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How top musicians built their YouTube audiences in 2014


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taylor-swiftMusic remained one of the driving forces of YouTube in 2014 even before the trial-launch of the YouTube Music Key service.

Now we have more details on how some of the most popular musicians grew their audiences of subscribers on Google’s video service over the course of the year.

The data comes from monthly charts published by online video industry site Tubefilter using data from analytics firm OpenSlate. With December 2014’s numbers published this week, we can see how they compare to December 2013.

Let’s start with 2014’s most high-profile artist, Taylor Swift. She ended 2013 with 6.9m subscribers to her Vevo-branded YouTube channel, but by the end of 2014 that had grown to 10.6m – with Swift adding more than 700k new subscribers in each of the last two months of the year.

Her views rocketed too, from 48.3m views in December 2013 to 359.2m in December 2014 – although bear in mind the end of 2013 was a much quieter time in her release cycle. Even so, when people question why Swift would continue to put her single videos on YouTube while boycotting other free streaming services, those 10.6m subscribers are an unignorable factor.

Some other big artists? One Direction ended 2013 with 11.2m YouTube subscribers, and passed 15m by the end of 2014. Beyoncé grew her Vevo channel’s subscribers from 3.9m to 6.7m over the same period, but note that her separate non-Vevo channel reached 1.3m subscribers by the end of 2014, having not been on the Top 100 radar a year earlier.

(That’s a mini-trend to watch in 2015, by the way: big artists launching their own channels for vlogging and marketing, as opposed to the label-controlled, Vevo-branded channels that host their music videos. Taylor Swift is another artist with one Vevo and one non-Vevo YouTube channel, for example.)

Meanwhile, Katy Perry’s subscribers grew from 9m in December 2013 to 14.7m a year later, while Justin Bieber went from 7.8m to 10.7m in the same period. Across this sample of musicians, we’re talking about annual YouTube subscriber growth of anywhere between 33% and 72%, basically.

That’s not so different to non-music YouTubers of a certain scale. For example, YouTube’s top star PewDiePie ended 2014 with a whopping 33.5m subscribers – but his 68% annual growth rate was a little less than Beyoncé.

Similarly-established YouTubers like The Fine Bros (61% growth in 2014 to 11.1m subscribers) and Hola Soy German (43% to 20.7m) showed similar growth rates, although some emerging stars saw sharper increases – British YouTuber Zoella doubled her subscribers to 7m over the year for example.

While subscriber numbers are less crucial for musicians than for gamers and vloggers – because music on YouTube is also driven by search – it’s interesting to see the similar growth patterns over the course of 2014.

That said, here’s an interesting stat on a possible wider slowdown of subscriber additions: in December 2013, the top 100 channels on the Tubefilter/OpenSlate chart added 44.1m new subscribers collectively, but a year later, the net additions for the top 100 were 27.6m.


Written by: Stuart Dredge