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Caspar Lee has more than half a million YouTube subscribers. Vicus Visser has gained a record deal and international fame. Here's how YouTube is creating South African stars.
It's not easy to predict whether a video you create will go viral on the internet. Every minute, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. And every once in a while, somebody uploads something that people like. And share. And share. And share.
Last year, YouTube history was made when Korean pop-star Psy’s bizarre Gangnam Style video hit the 1 billion viewers mark. In second place, Justin Bieber – who was discovered by a talent manager via YouTube in 2008 – has racked up more than 830 million views.
The web gives everyone a chance to potentially reach an audience of billions. Chances are you may not have heard of Caspar Lee and Vicus Visser before – but that doesn’t mean that others aren’t paying attention.
Twitter followers: 340 000+
Born in April 1994, Caspar Lee is a blonde-haired boy from Knysna. About two years ago, after getting uncapped internet, he started creating his own videos on YouTube. He was 16 at the time and it “was just for a little bit of fun.” His very first was a ridiculous video of himself in the bath talking in an exaggerated South African accent.
After a bit of trial and error in the early days, Caspar's tipping point came when he began doing live web shows and influential YouTubers started pointing people in his direction. After this, Caspar and a group of other YouTube friends began sharing and collaborating – and his channel began attracting a number of fans that grew exponentially.
Caspar is a Justin Bieber-style teen heartthrob, who sets many a young girl’s heart a flutter. Now that he’s out of school, he’s moved to London where he lives with Alife – another social media success story with over 200 000 followers and almost half a million subscribers on YouTube.
Caspar is taking a “gap year” in London. As an official YouTube partner, he generates income through the advertising on his YouTube channel, meaning his work day is a little different to those of most school leavers: “I usually wake up at about 10h00 and reply to some of my emails, I then go to any meetings I have planned for that day. On certain days I will film and edit videos. Every day is different to be honest, for example, yesterday I spent the day as a carpenter, putting together a very elaborate desk for my room,” says Caspar.
While Caspar does have a following in South Africa, the bulk of his audience lives in the UK and US and he aims to hit 1 million subscribers in 2013.
On what it’s like adjusting to life after school he says: “It's pretty easy, I guess I'm lucky that I'm doing what I love. I have learnt to cook since moving out which is very cool.”
10-year-old Vicus Visser performing the song that launched his career.
Caspar shares what’s going on in his life through his videos including things that that annoy him, dating and finding a new roommate in the UK. Take a look at his YouTube channel for more.
Vicus Visser may not have the massive following that Caspar Lee has, but his remarkable story is a clear example of how online video can change lives.
His story reads like a fairytale. Eight years ago, a sweet 10-year-old boy, Vicus Visser, was recorded singing “These Arms” by All for One on a cellphone. Two years ago, the video popped up on YouTube, went viral, was watched by tens of thousands of people – and was spotted by talent scouts. An extensive global search was launched to find this singing sensation and eventually Vicus was tracked down to Heidedal, Bloemfontein – an area plagued by poverty, crime and other social issues.
While the video was filmed a good seven years ago, Vicus hadn’t stopped playing music. In fact, Vicus (19) and his brother, Vincent (23) had continued performing and playing together over the years. Vicus was completely unaware of the media frenzy surrounding the search until he was finally found through the help of local and international media and individuals, including radio host Gareth Cliff.
Despite offers from international recording companies, Vicus and Vincent chose to sign with local One on One productions (Rina Broomberg and Gareth Cliff are executive producers) and are currently producing an album with David Gresham records.
As a result of his inspirational journey from poverty-stricken teen to internet star, Vicus and Vincent recently travelled to Washington D.C. where they performed at a tribute concert to Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. at the Kennedy Center.
Vicus is looking forward to studying in 2013 as well as releasing more music, “I have overcome a lot coming from Heidedal and hope to do more.”