YouTube is flooded with aspiring artists uploading their music, hoping for a solid fanbase and a record deal. The standard formula is to upload videos on a regular schedule, add as many relevant tags as you can, and be super active on all social media. Pop song parodies are proven traffic-drivers.
But New York band Against the Current (ATC) made it big without following the rules.
Since joining YouTube in 2011, the pop/rock trio has gained more than a million subscribers and more than 100 million accumulated views - but just 39 videos. They are currently headlining their very own world tour in Asia, Europe and North America with more than 50 shows on the schedule, even without having released a full album. Tickets for the Taiwan show sold out within minutes.
The truth is, the members of ATC are not very comfortable in front of a camera. "We're all introverts," guitarist Dan Gow, 19, tells Young Post over the phone.
"I am literally horrible at speaking to a camera. How do people do these things and function like humans? I can't even talk to someone and make eye contact," singer Chrissy Costanza, 20, said in a recent vlog promoting their Gravity World Tour.
Music has always been the only focus for ATC. They avoid parties, and sleep early when on tour so they're at their musical best. They even viewed school as an obstacle to achieving their goals. Drummer Will Ferri, 19, who had wanted a career in music since he was six years old, felt trapped by the education system.
"I felt I could be doing so much more if I wasn't in school, be so much more productive and actually reach my goal," he says. "I'd be sitting in class trying to pay attention while fighting off thoughts of this song I had in my head and wanted to write when I get home. Especially in high school when we were always going on tour, school became more of a roadblock."
The band ended their schooling last spring to focus on music, which Costanza feels was good for her. "There's a lot you learn once you're outside [institutionalised learning], where there's a lot of regulations and your opinion isn't really gonna affect anything," she says.
Of course, now she's famous, her opinion affects a lot of people: with thousands of kids looking up to her as a role model, Costanza has started censoring her posts. She works the internet well, aware that it can be a mean place.
"You can have 10 nice comments today, and it's that one nasty comment that you're gonna hang on to," she says. "I've had people tell me I'm fat, and I'm like one of the smallest people I've met in my life. But I literally sat for a second and was like, have I gained weight?"
Ultimately, says Costanza, you are your own worst enemy. Haters' comments will only affect you if you give value to their words. As she sings in Paralyzed: "They keep on telling me to give in / But it's making me stronger / Fight a little longer / I'm gonna bring me back to life."