Seeking worldwide musical fame? Upload a video to YouTube. Actually, please don’t. Veronica Ballestrini, budding country music star, didn’t take my advice, and she’s on her way to a record deal:
In a video posted to YouTube in January 2008, Veronica Ballestrini — then 16, blond, precocious — sits on a wrinkled couch wearing a pink Abercrombie & Fitch zip-up hoodie and clutching a guitar. “Today one of my fans messaged me, and he thought I should do a Taylor Swift song,” the singer said, then began a committed, occasionally imperfect version of Ms. Swift’s “Teardrops on My Guitar.”
That’s a hilarious last line, by the way. Please let it never be said of me that I am both “committed” and “imperfect”. That’s condescension at its funniest.
Here’s how the wannabe Taylor Swift has made her mark:
When she first began recording music at age 13, “I had no idea about anything, nothing about the industry or radio or singles,” Ms. Ballestrini recalled last month, on the phone from Peoria, Ill., during her first tour of country radio stations. “But I did know I needed a lot of fans.” And so from her Connecticut home Ms. Ballestrini set about cultivating an audience online: MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, DigitalRodeo and more.
A year and a half later, all the screen time has begun to pay off. Last spring she recorded a proper video for “Amazing,” a single of her own, and uploaded it. After a couple of weeks it was picked up by CMT.com, the digital arm of Country Music Television, and shown on CMT Pure Country, the network’s all-video digital channel.
“My iTunes sales have far exceeded my chart position on radio, so if it’s not radio play, what is it?” Ms. Lee continued. “I answer back every person who writes me. I’m active on Twitter. People are finding me through YouTube.”
Social media has changed much of our culture. One of the personally interesting developments to me is the way in which musicians and artists can launch their careers on their own at essentially no cost. This has obvious weaknesses, but it has significant strengths as well.
It’s inspiring that a singer with legitimate but undiscovered talent can record a song, upload it, and eventually land a record deal. This is of course quite rare, but it’s remarkable nonetheless. Social media is a force. It’s good for Christians to think about how to use it to push the gospel and glorify the Lord, especially in fields like music and the arts where funds are often scarce. Let’s hope that stories like this inspire legitimately talented Christians to share their gifts with the world.