It’s now an exciting time to be a musician. In the time it takes to ride the bus to an open mic night, you can now write, record, and instantly publish a song to a global audience. You no longer need an up-front investment from a record company to prepare and package you for the world. You’ve now got all the tools available to put your music out there and, more importantly, the people have a way to praise and share the artists that they enjoy the most.
Although getting discovered has become easier, it definitely is still definitely not an easy process. In fact, you could even argue that it has become more difficult. Yes, the Internet as has allowed many people to get noticed who might not have otherwise been signed during the pre-Internet music industry, but there are now a lot of people posting their music online. Just consider this: there’s 100 hours of video posted to YouTube every minute! Though you now have a potential audience of millions that you can directly reach, good luck standing out in the sea of other content you’re trying to swim through.
As hard as it may seem to rise to international stardom on the Internet, there are some people out there who have managed to do it. Whether it was through hard work, luck, exceptional talent or a combination of all 3, there are many household names out there that might not have been able to get there without the Internet’s help. Here’s a collection of 9 of the most famous artists that have risen to the top because of the web:
Before he was the tattooed, muscular and erratic “bad boy” that many love to hate, Justin Bieber was a sweet and innocent little kid from Stratford, Ontario. After a video of him at age 12 covering Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” at a local singing competition was posted online in 2007, Bieber began to regularly post videos singing covers of R&B songs on his YouTube channel under the username kidrauhl.
As his videos got more and more views, one of his videos was eventually discovered by talent manager Scooter Braun. After tracking Bieber down, Braun flew the then-13 year old Bieber to Atlanta to record some demo tapes. Braun then introduced Bieber to Usher, who reportedly beat out Justin Timberlake in a bidding war to sign the young YouTube star.
After being signed by Usher, Bieber recorded his first album, released the single “One Time,” and proceeded to have his face put up on tween bedroom walls everywhere. He’s had 3 multi-platinum albums that have all reached #1 on the charts, and continues to play to sold-out arenas all across the world. No need to say much more – you know who Justin Bieber is.
Back while Adele was still in high school in 2006, a friend posted Adele’s demo on Myspace. Soon after, the people at XL Recordings – also home to The White Stripes, The Prodigy, M.I.A. & Vampire Weekend – discovered the demo and liked what they heard. They offered Adele a recording contract and the singer got to work creating her first album, “19.”
Her first album was both commercially and critically praised, certified 4 times platinum in the UK and double platinum in the U.S., as well as earning her Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammys. Her following album “21” was even more successful, earning 6 Grammy Awards and being certified 16 times platinum in the U.K. & Diamond in the U.S. She’s even won an Academy Award for her song “Skyfall” for the James Bond soundtrack.
Psy wasn’t exactly a nobody before his meteoric rise to fame in 2012. The K-Pop singer was doing quite fine in his homeland of South Korea; however, his 2012 video for “Gangnam Style” would go on to be the most successful Internet video of all time. It’s earned a number of Guinness World Records including: most viewed video online, most ‘liked’ video online, first video to be viewed more than 1 billion times on YouTube, most viewed video online in 24 hours, and first video to be viewed more than 2 billion times on YouTube. Even though most of the world can’t understand anything that the lyrics are saying, its quirky dancing & humour have managed to transcend language into an entertaining form that we all can’t seem to resist. Though he hasn’t managed to top the success of “Gangnam Style,” Psy has posted other great music videos including a collaboration with Snoop Dogg.
Skrillex released his first EP, My Name Is Skrillex, for free on Myspace in 2010. Shortly afterwards he released 2 more EPs and organically grew his audience base through online sharing of his music, club performances and general world-of-mouth. Before long, he started to get critical recognition with a total of 6 Grammy Awards to date. Though many may find his abrasive music to be not the most relaxing thing in the world to listen to, he’s managed to make himself one of the most sought-after DJs/producers in the EDM (electronic dance music) scene.
In 2007, DeAndre Cortez Way – better known as Soulja Boy – recorded and self-published a song called “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” and posted a crudely-shot video demonstrating the song’s accompanying dance. Soon after, the song would be released as a single on his debut album on Interscope, “Souljaboytellem.com.” Though the song was not very well-received critically, it would eventually reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks.
When Susan Boyle stepped onto the stage for Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, people were very skeptical of the 47 year old aspiring singer. As soon as she started singing, however, people were immediately blown away – so much so that she got a standing ovation after the first few lines of the song. Though she only finished in second in the competition, her audition went viral and was enough to make her an international star, selling over 19 million albums worldwide to date.
Panic! at the Disco
Panic! At The Disco is a great example of the saying ‘it never hurts to ask.’ After posting 3 demo songs on PureVolume, they sent a link to Fall Out Boy’s bassist Pete Wentz on his LiveJournal account. What did they have to lose? As it turned out, not only did Wentz listen to the songs, but he was so blown away by them that he drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to meet the young band, who were still in high school at that point. He then signed the band as the first group on his Decaydance Records label, all before they had ever even performed a single live show! Wentz’s hunch about the group proved to be right, with their debut album “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” reaching #13 on the Billboard 200 and selling over 2 million copies worldwide.
As he explains in the above video, Myspace played a huge part in helping to launch Sean Kingston’s career. In addition to using the network to showcase his music, he also used it as a networking tool. After discovering Tommy Rotem at Beluga Heights Records, Kingston relentlessly sent him message after message trying to get Rotem to check out his music. Eventually Rotem conceded and gave it a listen, after which he signed Kingston to a record deal. His first single “Beautiful Girls” was released in 2007 and would peak at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks.
Carly Rae Jepsen
The Internet wasn’t the beginning of Carly Rae Jepsen’s career, but it definitely played a big part in making “Call Me Maybe” the catchiest song of 2012. Three years after placing third in Canadian Idol, Jepsen released the single on the Canadian record label 604 Records. The song was doing fairly decently on Canadian radio, but wasn’t an international hit yet by any means. Shortly thereafter, Justin Beiber heard the song and sent out the following tweet:
Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepson is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) December 30, 2011
This introduced the song to a huge new audience, but Bieber didn’t stop there. He then showed the song to his manager, Scooter Braun, who then signed Jepsen to his record label and made a deal with Interscope Records for the American release of her album. As if that wasn’t enough, Bieber then released a video on YouTube lip syncing along to the song along with Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale. All of these efforts would help launch the song to #1 on the U.S. and Canadian Billboard Hot 100.
Know any other musicians who got discovered on the Internet? Let us know in the comments!