The number of Canadian singers and bands with songs on the Billboard Top 100 chart has increased drastically since 2006. This is because people discover artists and music via sites like YouTube or apps like Vines. Some artists share their music online on their own website and allow people to download them for free.
Since being founded in 2005, YouTube has become a great way for media creators to get exposure. “I use YouTube to find music,” says Tyler Nankishore, a first-year student in the computer programmer analyst program at Durham College. “It’s pretty good and fairly updated.” YouTube has also become a way for aspiring singers to be discovered. One notable example is Justin Bieber. He was noticed by Scott “Scooter” Braun, who has started the careers of Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Psy and The Wanted. Braun clicked on one of Bieber’s videos from 2007 by accident.
The video was of Bieber performing “So Sick” by Ne-Yo at a singing competition in Stratford, Ont. Bieber’s mother originally posted the video on YouTube for their family and friends to see. Since then, Bieber’s videos have gained millions of views on YouTube. His music video for his song “Baby” became the second video on YouTube to hit a billion views on March 5th, 2014.
Justin Bieber isn’t the only musician to have launched his career via YouTube. Walk off the Earth from Burlington, Ont. is best known for performing covers of popular music in odd locations, like a van, while using some uncommon instruments, such as the ukulele. They have been around since 2006 but they started to gain success after their cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”. All five members of Walk of the Earth performed the song playing on one guitar. The video went viral in early 2012 and gained 120 million views in the months after the video was released.
The band was even invited to perform on Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show and she gifted them each a Fender guitars and amps. Since then the band still records and posts covers of hit songs as well as some original songs, such as Rule the World and Boomerang, to their YouTube channel. They have released 7 albums and 5 singles. Right now, Walk off the Earth is in the European leg of a world tour.
Canadian singers are not only being discovered through YouTube, they’re also being found via video sharing apps like Vine. That is the story for Shawn Mendes of Pickering, Ont. Mendes posted covers of popular songs starting in 2013. His “Vines”, which are six-second videos, and his Vine profile soon gained millions of views and followers but he now has 4.4 million followers on Vine. Andrew Gertler of Island Records found Mendes’ Vine account in January 2014, Mendes soon signed a record deal with the label. Mendes became the youngest artist to debut in the top 25 of the Billboard Hot 100 in July 2014. He also has released a full-length album, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart and has also been an opening act for Taylor Swift on her latest 1989 world tour.
Word of mouth and offering your own music for free is another way for Canadian artists to gain some popularity. That seemed to work for Abel Makkonen Tesfaye also known as by his stage name, The Weeknd. It all started when Tesfaye secretly uploaded some of his songs on YouTube using his stage name in December 2010. The songs gained attention online and through word of mouth. This caught the attention of Drake, the Toronto-based rapper. Soon after, Drake started to help The Weeknd gain more attention and fans. Then in March of 2011, Tesfaye released the debut mixtape of The Weeknd, all nine songs on the mixtape were released for free on his website. House of Balloons soon gained critical acclaim.
The Weeknd released two more mixtapes over the course of 2011, all of which he released for free. This has helped grow his fan base. Now bands like Walk Off the Earth are doing covers of The Weeknd’s songs, like “I Can’t Feel My Face”. The WOTE cover, performed with Canadian musician Scott Helman, currently has 1.4 million views.
Times have changed over the past few years. Marni Thornton has worked in the music industry for over 20 years, she has previously worked for SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) which is an organization that represents the Canadian performing rights of millions of Canadian and international music creators and publishers. She now is a professor and program coordinator for the Music Business Management program at Durham College. Thornton says, “”With changes in technology, it’s gone from radio and word of mouth which is still relevant depending on the demographic, to apps and streaming services or sites like YouTube, which of course is still most prevalent right now, it’s the number one way people are discovering music.”
Now anyone with a camera and an internet connection could possibly be the next big thing. It’s not just about making a demo and sending it to record producers and hoping for the best. Success could be because of a video on YouTube, or a new type of social network platform or a free download. It’s not just Canadian singers or bands being discovered through these methods; anyone can succeed in this new era of music distribution. Canadians artists like Justin Bieber, Walk of the Earth, Shawn Mendes and The Weeknd embraced these new methods early.