With music sales continuing to drop year after year and radio playlists becoming ever more stagnant, the record industry has been increasingly turning to YouTube as a tool to promote its artists. It’s also become an important talent discovery mechanism. Instead of hiring hipster A&R people to scour local clubs, burning through expense accounts as they buddy up to bands, they can simply surf the Google-owned platform, where artist channels not only show off their talent, they give hard numbers (viewer and subscriber count) that quantify their popularity.
They latest artist to make the leap from YouTube to a record contract is 13-year-old Lexi Walker, who signed a deal with Sony Music Masterworks imprint Portrait Records, which will release her holiday-themed debut album “Merry Christmas” on Nov. 20.
A native of Cottonwood, Utah, Walker has racked up 72 million views on YouTube with her performance of the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen.” The eighth grader has also performed on “America’s Got Talent” with the One Voice Children’s Choir and alongside artists like The Piano Guys, Kristin Chenoweth, Lindsey Stirling and David Archuleta. She recently opened for Idina Menzel (the original singer of “Let It Go”) at a benefit concert in Utah.
Portrait Records is also the label for other YouTube-bred artists such as Peter Hollens, The Piano Guys and 2 Cellos.