Grimmie told Betabeat. “And it’s a really big deal for me to be here and even asked to perform.”
On writing her own music:
I’m gonna wean off of doing the covers, not to upset people, not to lose fans, but when you’re an artist and you know it, you don’t want to be known forever as “that cover girl on YouTube.”
On jamming with YouTubers IRL:
Me and Noah and Charity actually went up in this little hotel room and we were jamming for a while. You don’t know how good it feels to just jam with people that share the same passion that I do, so yeah we’ve been bonding and hanging out. They’re not intimidating people, they’re not ego-driven people. When I find people like that who share the same passion as me, they’re automatically my friends.
Aside from gaming, I always kinda liked to draw, and I can only draw if I’m looking at something, but…what I would like to do—and it sounds really weird, and out there, and random—is I like to design video game maps, and not just because they’re video games, but because I have a weird thing with structures for maps, for games like, role playing games and things like that. (Giggles) So lame!
When I was young, I set up Beanie Babies. We had so many, me and my brother. I would set up the furniture, and one would be the castle and one day I’d be locked in a cage and you would have to go up to him and save him and that would be like a side quest for a game, I would love to build the maps around it and the shops and…I don’t know! It’s so random!
Not that kids don’t have that in them, but I still have that in me, like I will still do that, that’s still fun to me. Kinda like Barbies…I’m not gonna lie, me and my friends there we broke out the Barbies two years ago and played Barbies. I’m sorry. They were great.
You can’t get rid of [toys]. They have little faces, they’re like “No, Christina don’t leave me.”
On trolls and haters:
I’m not gonna lie, it really, really upset me at one point. I was maybe a year into my videos. People would throw out the jokes and they would think it’s funny, whether it’s how I look or how I sound at this amount of seconds. It’s so stupid and cliché, but you’ve got to look past and
On the fans:
I invited them a month, I think, in advance. Team Grimmie was really there [Monday] night. It was so amazing!
It’s funny how many people have my pouf haircut. I love seeing people like that. There was literally a mini-me last night. She was yea high (gestures around her shoulder) and she had my same old hair and Zelda shirt and my shoes that I always where. I’m like, “You are like me, it’s so funny!” I love how people really engage in my personal life. Some people call that copying. I call that being a true fan.
YouTube followers: 151,738
It took some work, but we sussed out Noah’s last name: It’s Guthrie. The South Carolina crooner has over nine million views on YouTube for his bluesy cover of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” Mr. Guthrie was in New York recently for a stint on The Today Show, and but a few weeks later he was invited back to the city for the Gramercy Theater concert. He is currently working on a new album in Los Angeles.
On being from South Carolina:
Everyone’s like, “So where are you from?” “South Carolina.” “Aw yeah that’s what I thought.” I was like, “What does that even mean?”
On his LMFAO cover:
I did that cover to myself as a joke and thought people would like it, and apparently they did and it slingshot a bunch of stuff into motion. It’s been kind of a whirlwind. I’ve been getting calls for shows and executives and big wigs and whatnot (I just said what not), but it’s been crazy and I’ve got a lot of attention.
It’s been kinda weird. It’s funny though because in your hometown, no matter how big you are, more people know you there but less people know of you. I could walk into one room in my hometown and everybody’d just be like, “Oh man, hey what’s up, yeah you did this thing!” and then I walk into another room 10 minutes later and it’ll be like, “Uh, what are you doing? Get out.”
I don’t know why but it’s always at the bank. I always go to the bank and they’re like, “Hey you’re that guy!” I’m like, “Well, you’ve been my teller for like a year.”
So now I matter. I don’t know. Gained some friends, lost a few, and it’s been interesting.
On Christina, Tyler and Charity:
Christina is one of my good friends, and I don’t get to see her until I’m out in LA or we’re doing something on the road together.
Tyler I just met last night. I used to—and I still do, kinda, just because it’s funny—I put out a new video…and he’s really good, and he’s very good at production, that’s kinda what I envy him for, and I’ll put out a video, and just be like, “All right, this is out…what’s Tyler doing? Where’s his new video, I wanna see it.” And it always just trumps mine. I met him and I was very happy to know that he’s a very nice person, he’s very humble and just an awesome, generous and genuine person.
