Youthful YouTube voice tries new path to fame

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Editor's note: The Hollywood Reporter's music coverage is being fueled by Billboard stories 24/7, and this page will offer exclusive music buzz every week. Today marks the relaunch of the Music Reporter column written by Tamara Conniff, executive editor/associate publisher at Billboard.

YouTube continues to attract attention from the labels, managers and aspiring artists. Billy Mann -- manager, founder of Stealth Entertainment and songwriter, who has written hits for Pink and Jessica Simpson -- trekked to the Dutch village of Oosterbeek to sign 18-year-old YouTube sweetheart Esmee Denters. Using an old, low-tech webcam, she recorded her own karaoke videos that have been streamed more than 8 million times.

She has been in the studio with Kelly Rowland and is fielding TV deals. The major labels are dying to add her to their roster, but Denters and Mann might have other plans. "We may decide not to sign with a label," Denters says. "I've already accomplished so much on my own. We'd like to see what we can do with that."

Meanwhile, Wind-up Records, home to Evanescence and Finger Eleven, has struck a deal to make its music videos available on YouTube in return for a share of the company's advertising revenue. Not a bad idea.

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Steven Schnur, worldwide executive of music and marketing at video game developer Electronic Arts, was in New York last week for Billboard's Music & Money Symposium. While there, he leaked EA's partnership with London-based singing sensation Lily Allen, which created a stir because the deal was not quite done. Thankfully, it is now. It's a singing contest -- not in English but in Simlish.

Yes, it's the native language of the "Sims" game franchise. The competition invites aspiring rock stars and video game players from around the globe to sing Allen's hit single "Smile" in Simlish at EA's online music community, SingShot. For inspiration, contestants are encouraged to check out Allen's own Simlish version, which is included in "The Sims 2: Seasons" game.

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On the other side of the globe, nondigital things were happening in Chile (yes, it's past the equator and currently summer there). I was honored to be an international judge at the Festival de la Cancion de Vina del Mar, which features countries competing for the best song as well as star guest performers over six nights. The festival is telecast to more than 250 million households worldwide.

The song winners were Canada and Spain, but the true gold went to the guest performers, and I would not be surprised if we saw the ripple effect in the U.S. in the next year: Watch out for Tom Jones, who at 66 can still can make women of all ages cry. He did a cover of Hoobastank's "The Reason" that brought the house down. I hear he doesn't have a label; someone please sign him, put him in a movie, have him sing the soundtrack, something!

Additionally, kudos from Vina go to Ricky Martin -- who showed he can do more than shake his bon bon -- Chilean rockabilly band Los Tres; and Argentinean singer-songwriter Axel.
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