Lindsey Stirling: Chart Beat Meet & Greet (Exclusive Video)
The dancing, video-savvy violinist has translated online exposure into album sales and international touring success.
If achieving success on Billboard charts as a violin player isn't enough of a curiosity, perhaps more intriguing is how Lindsey Stirling has risen to online prominence as an independent artist. By dancing along to her own idiosyncratic style of classical dubstep, she's made a name for herself on YouTube, amassing one of the largest subscriber bases on the entire portal.
The exposure has, in turn, led to sizable album sales and numerous sold-out shows.
"I would send DVDs to everyone trying to find opportunities to perform and I got sick of people telling me 'no'," Stirling said in a recent visit to Billboard's New York offices. "I met cinematographer Devon Graham [of the YouTube channel devinsupertramp, which boasts nearly a million subscribers and a whopping 179 million video views] who offered to produce a music video for me [helping to unveil Stirling's trademark dance moves]. For the first time, my music started to sell. Something started to click.
"YouTube is more than just a place for cat videos. It can be a platform."
Stirling's aptitude for showmanship, and the violin, began at a young age. "When I was a kid, my parents would play classical music in the house and I fell in love with the violin," she says. "I took classical lessons from age 6 to 17 but then I got burnt out on classical and started trying new things. I wanted to entertain, not just impress, and that's when I started to dance."
In the year and a half since Stirling launched her official channel, Lindseystomp, she's amassed more than 1.7 million subscribers (more than the sums of a plethora of major-label artists) and a monstrous 248 million views of her videos. Lindseystomp currently ranks among the 100 most-subscribed channels on all of YouTube.
In addition to her violin prowess and dancing, Stirling has tapped into another outlet that's helped swell her channel's viewership. "The gamer audience changed the game for me," she says. "My Zelda cover really helped launched my channel. Ever since then, it's been smooth sailing," Stirling says in her cheerful, matter-of-fact manner, one that belies her proven DIY business acumen.
Stirling has also utilized covers of popular hits, such as Rihanna's "We Found Love" (click here to hear Stirling discuss the origins of her version), and participated in collaborations with other well-known YouTubers, including Megan Nicole and Freddie Wong, to further grow her following. "Covers are very searchable," Stirling explains. "With covers I can attract Rihanna fans or video game fans and thereby build an audience for my original content."
Last fall, Stirling released her eponymous debut album (on the BridgeTone label). The set debuted atop Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums and Classical Crossover Albums charts, as well as No. 81 on the Billboard 200. It's sold 84,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a hefty total for the classical genre. Impressively, all 12 of the album's tracks debuted on Billboard's Classical Digital Songs ranking, with "Moon Trance" bowing atop the tally the week that the album made its chart entrances (Oct. 6, 2012).
Stirling has since mobilized her music into an international touring force. She completed an 11-date European jaunt this winter and has plans to return in May. (Having inked a deal with Universal Germany to distribute her album in the country, the set opened in the top five on the Germany Albums chart earlier this month.) Her North American touring schedule runs through early May, with several dates sold out in the U.S. and Canada. Each of her stops features a VIP upgrade that includes a meet-and-greet.
When Stirling started out – before her online fandom blossomed, before she began selling albums and filling venues – YouTube was widely considered a place people posted videos of their pets. "But now, you have celebrities like Amy Poehler reaching out to people like me, asking me to be on their channels," Stirling says. "There's an emerging cross-collaboration happening between the TV world and YouTube-land.
"People are realizing that this kind of exposure is a force to be reckoned with."