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5 Canadian Musicians Who Got Famous on YouTube

Shawn Mendes attends the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA.
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Before TikTok there was YouTube, and for many Canadian music-makers, the video platform was key to making it big. Canadian superstars from Justin Bieber to The Weeknd have YouTube in common, as the platform led to them getting discovered and finding fame.

According to a recent YouTube report, YouTube is the key to industry growth. More than three quarters of music, media and entertainment companies who have their own channels say that the video platform helps grow the overall market for media content. Two thirds of that same group also agree that YouTube is essential for undiscovered artists to level up.

Aside from The Weeknd and the Biebs, a few other big names in music also owe their successful careers to the site. These are the Canadian musicians who got their start on YouTube.

Shawn Mendes

Like many young musicians, Mendes uploaded videos of himself singing on YouTube, covering songs from Rihanna and others. He also learned how to play guitar by watching tutorials on the platform. He later gained lots of fans on Vine (R.I.P), but it was through YouTube that he started performing music publicly. Now, his videos have millions (sometimes billions!) of views, he’s sold out tours all over the world, and was named one of TIME‘s most influential people. Not bad for a kid from Pickering, Ont.!

Related: The 20 most generous celebs during covid-19.

Alessia Cara

Before she was a Grammy-winner and making hits with Zedd, Cara was also sharing singing covers on YouTube. The singer, 24, made her channel when she was only 13 years old and was discovered in high school after record label founder Tony Perez’s daughter showed him Cara’s cover of The Neighborhood’s “Sweater Weather.” In 2015, her first single “Here” blew up with half a million streams in a week, and she’s since put out two albums, with her third due out later this year.

Related: Style trends spotted at the 2021 Grammys.


Justin Bieber

If there’s one celebrity who really owes their career to YouTube, it’s the Biebs. As a youngster, Bieber had lots of videos of himself performing R&B covers uploaded to the site by his mom, who also filmed him busking by the Avon Theatre in Stratford, Ont. Scooter Braun accidentally found one of his videos while browsing and was so impressed that he had him recording demos not long after. Usher and Braun then signed him, Braun became his manager, and Bieber fever took over the world. He’s since gone on to take home two Grammys, break several Guinness World Records (he’s the most-followed male popstar on Twitter!) and win 20 Billboard Music Awards.

Related: Justin Bieber wears dreadlocks, appropriates Black culture yet again.

The Weeknd

No one knew who The Weeknd was back when he was uploading mysterious songs to YouTube under xoxxxoooxo without revealing his identity in 2010. Classics such as “Loft Music,” “What You Need” and “The Morning” gained some traction, and then after Drake posted about them on his blog, scored The Weeknd coverage by The New York Times. Since then, he’s smashed some records (“Blinding Lights” broke the Billboard record for most weeks in the Hot 100 chart’s Top 10), become one of the most-streamed artists on Spotify and performed at the Super Bowl.

Related: The Weeknd will still boycott Grammys despite changes – as he should.

Carly Rae Jepsen

Technically, Jepsen was known for competing on Canadian Idol; however, her big international break really came years later after “Call Me Maybe” went viral on YouTube with the help of Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and a few other famous faces. It became the most popular song of 2012 and scored a couple of Grammy nominations. After that, Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun signed her, and she’s continued to make addictive, upbeat pop songs and has also performed on Broadway.

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