Why singers should not follow in Justin Bieber’s footsteps

Justin Bieber’s beginnings are not unlike a lot of musicians. He was born in a small town, raised by a single mom, and had a love of music at a very young age. But at a certain point, this Canadian singer’s story takes a drastically different turn than most musicians’. His career gets a jumpstart, thanks to YouTube. As he himself said during his deposition in 2014: “I was found on YouTube. I think that I was instrumental to my own career.”

How YouTube Catapulted Bieber Into Fame

Bieber was like any other musical kid of his generation — performing in talent shows (his main instrument being the drums) while his mom filmed him, overcome with motherly pride. “I’ve always known he was talented,” his mother, Patricia Mallette, told ABC News. “I just didn’t know what he would do with it. He had a few drum lessons but he didn’t have any guitar lessons, piano lessons or singing lessons. And, you know, we just sort of hung out and played music around the house.” But then his mom posted those videos of her son on YouTube. The very first video she posted on the official Justin Bieber YouTube account was a grainy, dark video of him singing.

However, his voice in the video sounds on point. It’s no wonder he made it to the top three in that competition. And he was barely a teenager. This is where most musicians are today — they post a video of themselves singing a song, maybe get thousands of views, create some buzz, and slowly build their fanbase. And that was Bieber’s trajectory too, but his journey just went a lot faster and higher than most artists. “It had a hundred views, then a thousand views, then ten thousand views, so I just kept posting more videos and more videos,” Bieber told ABC News.

At some point, a manager found the young singer videos. And it turned out that this manager got him in front of the eight-time Grammy-winning soul singer Usher. “Eventually,” Bieber went on, “I got found by my manager who flew me to Atlanta to meet Usher.”

How few singers get a chance to sing in front of Usher?

Very few.

And when Usher heard Bieber’s voice, he knew the kid had so much potential. “When I finally got the chance to hear [Justin] sing, I knew that this was a kid that was going to go very far,” Usher told Good Morning America. “And I felt like I could offer him a lot.” He remembers saying of Bieber, “This kid is really like [a] once-in-a-lifetime glimpse at a prodigy or something incredible.”

This is pretty much every singer’s dream. But it’s a dream that I’m about to shatter.

Why Singers Should Not Rely On YouTube To Be “Ushered” Into Success

 As a DIY singer or musician, it can be frustrating to hear a story like this. You might think, “Why can’t that happen to me? I’m just as good of a singer.” Let me say this: stop right there. That type of thinking will do no good. In fact, there’s a good lesson we can all learn from Justin Bieber’s rare story of him taking a rocket ship to fame. The thing is, most artists are not discovered on YouTube. That’s why singers shouldn’t wait around to be discovered by somebody famous.

Don’t rely on a “big break” for you to chase success. Hard work and persistence is how most artists become successful and do what they love on a daily basis. To prove my point, try this game: without using the internet, try to name 10 artists (besides Bieber) who were discovered on YouTube. I’ll help you: 5 Seconds Of Summer, Carly Rae Jepson, Tori Kelly, Shawn Mendes, James Bay, Alessia Cara, The Weeknd, Austin Mahone, Pentatonix, and Ed Sheeran.

Now think about how many singers exist in the world. According to FutureOfMusic.org, there were more than 39,000 musicians and singers in the United States only as of 2013. Now multiply that by every country in the world with artists. We’re looking at hundreds of thousands — probably millions — of artists. Now compare that to the very few singers discovered on YouTube.

The point is, don’t wait around, expecting to be found on YouTube. You’ll probably die waiting.

We musicians and singers need to work hard every day to be successful. If Usher finds you on YouTube, great! If not, don’t worry about it. Focus on the fans you already have and try to get more people to hear your voice.

You can’t expect to follow in Justin Bieber’s footsteps. You have to blaze your own trail.

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Caleb J. Murphy is a musician who writes about music. His writing appears in Consequence of Sound, Pittsburgh City Paper, and some other cool places. He also blogs about music on his website: calebjmurphy.com