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The Rise of
Canada's Creator Economy

Like, subscribe, share: How digital platforms connect artists, educators and influencers alike to their entrepreneurial spirit

Oxford Economics Research recently released a new report on YouTube’s Impact in Canada. The research below is based on economic modelling and anonymised surveys from April – May, 2022.

In the early stage of YouTube’s 17-year history, the site was known less as a launch pad for stardom and more as a site to discover short, whimsical videos at random. While its core functionality as a video-sharing platform remains, the digital platform has become a driving force behind an entirely new industry—the creator economy. This is a global ecosystem of content creators who use the platform to build businesses and brands, and develop sustainable streams of revenue. 

 

According to research done by Oxford Economics, YouTube’s creator ecosystem directly contributed $1.1 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2021—the equivalent of 34,600 jobs across the country. There are now more than 4,500 channels with over 100,000 subscribers, which grew 20 per cent, year over year. In 2022, this value is expected to increase. 

 

At the intersection of improved worldwide internet access and a coinciding tech boom, a new and lucrative economy is born largely out of YouTube’s transfer of agency from the hands of creative industry executives into the hands of the creator. In Canada, the content pool contains immense variety, the barriers to entry have been lowered and the number of content creators has grown exponentially. 

 

Canada’s growing creator economy is rapidly turning opportunity into success-driven impact. From digital creators who challenge mainstream representation to those kick-starting a passion project, they are the vanguard of the creator economy. Niche has also become mainstream, and stories and subjects that haven’t had a platform before, are now finding sizable audiences at home and around the world. 

 

Digital creators are inspiring more Canadians to build financial independence for themselves, and re-imagine how people and businesses share their passions and find global audiences.

Amplifying Canadian Talent

Québécois singer, songwriter and radio host Roxane Bruneau has come a long way since first launching her YouTube channel back in 2013. The platform has served the artist not only as a space to connect with fans old and new, but also as a digital stage where she can experiment, engage with her audience and amplify her art. Choosing first to release snippets of her work, Bruneau was able to gauge fan reactions, identify what her audience wanted and determine where to concentrate her creative energy. Needless to say, her relationship with her fans via YouTube grew stronger than Bruneau could have imagined. At 160,000 subscribers and counting, Bruneau has garnered national attention—scoring two certified gold albums and earning a nomination for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2022 Juno Awards. 

 

YouTube has become widely recognized around the world as a pipeline for creative talent entering the music industry and for helping grow the media content market. In Canada, the platform has played a role in supercharging the domestic talent pool. Entirely in charge of her career, Bruneau has utilized YouTube to build her local Québec fanbase, while capturing global attention. The music video for Bruneau’s latest single “I Don’t Know Pas Savoir surpassed 100,000 views in less than two weeks, bringing her total channel views to more than 60 million. As an indication of Canada’s growing roster of music talent, creators like Bruneau have made it clear that, with the right tools, reaching large audiences is possible. The future is bright for Bruneau. She is currently focused on scaling her fanbase in Europe and looking at her trajectory, the sky’s the limit.

Seventy-five per cent of media and music companies with a YouTube channel agree that the site has increased the supply of creative talent in the industry

A Launch Pad for New Artists

Mirroring the breakout stories of fellow Canadian talents Justin Bieber, The Weeknd and Alessia Cara, Brampton rapper Jaiden Anthony Watson—better known to his fans as NorthSideBenji can also credit YouTube as a source of exposure. 

 

It was essential to the launch of his career that Watson started a YouTube channel where he could showcase his music, connect with other musicians and build a fanbase. The digital platform provided him with the ability to bypass traditional hurdles often faced while trying to navigate the music industry, and find early success as the creator of his own art, brand, and image. With more than 28 million video views on his YouTube channel today, NorthSideBenji has cemented his place in Canada’s hip-hop community on his own terms, and is poised to break worldwide. 

 

Eighty-three per cent of media and music companies agree that YouTube is critical to helping new artists break through. Additionally, the digital platform has created a universal launch pad where new artists can find visibility in ways that local shows or handing out mixtapes simply never could. Through video sharing, NorthSideBenji has reached audiences worldwide. His single “Levels was Certified Gold by Music Canada in 2020, and his double feature on U.K. rapper Nine’s latest album reached number one on the U.K. Albums Charts. The rapper has even earned recognition from YouTube itself—securing a spot on the platform’s Artist on the Rise program which spotlights a select group of global artists with promising trajectories. 

 

From a creative perspective, YouTube has empowered Watson to think about his music not only sonically, but visually as well. His wide range of content includes music videos, audio with creative graphics, and even vlogs—giving his fans personalized access to his day-to-day life as a creator. Watson’s journey is only one example of how digital platforms have created new ways for artists to connect, create and perform.

Boosting Business

Mitch, a public accountant turned digital creator based in Regina, took a leap of faith when he left his full-time job to launch The Detail Geek in 2017. The YouTube channel, simultaneously launched alongside his car detailing business, combines his passion for cars and photography, and fills a gap in a niche but in-demand genre of digital content. Within four years, Mitch has quickly become one of the most trusted (and viewed) figures in the car detailing industry. At three million subscribers and counting, The Detail Geek is one of over 550 Canadian channels with more than one million subscribers. He’s also one of the top YouTube channels in the car category. It’s not uncommon for Mitch to average millions of views per video; including “Detailing the Dirtiest Car I’ve Ever Seen” at 25 million views so far.

