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Maria wouldn't be first to find fame after discovery online

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Maria Aragon appears to have won some kind of musical lottery.

The 10-year-old Winnipegger's online YouTube video of her version of the new Lady Gaga single, Born This Way, was seen by the superstar herself Thursday after it was sent to her by entertainment blogger Perez Hilton.

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Lady Gaga then posted a tweet about the clip, saying, "Can't stop crying watching this. This is why I make music. She is the future."

Whether you believe Lady Gaga's sincerity about why she makes music makes no difference; what matters is that the message reached her 8.2 million Twitter followers along with a link to Aragon's video, which quickly went viral. As of Friday evening Aragon's video had hit nearly three million views.

Aragon became an instant celebrity, was whisked away from school in a limousine to an interview at Hot 103, was sought out by every local media outlet and appeared on national newscasts all before the day was done.

Friday got even better for the Isaac Brock student as she got to talk to Lady Gaga on the phone and was invited to appear onstage with the performer in Toronto on March 3.

"Not only do you have such a beautiful voice and you are so joyful to watch, but every once in a while, whether people believe it or not, I have a very bad day," Lady Gaga told Aragon over the phone. "I was not having such a good day, and when (Hilton) sent me the video of you singing Born This Way, I was so overjoyed that I began to cry."

That's sure nice of Gaga to say, but what does it all mean in the long run? Well, it could mean a world of riches for Aragon, or a brief burst of fame followed by a life of normalcy with some great memories and stories for the grandkids.

A person getting famous after being discovered online is becoming more and more common. Justin Bieber (who for some reason is a media sensation despite only being relevant and popular among female tweens and teens) was discovered online, signed to a management deal by Usher and is one of the biggest stars in the world. A video of Greyson Chance singing Lady Gaga's Paparazzi was a YouTube sensation, which led to an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres's talk show and being signed to DeGeneres's new record label. He now gets played on Top 40 radio stations in the United States.

And there are more stars in the making, says New York artist manager David McKay, who also does online marketing for an American record label.

"When someone like a Lady Gaga or Ellen or Perez Hilton tweets about someone it's credible because they have an opinion people trust and they have a voice," he says.

Even if Aragon doesn't get signed to a record deal, there is a chance her time in the spotlight could lead to a career as a YouTube artist.

There are currently a number of artists making a living off of YouTube who are not signed to a record label, McKay says. The artists sign a deal with YouTube and make money from page views and the number of subscribers they have.

The more views a video gets, the more money they make from ad revenues. Sell a song or two on iTunes and make a few more bucks.

"There are YouTube artists making a living posting a new video every day singing other people's songs, so when you search Justin Bieber you get one of their videos coming up because they are singing one of his songs," says McKay, owner of Artist Approved management.

One friend asked me if record labels were desperate enough right now to sign a 10-year-old who covers other people's songs based on a Twitter comment. Well, cynical co-worker, yes they are. Finding an artist online requires no expensive A&R team, nights in smelly bars checking out an act or wining and dining some band that may or may not sell records. When it's online, things like popularity and marketability can be judged instantly through views and comments.

Aragon has some talent and seems intelligent, but where it goes from here is really a crapshoot. She won some instant fame in a lottery, but there are thousands, possibly millions, of kids out there who could be the subject of some star's next tweet. (There were more than a dozen cover versions of Born This Way on YouTube Friday afternoon).

Speaking of which, there's a new Britney Spears song out, kids. Quick, get a cover up of Hold It Against Me and let Britney know. If she tweets about you we can start this whole process again.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2011 A3

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