YouTube Famous, But Still Unsigned? Here Are 4 Reasons Why

“I’m blowing up on YouTube, so you should sign me.” This is a statement we’ve heard a few times from artists. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the upper hand when breaking into the industry. Here’s why:

The Importance (or not) of Views On YouTube

For what seems like forever, musicians have been told that they need to have a considerable following. From a digital promotion angle, it may seem like the key to success.

After all, seeing a YouTube channel with thousands of views and subscribers is “social proof” that the channel is popular, right?

That’s not always the case.

Anybody can easily buy Youtube views (as well as subscribers and comments), and labels are painfully aware of that.

“A misconception is that a record label will sign you if only you had a million fans or views. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Record labels are not stupid. They know fake followers and likes when they see them, and even more so, they know that an engaged fan base (not just a big fan base) is what will lead to sales.”

In the world of social media marketing and PR, transparency is everything. Getting organic followers is painstaking arduous, but it comes with two main benefits, mainly a) labels will take you seriously and b) you get to know your fan base.

One of the essential parts of creating an effective social media strategy is understanding your target audience. By doing so, not only will you be able to better cater your content (and see the results), but you’ll also be able to apply analytics to see what content works best for you and help you plan.

Remember that fake views means dealing with by-products like irrelevant spam comments, all of which, aptly put, “can undermine YouTube’s credibility by manipulating the digital currency that signals value to users.”

Subscribers vs Views in The Eyes Of A Label

So do record labels even look for talent on YouTube anymore?

Yes, of course. According to Bree Brouwer, “the dominant presence of indie artists and unsigned musicians on YouTube provides a unique opportunity for your music label to find and add talent to your roster knowing they’re already primed for success on social video.”

Recent stats show that YouTube has 2 billion logged-in monthly users. Right behind Facebook, it’s the world’s second-most used social platform.

If anything, it means that you are not “wasting your time” by creating YouTube content.

As Ryan Waczek from Lion Bold Records explains, record labels expect you to do a large portion of the work ahead of time.

So, let’s look at it from a record label’s perspective:

A subscriber is essentially a fan. So, building a solid and loyal subscriber base is very important for creating a solid online community. When a YouTube channel has many subscribers, it’s likely to get more targeted traffic, exposure and views. 

On the other hand, views are a crucial measure of the overall popularity of a video (and as of late, YouTube’s algorithms are getting more innovative when determining fake vs real views).

Considering that as of 2020, 38% of total YouTube views stemmed from independent artists and labels, it’s the place to go to look for talent.

Why? Because artists who are making an impact on social video have a higher likely potential for long-term success. 

“If those views are creating awareness among the right audience, or if the video is creating sales, that’s great. But views for view’s sake are just a vanity metric.” – Dane Golden

What Else Are Your Viewers Consuming from You?

Getting an official artist channel is not just about creating a good video and earning genuine feedback. You are an artist using YouTube as a means of promoting your work. To avoid getting stuck in a limbo where all you do is upload videos, you have to provide something else.

Selling merch, holding a concert (even if it’s a virtual event),  and taking the initiative to engage first will go a long way when it comes to building a rapport.

“When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to use these different channels to drive views to your videos. On top of that, you can also try building a newsletter so you have a built-in list of subscribers you can email when a new video launches.”

You don’t want viewers who subscribe to your videos and then maybe take a look when a new notification comes out – you want the ones who are eagerly awaiting new content!

Is Your Content Good?

We know this might sound discouraging, but it’s important to note that if you have loads of views and the quality of the music is low, that’s a big red flag.

So, if you’re serious about making a YouTube channel to support your career, then Jay Cartere has four essential tips:

Be realistic: you shouldn’t be expecting to blow up overnight or even promptly; expecting anything at all can lead to demotivation when you don’t get what you expect.

Be patient: as a smaller YouTuber, you shouldn’t be thinking about the views and subs you’re getting today. Instead, you should think about creating a library of content that is successful six months from now.

Don’t compare yourself to other YouTubers: everyone’s channel is different, and everyone has a different path to success. 

Write down your goals and work towards them: Writing your goals down isn’t nearly enough; you need to be actively working towards that goal every single day. So build up a habit of being productive and working towards your desired goal.


The big numbers associated with a “popular” YouTuber might seem impressive, but it doesn’t always mean this is the only way (or any way at all) to get a label’s attention.  The music industry is a cut-throat business & record labels keep striving to sign the best new talent as early as possible in their careers.  

Remember that labels are looking for far more than just astronomical views; they now prioritize signing those artists who have already gained some momentum in the market.