Unique Path to Success: Lessons From Savvy YouTubers

The biggest challenge for any musician out there is how to get noticed. You can create the most amazing musical masterpiece, but it won’t matter if no one hears it. We’ve hand-picked a few examples of artists who are riding the wave of the music revolution. We’ll present them in a series of articles, and we’ll begin with musicians who made it big on YouTube.
Unique Path to Success: Lessons From Savvy YouTubers
Urban Klancnik

Did you know that there was a time when teenagers watched MTV to discover new bands? Hell, back then, Beavis & Butthead were the biggest music influencers. In the old days, you recorded a demo and sent it to publishers or agents. A lot of musicians were also discovered by scouts during live gigs. Today, it’s not that simple. Just creating music and playing live probably won’t get you on big stages or make you millions of dollars. The first step is to get a strong following on social media so that publishers or agents notice you, and YouTube is one of the most important promotional tools there are. 

In YouTube’s own words, people upload 400 hours’ worth of videos every minute onto the platform. You can imagine it’s quite hard for an artist to get through the noise.

Conquer YouTube with your special skills, like Juicy M
YouTube usually isn’t considered the most important channel for DJs, but one Ukrainian DJ used it to its full potential. Electro and Progressive House DJ Juicy M got a lot of fans with videos of her mixing with four CDJ players without using headphones (she got about 2.1M YouTube views per month on average in 2019), and she now has over 1.3M followers on YouTube. She ranks at #117 on the Viberate Electronic artists chart, which measures their digital popularity on Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, SoundCloud, and YouTube.

Juicy’s whole life has been dedicated to music. At the age of five, she did dancing courses and learned piano, and she worked on a music TV channel during college.

Get fans through covers, like Emma Heesters

There's probably no better way to get people’s attention as a singer than putting up a few covers on YouTube. Emma Heesters is one such YouTube success story. Millions of people watched videos of her covering hits by Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, BLACKPINK, and so on. She's gotten over 160M views combined on YouTube so far and has about 1.8M monthly streams on Spotify, which is a huge number for someone who doesn’t even have an album out yet. It's also good to have controll of all your social media channels and straming services in one place, and you can do that by claiming your Viberate profile.

Emma became a huge YouTube star by doing covers.

Cross your fingers to get fortunate, like young Justin did

Or like his mom did, at least. The success story of Justin Bieber is one of the biggest so far, and it’s pretty simple. In 2007, his mother Pattie Mallette posted a few videos of then 12-year-old Justin on YouTube, and they went viral. He was discovered by former record executive Scooter Brown – he's recently been making headlines by acquiring Big Machine Label Group and, with it, Taylor Swift’s back catalogue. To put it mildly, Swift was really upset about that. 

Back to Justin's story: Scooter clicked on one of his videos by accident, he recognized the boy’s talent, and history was made. Bieber was signed to RBMG, which was owned by Scooter and Usher, and in 2008, he got a contract with Island Records. His first single “One Time” was a hit, ranking high on charts all over the world, and it was just the beginning of his colossal career. It was pure luck that Bieber got discovered, then Usher’s stamp of approval helped, and don’t forget, Ludacris featured on “Baby” in 2010. By the way, Justin has over 33M followers on YouTube at this point. Only Ed Sheeran and Marshmello have more. 

In the last year, Bieber got about 101M YouTube views a month on average, which means he's gotten about 1.3B views in one year. It was videos like this one that propelled him to stardom.

Don't give up! Ed Sheeran never did

Ed Sheeran is another YouTube success story. He was a shy, insecure, bullied (because of the gingerness, and because he stuttered) child who started writing songs at the age of eleven. When he was 14, he went to London, chasing the musician’s dream, and it was pretty rough for him. He even slept in parks and bus stations. But he never gave up, and he had over 300 gigs just in 2009 alone. Remember, this was before he became famous. Ed was aware of the importance of social media, and he posted his live shows on YouTube. Eventually, he was noticed by rapper Example, who invited him on tour. Ed continued posting on YouTube and made a bit of a name for himself in England. He then decided to move to America in 2010 and he sent recordings to…well, everyone, but got no reply. Then he performed at Jamie Foxx’s club The Foxxhole, and Jamie was so impressed by him that he let him use his studio and even let him sleep on his couch. He became an international success in 2011, when he appeared on “Later… with Jools Holland”, playing his single “The A-Team”. He released his debut album “+” that same year, and it sold over 790k copies. His career went straight up, and he’s in ninth place on the Viberate Top Superstars rank, just behind Lady Gaga and ahead of Beyonce.

Ed Sheeran wrote one of the biggest hits of all time. Of course, we’re talking about “Shape of You”. We did a detailed analysis of the song's life cycle, and you can find the article here.

Ed said that he never intended to get this big. He only wanted to play and create music. In his own words: the fans were just a bonus.

Use it to the fullest, like Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes is sort of an honorary mention, as he made it big on Vine and only later transitioned to YouTube. Still, he has a similar story as Ed. He found success when he was only 14, by posting short videos of covers on Vine and YouTube. He actually first chose Vine, because it was a new channel back then, and by the time it shut down, he had accumulated millions of views. The bottom line is, it was those videos that got him noticed – first by fans and then by people in the business. In the last year, Shawn's gotten over 1.7B views on his YouTube channel, and now has about 7B views altogether. He also used YouTube to learn how to play guitar through how-to videos. 

Shawn did an unusual marketing campaign for his debut album “Handwritten”. He told his fans there were golden passes hidden in some of the albums in stores. When found, Shawn would meet the lucky fans in person. It worked, and the album shifted 119k units in the first week. 

Shawn Mendes kickstarted his career by doing covers on Vine and YouTube.

A lot of famous musicians got discovered on YouTube. But there are so many videos on it that at this point, an artist has to do something really special and have a lot of luck to get noticed. Also, a little bit of knowledge will get you a long way; find our two cents here: How to Be a Successful Musician on YouTube: Tips & Tricks.




Cover photo: Juicy M, Artist's archive


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Urban Klancnik

Urban Klancnik

Guest Writer at Viberate
A journalist, writer, drummer, and music enthusiast. Spent the last 20 years destroying his hearing with Metal and Rock and sharing his experiences from some of the biggest festivals in the world.