I just met Charity. I’ve seen her on YouTube but I saw her perform last night for the first time and her songs are great, and she’s awesome. Really excited to maybe work with her in the future.
On going to college:
I’m taking a year-ish off, maybe half a year. I’m really interested in Berkelee Boston and their online program, but there’s also the problem of getting into Berklee. I would really love to do their online program for music business or something and I could just take it on the road. But yeah, I definitely want the higher education.
Would you ever get plastic surgery to look better on a webcam? We heard that’s a thing now.
Ooh that’s a little intense. The thing I do is dieting; it’s just my thing. It’s been a personal goal of mine since I was younger. I’ve struggled with it my whole life, but I would never go to that extreme [of plastic surgery].
YouTube followers: 3,638
Mistaken for a staff member by another reporter outside Webster Hall, Ms. Vance did not bother to correct the man and instead directed him inside to ask for passes. The Arkansas native was on Season Nine of American Idol. She is prolific in her performances in Nashville, and has already come out with an album, titled Charity Vance. Her new EP, “Let’s Pretend,” came out on June 4.
I’ve been through a ton of panels. I’ve got to see and hear really, really incredible writers that I look up to talk about experiences, different ways they cowrite and just hear how they’ve made it and what their take is on the industry. I got to go to the YouTube panel and hear Noah speak.
On the fans and the haters:
I do have a lot of love on YouTube and on the social networks, but there’s one comment I got in particular that really warmed me and was awesome. It said something like, “This girl’s got something great, even her haters know it.”
I read every single comment, I answer as many as I can. The tweets get sent to my phone as text messages. It’s an honor to talk to [the fans].
I just had a new EP come out, an acoustic EP (Let’s Pretend). I love these songs, they really mean a lot to me, and it’s acoustic, so it’s very intimate. I’ve been getting great reviews from the fans and some of the music blogs too.
On how to become a YouTube star:
Just let it be a fun thing, let it be a passion of yours. Don’t change yourself. We need to see people that are big being relatable. I look up to Christina—I’m a little bit older than Christina. I look up to Noah. It doesn’t matter—age—on YouTube, it doesn’t matter anything. Just put it up if you like it. I really think it’s an awesome way to have fun, make friends and make fun videos that you love.
YouTube followers: 920, 211
Age: Censored by publicist, but has graduated college.
Mr. Ward works with two producers—Michael Gene Binder, who has produced over 100 albums, and Jeremy McCoy, who toured with The Fray, OneRepublic and Kelly Clarkson. Once a football player at the United States Air Force Academy, he now has a reputation as a prominent local artist in Colorado and a national one who has played with The Jonas Brothers, Augustana and others.
[Some people] come out and ask me for favors, and it gets really really old. My friends, though, have been really supportive, and that’s great.
[The ones that ask are] just being like, “Hey, can I have a sponsorship for these guitars?” or “Hey can you get me a guitar for free?” I’m like, “No.” It’s just really annoying.
On fans and trolls:
This is crazy to think about, but I did not know I was playing a show at all. We actually had this gig, and I remembered that I had to go to New York to play it. I got in and just went on Facebook and was like, “Hey! There’s this show.” There weren’t many people there but there was just like a handful of fans that came out to say hi. Within in a two-hour period [since the Facebook post], it was pretty cool.
People who are really negative, you just brush off your shoulder. They troll and then the true fans call back and then the person feels like an idiot afterwards. My fans take care of me.
On those muscles:
I really love working out. There’s this program called Insanity, and it’s like really, really intense and I do that for fun. I know that it’s really hard. I was touring and I was kinda getting out of shape, and so I did it.
I worked with Cody Simpson recently. Mostly though I’m just planning to do my original album. There’s a guy on YouTube named Trafik, and we’re going get together and do something soon.
I wanted to see the Book of Mormon, but when I went it was sold out. I’m going to go again when I come back on my tour early in December.
On how to be big on YouTube:
Find something you’re really good at, and work hard at it, and be smart about it. That’s the best advice to give. I think.
On being a YouTube star:
It’s a full time job, and supports your living, which is awesome. You have fans all over world that like what you do.