KLAhm is a pop culture fanatic who has been writing about music online for over two years.
Most of the hundreds of millions of videos uploaded to YouTube attract relatively little interest. They may be viewed by friends or family, but don’t get a lot of attention from elsewhere. In fact, about half of all YouTube videos get fewer than 100 views in their first month, and only 30% of uploaded videos are viewed more than 200 times.
While the vast majority of YouTube videos never translate into fame and fortune for their creators, however, there are certainly exceptions to that rule. Some of the world’s best-known artists can trace their big break back to the video site. Here’s a look at how these famous singers got rich and famous on the streaming site.
Stars Who Were Discovered on YouTube
- Justin Bieber
- Shawn Mendes
- Cody Simpson
- Charlie Puth
- Alessia Cara
- Tori Kelly
- 5 Seconds of Summer
- Carly Rae Jepsen
1. Justin Bieber
It wasn’t that long ago that Justin Bieber skyrocketed from relative obscurity to superstardom—thanks in large part to YouTube videos of him performing as a pre-teenager. The Biebs was posting homemade performance videos at 12 years old, and those videos convinced execs at Island Def Jam Recordings to sign Bieber to a huge deal before he was even able to drive.
With an estimated $55 million in earnings last year, it’s safe to say Bieber got a pretty good return on his time spent uploading videos to YouTube.
2. Shawn Mendes
At first, Shawn was only entering cover contests. However, he won so many hearts in such a short time that his career skyrocketed. The singer’s OG fans lived on Vine, where he nabbed more than 10,000 likes in just one day. He also opened for fellow YouTuber Austin Mahone and, eventually, joined the T-Swift tour squad on her 1989 tour.
3. Cody Simpson
Cody Simpson, the Australian-born teen star (who’s also an accomplished swimmer), uploaded videos of himself covering songs by the Jackson 5 and Justin Timberlake in 2010. Subsequently, he was discovered by record producer Shawn Campbell. Simpson has appeared in a number of TV shows in the last few years. He has also released two studio albums.
4. Charlie Puth
In September 2009, he started his own YouTube channel named Charlies Vlogs, posting comedy videos and acoustic covers. In 2010, Puth released the music video of his first song, "These Are My Sexy Shades." In 2011, he won Perez Hilton's Can You Sing? performing a version of Adele's "Someone Like You," which he performed with Emily Luther. In the same year, Ellen DeGeneres announced that she had signed Charlie and Luther to her label, eleveneleven, after seeing their performance of Adele's "Someone Like You." Puth had performed the song on the show. On 2012, Charlie and Luther performed Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Puth also performed at an event supporting DKMS Delete Blood Cancer, the world's largest bone marrow donor center.
In 2018, he released four singles and set a tour called the "Voicenotes Tour." Charlie Puth has headlined three tours, played some television gigs, won a couple of awards worldwide, and was nominated for a Grammy for his song "See You Again."
5. Alessia Cara
At 13 years old, Alessia Caracciolo would sit in her bedroom after school and record covers of her favorite songs, then post them to YouTube. The acoustic videos quickly caught the attention of a viewer, whose father happened to be the head of EP Entertainment.
In 2014, she signed a management deal with EP Entertainment. On May 5, 2015, her debut single "Here" was chosen as the "can't-miss" track by Spin. It was also listed as a "must hear song" by Cosmopolitan. The song was named one of the best Canadian songs of April by Complex. It is included on Billboard's "20 Pop Songs You Need For Your Summer Playlist" in June 2015.
Cara was named the Best New Artist at the 2018 Grammy Awards, making her the first Canadian artist to win this award. She has also won a total of 17 awards and 71 nominations worldwide.
6. Tori Kelly
Tori started her musical career on YouTube in 2006. Her popular covers of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin' Bout You" and Justin Timberlake's "Suit and Tie" have reached millions of views.
She not only wanted to be known as a cover artist, but also as an original songwriter. She then posted some of her original songs. Recently, Tori released her album "Unbreakable Smile," which included hits like "Nobody Love." She was also nominated for the "Best New Artist" Grammy award in the same year.
7. 5 Seconds of Summer
5 Seconds of Summer developed their following organically on Facebook and Twitter, but it was the success of their YouTube channel that got them signed. This led to the bromance that changed their lives, a tour with One Direction (sigh, back when there were still five members of the group). Louis even backed them up with a simple, but sweet, tweet.
8. Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen was already popular in her native Canada (she finished third on “Canadian Idol”). But she didn’t hit the road to U.S. fame until Justin Bieber tweeted that “Call Me Maybe” was “possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard.”
That tweet sent Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, to YouTube, where he viewed videos of Jepsen's performances and, ultimately, signed her to a mega-deal with Schoolboy Records.