From his Illinois bedroom, Keenan Cahill made a name for himself goofily lip-syncing along to hits by the likes of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. Closer to home, in Melbourne, Alex DelFrate and Jeremy Hearn achieved notoriety by basically filming themselves excitedly playing computer games under the handle Two Awesome Gamers.
Such is the power and reach of YouTube that these people – and more, of sometimes questionable talent – have not only been invited to perform at YouTube celebration VIDinc at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre on Sunday, they're making other money off their "skills". But how?
As many may know, if you get a certain impressive level of hits on the video-sharing website, you get a proportion of the advertising revenue. You can also get paid for product placement, although Cahill notes that "because there's already ads on the videos, [viewers] don't wanna have the whole video based around something".
Playing games has been useful for DelFrate and Hearn because sometimes, DelFrate says, "We get to test out new things that they'll give us income for, as well." A company has even commissioned the pair to make a video for them.
Most fascinating and bizarre, though, is the influence Cahill has had. He says that record labels and artists have paid him to make one of his signature clips, most famously American R&B artist Jeremih. His single Down on Me, featuring 50 Cent, at one point looked like being a last career roll of the dice. "It was basically [Jeremih's] last single before he was going to get dropped from the label," Cahill says.
After Cahill's home-made video – in which he lip-synced Down on Me alongside 50 Cent – went viral, the song "got to No 10 on the Billboard charts – it went, like, triple platinum, I think. I basically kept [Jeremih] on the label."
Both Cahill and Two Awesome Gamers are smart enough to have career back-up plans, should their YouTube fame fade faster than expected – they all plan to finish university while continuing to upload their videos. But they're still hoping to get everything they can out of their current exposure.
"I'm making my own music – I'm actually recording my second single in Sydney, while we're here," Cahill says. "Then I'll go to college and study music but also do the artist thing."
DelFrate and Hearn, meanwhile, take inspiration from American gamers they know that "have just taken a leap and have gone full-time into it".
"To play video games and actually, like, earn money and be able to sustain yourself is just a crazy opportunity," Delfrate says. "So if we ever had that chance, I'd definitely take it. To do what you love? That's, like, you'll never work a day in your life."
Jordan Jansen 11.20am
Keenan Cahill 1.50pm
Mystery Guitar Man 2.20pm
Peter Chao 2.50pm
Marquese "Nonstop" Scott 4.20pm
Ryan Higa 6.30pm
Jenna Marbles 7.10pm
For more information and times go to www.vidinc.com.au