YouTube’s new Top Music Chart makes Top 40 radio look like NPR. Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Chris Brown take the first four spots followed by Rebecca Black at #8. But pop stars are far from the only ones finding an audience on YouTube. With the ability to upload and broadcast their music to anyone willing to listen, musicians now have a chance to hit it big without ever jumping through record-label hoops.
Today we take a look at some musicians who got their start on YouTube. Some are known for going viral, a few have had success offline, but all are simply awesome.
8. Tay Zonday
YouTube Username: TayZonday
Zonday was one of the early stars of YouTube with his song “Chocolate Rain.” His inexplicably deep voice combined with a babyish face made the video a viral hit, but Zonday has gone on to create a plethora of deep-vocal infused tracks.
7. Bo Burnham
YouTube Username: BoBurnham
The singing comedian got his start on YouTube when a number of his songs, particularly “I’m Bo Yo” went viral. He has since released an EP and full-length album on Comedy Central’s record label, and finished first in the network’s 2011 Stand-up Showdown.
6. Merton the Piano-Chat Improv Guy
YouTube Username: PianoChatImprov
Merton stole our hearts when he popped up on ChatRoulette, the video-chat-with-strangers website, performing beautiful piano songs on the fly. Never mind that he’s simply singing about what he sees; its hilarious.
5. George Watsky
YouTube Username: gwatsky
Best known as the “Pale Kid Who Raps Fast,” George Watsky spits incredible rhymes at breakneck speeds. Beyond his awesome viral hit, Watsky is a renowned slam-poet, and was featured on Season 6 of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry on HBO.
4. Julia Nunes
YouTube Username: jaaaaaaa
Known for her ukelele covers of popular songs as well as her fantastic original compositions, Nunes impressed her idol Ben Folds with her cover of “Gone” so much that he invited her to open several of his shows. She went on to appear at Bonnaroo in 2009 and 2010.
3. Ronald Jenkees
YouTube Username: ronaldjenkees
Fans of the YouTube-based news program, The Philip DeFranco Show, will recognize Jenkees’ “Throwing Fire” as the show’s former theme music, but what the short clip didn’t display is Jenkees’ exceptional keyboard abilities. He’s also known for, at the request of the show’s host, composing the intro theme to Bill Simmons’ ESPN podcast. Oh, and he appeared in our magazine back in 2007.
YouTube Username: PomplamooseMusic
A musical duo consisting of Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, Pomplamoose compose and record music in the form of video-songs, a style, as Conte describes, categorized by two things: every sound you hear, you will see at some point, and everything you see, you also hear. “People think that all of these things have to be done by geniuses behind huge desks or at the top of skyscrapers,” Dawn told NPR last year, “but you can just go online and do it yourself.” Also, they covered the Angry Birds theme, and that’s pretty sweet.
1. The Gregory Brothers (Auto-Tune the News)
YouTube Username: Schmoyoho
When Auto-Tune hit a fever pitch, thanks to the likes of Kanye West, T-Pain and Akon, the Gregory Brothers decided to apply the vocal-correcting software to slightly less musical situations. The result, Auto-Tune the News was an instant hit, turning newscasts and commercials into catchy pop songs. However, the group hit the comedy jackpot with “Bed Intruder Song,” the autotuning of Antoine Dodson’s now-famous on-air challenge to his sister’s would be rapist. You know it, you love it, and we do too.