Five Celebrities Who Got Their Start on YouTube
Twelve-year-old Greyson Chance made internet waves when a video of his performance of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at a sixth grade talent show surfaced on YouTube. The clip, which was posted three weeks ago, has gathered more than 20 million views.
The internet is a helluva drug, though. Those 20 million views led to Chance getting contacted by Ellen DeGeneres, whose show he appeared and performed on only a week after the video went viral. He was invited back May 26, where the big announcement was made: Ellen DeGeneres was starting a record label called Eleven Eleven, and he was going to be her first artist. In addition to the signing, Chance received $10,000 and a new piano from Yamaha. Talk about winning a talent show.
What’s interesting, though, is how YouTube—which is only five years old redefining our concept of celebrity. A month ago, Chance was a normal kid in Oklahoma who enjoyed music. Now, he’s receiving national attention and a record deal. As a celebration of the zero-to-hero phenomenon, we wanted to recap some other artists who used YouTube as a stepping stone to record labels (Note: This list doesn’t include self-supported artists who’ve gained as much or more notoriety as artists who signed on to labels.):
1. Greyson Chance
Here’s the video that started it all:
2. Justin Bieber
Teenybopper sensation and near-constant Twitter trending topic Justin Bieber got his start on YouTube; the older parts of his channel are filled with videos of him performing at singing competitions in his native Canada. Bieber garnered millions of hits from word-of-mouth alone. The videos caught the attention of Scooter Braun, who flew Bieber out to meet with executives. Bieber also met with Usher, who later signed him to Island Records. The rest, as they say, is history. Eventually, even Paste caved long enough to take a moment to weigh in on The Bieb.
Here, he sings Alicia Keys’ “Fallin” in one of his earlier videos at a singing competition:
3. Bo Burnham
Nineteen-year-old comedian Bo Burnham started posting videos on YouTube in 2006. When asked on his blog why he started posting videos in the first place, he responded “Honestly, I don’t remember. That shows how confused I was. But I’m very glad I did.” In August 2008, Burnham became the youngest person to record a comedy special for Comedy Central; his first CD came out a couple of months after that.
Watch one of the earlier videos on Burnham’s channel:
4. Esmee Denters
Esmee Denters was only 17-years-old when she began posting videos of herself covering hits by Alicia Keys, Pink, Beyoncé and others. Six months later, Esmee was signed by Justin Timberlake’s Interscope imprint, Tennman. In 2007, she began writing songs with Timberlake. A single from her first album, Love Dealer, was released April 28.
Here, Denters sings a cover of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay”:
5. Liam Sullivan
An actor in Los Angeles is like an ant at a picnic: one among millions, most of them very hungry. But when that ant starts writing and producing videos for the Internet (especially videos that involve comic mispronunciations of curse words, funky techno beats and the ant cross-dressing as the shoe-loving Kelly), well, then that ant gets the attention of big time television networks like VH1. Although Sullivan hasn’t been catapulted to super-stardom, millions of views have made him one of the Internet’s most-watched and allowed him to have recurring roles in shows like VH1’s I Hate My 30’s and 8 Simple Rules, in addition to a comedy tour and album.
Watch the internet classic, “Shoes”: