The Struggles of YouTube for Women Vocalists

Becca Shearing
Rebecca Shearing has performed at the Commonwealth Games, Alexandra Palace, London and Rockwood Music Hall, New York.

After almost a decade and 35 million hits, she shares the struggles of being a girl on YouTube.

What was it that drew you into the world of YouTube?
I was 15 when I started uploading to YouTube. I had seen a few other singers posting some homemade videos and thought it looked fun. There weren’t the professional music videos like people make now.

That’s not just an obstacle that I have to overcome, it’s something that needs to be changed at a wider social and cultural level

What obstacles have you had to overcome for your love of singing?
There’s still a great deal of ageism and sexism, both at an industry level, and on social media. It’s difficult to tune this out and prevent the prejudices of others from defining my personal and professional identity. I don’t believe that I’d get the constant questions about my age and marital status, nor the cynicism about my ability to write and perform original material if I was a man. I’ve only just switched off private messages on Facebook, and that’s primarily because of this stuff. Of course, that’s not just an obstacle that I have to overcome, it’s something that needs to be changed at a wider social and cultural level.

Something’s that’s worked for you in reaching a larger audience?
Being the same person online as I am in real life. When I started this, being a YouTuber wasn’t a profession. There weren’t the conventions that exist now: the big cheesy “heeeeelllo” at the start and all the ‘quirky’ face-pulling. I’ve never tried to be a big personality like that, and I think (I hope!) people respond well to that. At the same time, the professional YouTubers do seem to be reaching massive audiences, so maybe times have changed.

Your videos look great – what equipment do you use?
Thanks! My camera is a Canon 700D, I bought it second hand at a photography store in Edinburgh. I use a Blue Bluebird mic which I plug into an m-audio fast track. Then, I use Logic on my laptop.

What tips would you have for people who don’t have that equipment?
You can record with anything these days, I used an iPad for one of my videos at Christmas time. Even a phone with a decent camera can work! (filmed horizontally).

You can record with anything these days, I used an iPad for one of my videos at Christmas time

A few ingredients of a memorable vocal performance?
I really appreciate good technique combined with a vocal style that fits the tone of the music. The specific example I’m thinking of is Hannah from London Grammar, whose performance at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Glasgow 2014 made me pretty emotional!

Tell us about your favorite singers?
Emulating Christina Aguilera was one of the main ways I learned to sing. I had lessons too, but I remember being about ten years old and asking my mum why I couldn’t sing a high note that Aguilera could just belt out, and she’d say “because you’re ten.” I’m still working to nail some of her melismatic runs.

Becca Shearing on stage

Rebecca Shearing is a singer and songwriter based in Edinburgh. Since uploading her first YouTube video at the age of 15, she has gained 35 million views and 700k Facebook likes. Having grown up with YouTube, Rebecca is now dedicating her time to new music in a new genre under a new name, with aspirations lying beyond being a YouTube personality. Her music will bring pop vocals over a darker, electronic sound.

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  • Jody Shealy

    I call bs on this. It’s no harder for a girl than anyone else. Everyone has to work hard to get noticed.

  • Kathy Coneys Alexander

    “You will not see Kanye West’s well-oiled butt on a magazine cover near you anytime soon,” says Jarune Uwujaren in Everyday Feminism Magazine. It is FAR less common to see the naked, well-oiled butts of male stars online, and yet Kim Kardashian’s naked butt is just one example of an endless number of women who have presented themselves naked, half-naked or in a highly sexualize way in the media. The same is true in the music industry. Jody Shealy: yes, it is difficult for any artist – male or female – to get noticed in today’s music industry, and there is of course pressure on both sexes to use sex appeal as a way of getting noticed. The issue on which Rebecca touches in her point number two above, is that young girls are under more extreme pressure to present themselves as sexy or sexually desirable and are expected to go to much further extremes in doing so than men. Furthermore, Rebecca alludes to how acceptable it is to comment on a woman’s desirability at any time, in any context. These phenomena are less for boys, as boys can more easily be regarded as cool, smart, hip and great musicians without having to first prove that they look good half-naked and covered in oil. Here is a link to an article with scientific studies that have proven just how girls are in a “no-win” situation because the pressure is so strong to appear sexualized, and but two seconds later, that same girl is condemned for being “slutty”: