HITS Daily Double


SHOCK OF THE NEW: Our latest New & Developing Artists special issue arrives in the midst of a radically changing landscape. Not very long ago, breaking an artist was a lengthy process that involved a carefully calibrated rollout—with radio as an indispensable component. Now, many acts can get started without radio—though airplay continues to prove instrumental to bringing music to a much larger and demographically broader audience after it’s gotten traction on streaming platforms.

Different as it is nowadays, the biz has been experiencing genuine growth for the first time in a generation. New acts are leading the new prosperity; the lion’s share of artists topping our charts weren’t even on the radar two years ago.

The biggest new artist-development stories of the year underscore not only how the landscape has changed, but how diverse the marketplace has become: Billie Eilish (2.1m+); Lil Nas X (1.1m); Lizzo (850k); DaBaby (750k); Lil Baby (600k); Bad Bunny (600k); Lil Tecca (500k); Lewis Capaldi (350k); Summer Walker (350k); Luke Combs (300k).

Streaming has of course been fundamental. But it would be a mistake not to acknowledge the enormous role now played by social media as well. Whereas once upon a time a new act’s visibility rested entirely in the hands of label marketing, promotion and PR, it is now a regular occurrence for independent acts to build substantial, dedicated fan bases that are kept engaged via the Instagram/Twitter/YouTube nexus. Social platforms are all these artists need for a sustainable touring business, merch sales and more. Meanwhile, platforms like TikTok, Twitch and Triller have been early, viral springboards.

For artists that have already broken wide, socials not only facilitate nonstop engagement but also “brand verticals.” Most disruptively, they give major artists the opportunity to simply drop new music whenever they choose. Ask a label boss when a superstar is going to drop a release nowadays, and the answer may well be “Whenever they decide to.” While this can create uncertainty, the artists’ social reach takes much of the initial onus off the label in creating awareness.

Meanwhile, there’s a burgeoning rock market that, while not generating major streams, is becoming substantial thanks to social media, some radio and touring—all important pieces of the artist-development puzzle. It may not be ringing the cash register for the rights holders yet, but rock is keeping fans engaged and building a genuine audience as the socials grow. Smart labels are keeping a finger in the pie by continuing to look for the next big thing while hip-hop and pop keep the lights on.

BREAKING NEWS: Which labels are making the most significant strides in the breaking of new acts? Interscope can point to success in three different genres, as the Janick, Joie and Berman team have helped pilot the meteoric year of pop disruptor Eilish, the streaming-heavy breakout of rapper DaBaby and the extraordinary bow of R&B champ Walker.

TOWER TRIFECTA: Steve Barnett’s Tower team, meanwhile, scored a similarly diverse trifecta with hip-hop champ Lil Baby (via Quality Control and Ethiopia Habtemariam’s Motown), adult-pop phenomenon Capaldi and chart-topping K-Pop troupe SuperM. Lil Baby has been a streaming giant. Capaldi has, thanks to Greg Marella and team, hit #1 at Pop and Hot AC; these radio triumphs have driven a major sales spike. SuperM (via South Korea’s SM and Caroline) was a #1 sales and marketing coup in the age of streaming.

“ROAD” TO RICHES: Columbia’s Ron Perry and his new A&R team had a unicorn with Lil Nas X, earned gigantic streams with Polo G and generated streams and huge Grammy buzz with genre-blending Spanish phenom Rosalía. With Lil Nas, a canny series of remixes helped keep the relentless (and now Diamond-certified) “Old Town Road” blazing. The recent Top 5 bow of Lil Tjay, meanwhile, gives Perry—along with Lil Nas and Polo—three Top 10 bows by new artists in the last year. These successes are a direct result of Columbia’s aggressive A&R, which has put points on the board with these high-streaming acts.

Again, these examples show the diversity of the marketplace in terms of both the kinds of records that can work and the levers that can be pulled to make them go.

JV IN THE ATL: Atlanta has produced plenty of breakout artists—including OutKast, Jermaine Dupri, Usher, T.I. and Future, among others—and with hip-hop dominating, the city is more essential than ever. This fact is underscored by two highly influential JVs. In addition to bringing hot, big-streaming acts under the majors’ umbrellas, these ventures have empowered a bevy of talented young execs. Quality Control/Motown/Capitol has delivered with Migos, Lil Baby and City Girls, and QC co-heads Coach K and P are a force in the culture. LVRN/Interscope has yielded such breakouts as Summer Walker and 6LACK; LVRN co-founders Tunde Balogun, Carlon Ramong, Justice Baiden, Junia Abaidoo and Sean Famoso McNichol are among the more impressive biz players to emerge from the ATL. Who’s next?

TAGS: I.B. Bad