At the heart of Mitch’s channel is a fascinating case study of the platform’s potential as a tool for business growth and entrepreneurship. Thanks to the global success of The Detail Geek, Mitch was empowered to expand his brand beyond the detailing business, launching a line of premium cleaning products appropriately named after the channel. The offshoot shipped 20,000 units across the world within its first 18 months. Crediting the platform as a catalyst to his success, Mitch has shared with viewers how launching his channel was the best decision he’s ever made. 


As the Canadian creator economy continues to produce global success stories from right here at home, creators like Mitch are redefining the risk factors often assumed when starting a new business. Today’s economy is entrepreneur-driven, with many business leaders and institutions emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurs in developing new industries and creating jobs. What’s more, 80 per cent of small and midsize businesses that use the digital platform agree that YouTube played a vital role in growing their customer base by reaching new audiences. From advertising, brand deals and merchandising, ventures like The Detail Geek are proving that it’s possible for anyone to build and grow a business that goes from online to offline.

The Detail Geek is one of over 550 Canadian channels with more than one million subscribers

Driving Cultural Diversity

As YouTube’s creator economy continues to grow, the platform has proven to be a destination for diverse and authentic storytelling. Gabrielle Marion, a Montréal-based creator, took to the video-streaming platform to document and share her transgender journey. For folks in small towns across the country and around the world, where 2SLGBTQ+ people often face the hardship of isolation, Marion’s channel has become a hub where viewers can feel seen and empowered to live their lives authentically. 

 

Seventy-four per cent of creative entrepreneurs agree that YouTube provides an opportunity to create content and earn money that they couldn’t get from traditional media. Remarkably, YouTube creators can reach communities large and small, which helps represent the diverse nature of Canada in ways that are truly groundbreaking. While the cultural fabric of the country is incredibly diverse, the representation seen in traditional media doesn’t always reflect this reality. But when creators are the drivers of their own content and brands, Canada’s media landscape arrives at a more authentic place in terms of representation. 

 

Today, Marion’s channel features beauty tutorials, ‘storytimes’ and advice that resonates with her growing audience—and she’s got big plans off of YouTube as well. Having grown a community around her content, Marion has also built a business as a social media influencer and published her first book titled, Je suis Gabrielle, in 2019.

Going Global

Denis Fortier didn’t have much experience in content creation when he decided to start making videos in 2010, but that didn’t stop the renowned Québec-based physiotherapist from entering the digital arena. Using his professional insight, he began creating content to reach a wider audience and to show people—the same way he would in-person—how to maximize and maintain their health. Alongside a steady increase of viewers seeking health and wellness advice, the possibilities for Fortier’s business development quickly made YouTube his home. 

 

With now more than 500,000 subscribers, Fortier’s production of five weekly videos has extended his reach to an international audience beyond Canada, including francophones in Belgium and France. It was reported that 79 per cent of YouTube users agree they can easily find content on the site in their preferred language, and as more Francophones add their voice to the platform, that percentage will likely grow. 

 

Additionally, 78 per cent of creative entrepreneurs agree that YouTube helps them export their content to international audiences they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. For Fortier, engaging with subscribers directly by way of YouTube Live from his studio near Montréal has offered him the ability to make a profound impact on people’s lives. Beyond reaching new audiences, Fortier’s channel has connected him to a professional network of colleagues from all over the world, including physiotherapists, doctors, and other health care professionals—boosting not only his business, but his network of knowledge which he reflects back into his content.

A Space for Knowledge

Viviane Lalonde, like many, understood that YouTube is a place where anyone can go to learn new things. Whether you’re interested in changing a light bulb or the history of dance, the platform offers an abundance of knowledge at your fingertips. That’s why she launched Scilabus in 2013—the science-education channel where she, along with her viewers, are guided by curiosity. Her channel tackles subjects from “how sweating helps you cool off”’ to “the science of running a marathon,” and her following is on the rise—clocking in at over 450,000 subscribers. 


If the digital boom can teach us anything, it’s that technology has the power to not only transform, but improve how we learn. When it comes to accessibility, YouTube is a safe and sure place to start. Ninety-three per cent of users in Canada say they use the site to gather new information and knowledge and 85 per cent of parents of children under 13 agree the site makes learning more fun for kids. The clear demand for this type of content puts Lalonde—a university professor, author and PhD—in a unique and powerful position, as both a content creator and an educator. While just over a decade ago, her passion for science would have been shared in-person during a class, or the form of a blog or physical text; today, Scilabus’ engaging and dynamic videos have created a digital space for knowledge to thrive without barriers.

YouTube has spearheaded a recent entrepreneurial renaissance—generating renewed optimism for a Canadian workforce empowered by self-employment, creative freedom and the digital market. By engaging in brand deals, merchandising, tiered memberships and more, creators have garnered the agency to achieve financial success on their own terms. In what seems like new territory for an industry that didn’t exist merely two decades ago, the creator economy’s impact now spans Canada’s economic, social and cultural spheres—enriching the lives of creators and their supported ecosystems.

 

A strong majority of creative entrepreneurs feel like they have a place to belong on the platform, and creators like Denis, Roxane, Jaiden, Mitch and Vivien are only a handful of digital creatives seizing the opportunity of Canada’s blooming creator economy. 

So, what comes next? Well, by fostering Canadian culture and empowering creators to grow their audiences worldwide, content creation on YouTube is redefining the future of Canadian media in ways that are as creative as they are diverse.