A reader writes:
It was so canny. Justin first came onto YouTube because of his mom. Justin was trying out at the local version of American Idol, the local town version and his mom taped it. The narrative goes that she wanted it just to show relatives who weren't able to attend. It goes on YouTube and she keeps on taping him, as he sings in the bathroom, he brushes his teeth, he warbles to the mirror. He begins to catch the eye of lots of young girls.
And part of the strategy of Scooter Braun, who later on sort of acknowledges such, is to let the girls think they discover him.
He becomes truly the fans' hero. What really happens though is that Scooter hears about him, Scooter Braun the manager, signs Justin, and decides that because Justin's appeal is through YouTube, he's gonna encourage them to keep producing more product and putting it onto YouTube, and he deliberately tells them: make it look rough, make it look homemade, let's not let it look overproduced so the girls can continue to discover him.
So, yeah, YouTube helped in his success, but it's just as calculated as any industry marketing campaign, and not the rosy, grassroots scenario that James Parker seems to hint at.