10 Of The Greatest Singers Who Got Famous On YouTube

Written by Dan Farrant

Over the last decade or so, social media and streaming platforms have become a breeding ground for talented artists to showcase their skills. And over time, these people have gained a large following.

From pop stars to soulful balladeers, there have been a lot of music artists who found fame and success on these platforms, and specifically, in this post, we’re going to take a look at 10 of the greatest singers who got famous on YouTube. Let’s get started.

1. Justin Bieber

First on our list, Justin Bieber, ranks as the most notable singer who got famous on YouTube. Who could forget the story about this pint-sized crooner being discovered randomly in the mid-2000s via a Canadian talent competition?

Bieber often uploaded cover songs onto YouTube, and his natural talent caught the eye of powerful producers and artists like Usher. Today, Bieber is a cultural icon for Gen Z with 26 Billboard Music Awards, among many more.

His best-known singles include “Baby,” “Sorry,” and “Yummy.” His pop and R&B music features artists like Ludacris to balance out Bieber’s sweet and melodic voice.

Bieber continues to release albums as his sound evolves, heavily influencing contemporary music. Musical career aside, he has also ventured into a variety of businesses, like clothing and clean water tech.

2. Charlie Puth

In the 2010s, Charlie Puth’s viral uploads on YouTube earned him a spot performing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. From there, he quickly rose to success though his career has experienced ups and downs in the first decade of fame.

The single “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa features Charlie Puth. This sentimental song became the biggest of his career so far, earning him a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year in 2015.

Puth’s other notable singles include “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” featuring Selena Gomez, and “Attention.”

3. Alessia Cara

Another chance encounter put pop singer Alessia Cara in front of influential music executives. This Canadian pop star began uploading videos of her singing to YouTube at the age of 13.

She earned recognition for her beautiful, clear singing voice on tracks like “Scars to Your Beautiful,” which dominated the airwaves in 2015. Cara went from YouTube to Disney Animation Studios, with her voice serving as the official cover version of Moana’s powerful anthem “How Far I’ll Go.”

Cara’s music—a blend of pop, R&B, and soul—has been nominated for Canada’s Juno Award, the Grammy Awards in the United States, and the Latin Grammys.

4. The Weeknd

Canadian singer-songwriter Abel Makkonen Tesfaye—that’s the Weeknd to us fans—used YouTube to his advantage, uploading a anonymously and using stage names for his initial exposure.

The Weeknd’s music has been categorized as new wave, dream pop, and dance. This unique approach to music earned him consistent acclaim since his debut in 2009, with notable singles that include “Earned It,” “I Feel It Coming,” and “Blinding Lights.”

He has also dabbled in other artistic ventures, like acting in the Oscar-nominated Uncut Gems. For his works, the Weeknd has received nominations for an Oscar and Emmy, as well as winning Grammy Awards, Latin Grammy Awards, and Juno Awards.

5. Ed Sheeran

Everyone knows this artist’s signature red mop of hair and piercing blue eyes. Ed Sheeran peered out from YouTube to spark his singing career, and an increasing fanbase as well as praise from the media helped push him to fame.

Following a debut album release in 2011, Sheeran has consistently dropped chart-topping albums and hit songs. Some of his most famous works include “Shape of You” and “Thinking Out Loud.”

Sheeran’s sound is a blend of pop and folk-rock, sometimes with rap thrown in. He often collaborates with other contemporary artists like Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, and Khalid to create #1 hits like “Perfect,” “I Don’t Care,” and “Beautiful People.”

6. Pentatonix

Acapella music experienced a resurgence in the 2010s, based on the popularity of the movie Pitch Perfect and the strong singing culture at American universities. Pentatonix capitalized on this trend, debuting on YouTube as a five-part acapella singing group.

While this style of singing can skew toward traditional barbershop quartets or church music, Pentatonix made a capella mainstream. This group covered pop hits like “Dancing on My Own” and Christmas carols like “Mary Did You Know?” 

Pentatonix is known for incorporating beatboxing and other experimental sounds into their medleys and covers, along with their tight, layered harmonies.

7. Tori Kelly

The musical career of Victoria Loren Kelly, known simply as Tori Kelly, got its start when she uploaded videos of covers she made to YouTube. She continued this even during her stint on the reality competition singing show American Idol.

Though she did not place on the show, Kelly persevered. She learned to play guitar, wrote and recorded her own songs, and uploaded them to YouTube, gaining a huge following there.

Since then, she has released four albums and has performed with other notable stars on this list, including Pentatonix and Ed Sheeran. In addition to singing, Kelly is also an accomplished voice actress; she voiced Meena in the charming animated films Sing and Sing 2.

8. Five Seconds Of Summer

The first Australians on this list, pop rock band Five Seconds of Summer (FSoS) gained recognition first as YouTube personalities. They captured the attention of major music labels, and after signing with Sony Music Publishing, there was no turning back for these men.

They went on tour with One Direction, furthering their popularity. After releasing their debut album in 2014, FSoS became one of the most successful Australian music artists of all time.

“Youngblood” is one of their best songs. From their third album, the song has been certified multi-Platinum. It stayed at the top of the ARIA Singles Chart for eight straight weeks. Another of their hit song is “She Looks So Perfect,” which is also a chart-topper.

9. Lana Del Rey

California’s Lana Del Rey brings a signature style to pop music. Del Rey, born Elizabeth Grant, uses her husky voice to sing lyrics about love with her unique perspective, often incorporating references to technology and pop culture.

Though Del Rey had already released a debut studio album in 2010, she reached viral success after releasing her single “Video Games” on YouTube in 2012. Other notable singles include “Queen of Disaster” and “Summertime Sadness.”

Del Rey’s music is known for lush instrumentation and cinematic quality. Her works have also been featured in films. The Great Gatsby has “Young and Beautiful,” while Disney’s Maleficent has “Once Upon a Dream.”

10. James Bay

Singer-songwriter from England James Bay found fame through his following on YouTube, but it wasn’t because he uploaded a video. Someone uploaded a video of him performing at an open mic event in Brighton, and it went viral.

After getting recognized for his soulful voice and beautiful lyrics, Bay began releasing music to reach a bigger audience. His debut album, Chaos and Calm, peaked at #1 and contained one of his best singles, “Hold Back the River.”

The song was nominated for several awards, including a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and won a Best Performed Work Ivor Novello Award.

Summing Up Our List Of YouTube Singers

Considering the number of artists and content creators who use YouTube, it could be said that luck must have been on the side of these artists for them to find fame there.

However, it is undeniable that all the singers we’ve listed are immensely talented. Their hit songs and accolades account for that, not to mention the influence they’ve had on the industry and fans alike.

This isn’t the end of the list, though, since, like all internet platforms, YouTube is ever-changing. In a few more months or years, another hit singing sensation might hit the soundwaves, and who knows? Maybe it could be you…

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.