The Evolution of Online Music Stars

From reality television shows to open casting calls, in today's modern world there is more than one way to get famous. The rise of social media has seen many current musical stars get their start online, and this is only becoming more common. Video platforms like YouTube and Vine have impacted our generation to such an extent that some of the world’s biggest stars owe their careers to it. Whether they’re simply singing an acoustic cover or dropping original content, the millions of views these sites racks up daily produces a powerful potential audience. Many stars, such as Justin Bieber and Adele were lucky enough to have record labels stumble on their videos and offer recording contracts. Others, like Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan built up loyal fanbases online over time and slowly migrated into mainstream music. Why exactly has social media become one of the most effective ways to get discovered? Firstly, you’re exposed to a worldwide audience. A chap from Tallaght could upload a video of him snorting milk and some elderly lady in Timbuctoo could end up watching it. That’s the generation we’re living in - the age of technology. When Justin Bieber uploaded his cover of a Chris Brown song, I doubt he ever thought Usher would see it and sign him to his record label, let alone ending up as one of the most streamed artists in the world. In the same way, Adele probably never expected to be selling out stadiums worldwide when she posted her original song to Myspace. The evolution from social media star to global sensation is a development that is becoming more and more common. Take Troye Sivan for example. A thirteen year old Sivan posted a cover of Declan Galbraith’s ‘Tell Me Why’ and from there he evolved into a generic YouTube star with sporadic music related uploads, and eventually signed to Universal Music in 2013, when music became his main focus. Sivan had already accumulated a mass following, ready to support his music career. Figures like this massively encourage record labels to sign social media stars as they are guaranteed sales success. Sivan’s debut album Bloom sold over 72,000 copies in its first week. Sivan’s success story is one of many. Shawn Mendes began posting six-second covers to Vine, and generated thousands of followers before being signed to Island Records in 2014, and establishing himself as the new teen heartthrob in a matter of years. With the rise of streaming, and the ability to self-publish and record, it is now becoming the norm for artists to abandon the traditional route to the recording studio and go about it their own way. Grammy award winner, Chance the Rapper, dropped his mixtape Acid Raps in 2013 as a free digital download. The rapper received immense acclaim and was approached by numerous record labels. However, he decided that he was better off without established backing. Speaking to Fader, he said “I can do whatever I want, I can do whatever videos I want, I can release when I want, talk how I want. I feel like conforming to the mixtape to mixtape to album rule would just defeat the whole purpose of not signing”. Due to the follower count of many online stars, they are financially able to produce their own music without having to sign a record deal or conform to the rules of a company. The establishment of music streaming services like Spotify have allowed artists to share their music in an efficient and affordable manner. According to, Spotify has over 180 million active users, averaging 750,000 tracks streamed around the world every minute. These staggering figures have played a large role in the globalisation of online music stars. From a baby Bieber to an anonymous Weeknd, there is no denying that social media has given the music industry some of its most talented stars. YouTubers such as Dodie and Emma Blackery are up and coming stars, who first found fame behind the camera in their bedroom. The evolution of music for the last decade has been heavily influenced by online platforms and will continue to be, as online stars evolve into global music stars.