The video opens to show a petite, black-haired girl in front of a microphone. She puts in her earphones, smiles, and nods her head to the beat of the instrumental as it slowly fades in. Though one may not expect the soft-spoken and seemingly shy girl to sing in front of thousands, over the course of two years, Emma Lee’s (10) audience of over 1,600 has grown to love and embrace the song covers she performs with her unique voice. Her medium of choice? YouTube.
Though it could be argued that Emma’s career as a musical performer started as a child when she sang and danced to Mary Poppins songs at every family gathering, her career as a public artist began in 2014 when 7th grade Emma uploaded a cover of “Skinny Love” by Birdy on Facebook. Soon enough, she was posting her videos to YouTube, where her videos were more widely viewed. From then on, her audience steadily grew.
As unlikely as it sounds, Emma’s venture into YouTube was influenced largely by her grandfather.
“My grandpa wanted to see my videos, and since he did not have Facebook, I had to use YouTube to upload them,” Emma said. “My grandpa is a choirmaster, so he was interested in my singing. Though I was always interested in music and sung by myself starting from a young age, he gave me tips to improve my singing and helped me learn guitar. I even prepared for the 5th grade talent show in front of him! My grandpa influenced the musical parts of my life, and music makes up a huge part of my identity, so I am really grateful for our bond.”
One perk of using a social media platform to upload cover videos is that Emma can interact with people that she has never met before. Like many other content creators on YouTube, Emma spends time addressing her audience using the comments system on the platform. The comments found under her videos cover a variety of topics. Some compliment her singing skills.
Some ask more technical questions.
Some leave constructive criticism.
Some request songs for future videos.
By doing things like accepting song requests and giving tips on singing, editing, and equipment, Emma has created a positive, safe space not only for herself but for her viewers.
Despite her weighty presence on the Internet, Emma, as a teenager, is still subject to her friends’ good natured teasing. Some of them leave sarcastic comments of support:
Others purposefully play her newly uploaded video and wave it in front of her face as she covers her face and laughs in embarrassment. But the support her friends provide is evident in their likes and future song requests.
“All in all, I’m glad I made my channel,” Emma said. “It might be a lot of work to record videos regularly, but there is something exhilarating about putting myself out there for everyone to see.”
You can see the rest of Emma’s videos on her channel, which can be found here.