Social media stars heading for Birmingham – but is digital stardom easy to achieve?

The stars of the YouTube generation are coming to Birmingham this month for the HelloWorld live show. Eager bloggers and social media hopefuls will be hoping to gain advice on how to become just like them, as Marcus Butler, Zoella, Joe Sugg and KSI reveal how they’ve created online empires.

But, is the online world as easy a job as these stars of the digital screen make it out to be? Or is it a dream that only a few can ever hope to achieve?

With more than 167 million monthly active YouTube users in the United States, and 300 hours of videos being uploaded a minute, competition is definitely high in the online marketplace.

Dr Dave Harte, associate professor in journalism and media at Birmingham City University believes that the hope of making it big is enough to drive some users on.

“The reality might be that only a small number of YouTubers can actually achieve large incomes from the platforms,” he said. “But that doesn’t seem to make it any less desirable in the eyes of the talented and perhaps not so talented wannabe stars.

“It’s clear that platforms like YouTube offer an entrepreneurial space for young people to develop communities of interest around themselves, whilst also potentially sustaining a living.”

HelloWorld will be at Birmingham’s Genting Arena on October 28th and 29th and feature live music, games, comedy and interviews.

With the stars of the show becoming a new breed of celebrities, it’s easy to see the appeal of chasing a career in filming yourself at home.

But Paul Bradshaw, the course leader for MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism at Birmingham City University, says there’s more to creating a profitable online brand than just switching on a webcam.

“YouTube opens up opportunities for all sorts of people to make money online who previously wouldn’t have been able to get traditional careers in TV or radio,” he said. “But this can be misleading – for every YouTuber who actually makes decent money from their work, there are tens of thousands who are labouring for nothing or close to nothing.

“It is very hard to make a living from platforms like YouTube. You need to understand the business side as well. Making a name for yourself doesn’t put food on the table. You need money to buy decent equipment and lighting.

“So for 99.9% of YouTubers, it will only ever be a hobby.”

But some social media hopefuls believe digital platforms are opening up opportunities for them.

Birmingham YouTuber Swarmzy said: “I feel like the internet connects people from all around the world. It helps me to express who I am as a person, and has benefited me by getting small sponsorship deals and getting press access to events.

“You can make a name for yourself with the internet. You get a lot of attraction from bigger companies as a young person on the internet. Spencer FC has gone from a FIFA YouTuber to creating his own team and playing at Wembley.”

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