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GenY Musicians (the Y is for YouTube), 8/01/2009
Natalie Ferraro
by Natalie Ferraro

YouTube is host to singing cats, Thai prisoners dancing to Brittney Spears, and other ridiculous videos you forward to your friends and co-workers.  It's also a place where serious musicians are selling albums and gaining fans all over the world.  Meghan Tonjes tells Natalie Ferraro about Internet culture and becoming a heavy hitter in the online-indie-music scene.

My friends and I hit Ace of Clubs to see Meghan Tonjes play a show.  She's in town for the 789 YouTube gathering in Central Park.  She drove from Detroit to New York, dropping in on other YouTube celebrities along the way, recording collaboration videos and guest staring on Blog TV shows.  A smorgasbord of buzz leading up to the meet and greet that helps young YTers network with YTpro's.  

Meghan walks through my front door, greeting me with the sassy cheeky smile I know so well from her videos.  She's followed by another well known YouTuber, MissSarcastic, who's RL (real life) name is Melissa.  I live with Laura Johnson (Caramella from the Glamazons), so the four of us take a seat in the living room knowing way too much about each other for this only being our first RL meeting.  We exchange a series of  "hey, I've heard of you's" then head out to my favorite plus size boutique, Lee Lee's Valise, to try on pretty dresses and gab like ladies of leisure.

We jump on the C train at 110th.  Meghan is about my size only much taller.  A lot of her fans are like me, drawn to her, compelled to support her, to be a part of her success as if it were our own.  We get cozy on a two seater and start chatting. I only found her channel a few months ago, right before Perez Hilton blogged and tweeted about her acoustic guitar cover of Lily's Allen's It's Not Fair.  A few days later 100,000 people hit the video.  "I've been on YouTube for 3 years consistently putting up cover songs every Request Tuesday, but it's just in the past 6 months things have really started blowing up.  I remember only having 30 subscribers for so long.  I'd like to thank my gays."  Perez isn't the only Fairy Godmother to blow magic up Meghan's skirt.  With over 500,000 subscribers and his videos averaging 200,000 hits, Michael Buckley (What The Buck?) received a copy of Be In Want in the mail (Meghan's first album released this last Valentine's day) with a cute note that he read on his live BlogTV show.  A few hours later, she had 2000 subscribers and hundreds of comments to the tune of "buck sent me".  I'm overwhelmed by this culture of community, of asking for help, helping others, paying it forward.  I asked Buck what he thought about this.

"It's very hard in any business especially the music business to get your name out there. I thought it was awesome that she sent me a copy of her CD and a personal note- it never hurts to ask and you really need to "pimp" yourself out there! I popped in her CD for the first time during my live show on BlogTV, was blown away and have been singing her praises ever since!" 

We transfer to the F train at West 4th.  At this point I'm wondering why not follow traditional routes to pursue music?  It's seems like a lot of work to be your own PR chick, answering every email and comment, sending out your own CD's with personalized notes.  "I never considered myself a musician.  I picked up a guitar at 19 and said 'hey, I'll do that".  YouTube seemed a good place to get immediate feedback, immediate personal connection.  It's a place filled with banter, people know what I'm doing and thinking."  It does make it easier to build that trust between audience and performer.  Especially when you're not Pop Music Barbie, running around with the Hollywood cool kids, luring your fans in with how hot you are and how cute your clothes are and whether you kissed Robert Pattinson or not.  "The way I look plays a part.  It's easy to block a user or ignore a lame comment, and now I do tour and play shows.  It's not the traditional route, but what I'm doing is working.  I'm selling CD's.  I'm getting great messages.  Someone lost a parent and brought their computer to the funeral to play one of my songs.  I'd love to be signed to a label, but I enjoy being in control."

She goes into the most amazing story about fashion and shopping at Lane Bryant since she was 11. Then has a Torrid rant "Why is everything polyester blend!?!?"  It was a site to behold.  

"Project Lifesize started in July 2008 using quotes people had posted on my music videos like 'you're so fat' giving people a taste of what I was dealing with.  Some days it's like 'God I'm so ugly".  I know people think it, but saying it really screws with your head.  I wanted to create a solution.  I saw all these 'I'm gay' 'I'm a nerd' acceptance channels on YouTube.  I wanted to be surrounded by the plus community, a selfish way of getting friends, I guess."  Project Lifesize has since gained 1000 subscribers and partnered with YouTube and one of her PL fans has asked her to be a part of a plus clothing line!  "It's crazy to me how I'm doing things I was told I could never do".

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A former plus model and member of the pop girl groups, the Glamazons and +plushus; Natalie Ferraro is a sucessful indie singer/songwriter living between New York and LA, blogging at lovenati.com, and making pretty dresses.  


 
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