HITS Daily Double


Guitar music is happening, people.

We’re not talking about country; we’re talking about a folk-rock sound that has completely galvanized a younger audience and is emerging as a force in the marketplace. Warner’s Zach Bryan and Mercury/Republic’s Noah Kahan are leading the charge. They’re not only earning big streams but selling tickets, generating noms and winning awards—and unlike most of the acts that have ruled the DSPs, these artists are much bigger than just a song. Audiences are responding to their sound, their vibe and their message.

Kahan is a Grammy Best New Artist nominee, while Bryan is up for Country Album, Country Song and Country Duo/Group Performance. They both had a tremendous 2023, but their stories look even bigger this year.

Though often touted as a country artist, Bryan was signed outside Nashville and has been virtually ignored by Country radio. His audience is also outside that world. In many ways, he has more in common with the young Bruce Springsteen than, say, Luke Combs.

Bryan’s “I Remember Everything” f/Kacey Musgraves is Top 5 at both Spotify U.S. and Apple Music, and his “Something in the Orange” is nearing 670m global streams on the platform. Kahan’s “Stick Season” is Top 10 at both Apple Music and Spotify U.S., with 1.7b U.S. streams from all DSPs and close to a half-billion global streams on the Spot alone; previous single “Dial Drunk” f/Post Malone has nearly 150m at the Spot.

Fueled by an array of recent influences—notably the alt-folk innovations of The Lumineers and the country-soul fire of Chris Stapleton—this new sound is largely stripped-down, troubadour-driven and heavily invested in authenticity and storytelling. And it's breaking around the world.

Just as the so-called “grunge” wave followed Nirvana’s mega-success and the pop-punk explosion came on Green Day’s heels, an array of new acts is following in the footsteps of these singer-songwriters.

Soulful new breakout Teddy Swims (Warner) is coming on strong at Spotify U.S., selling singles and flying at radio. His "Lose Control" (165m+ at Spotify) and "All That Really Matters" (44m) are both huge. The latter is also #14 at Pop radio. Meanwhile, indie band The Red Clay Strays has amassed 40m+ streams at Spotify worldwide with "Wondering Why," which has been a consistent presence in the Top 100 at Apple for several months. Dave Cobb—who produced Stapleton, among other luminaries—is doing the Strays’ next record.

And then there's new Warner signing Michael Marcagi, whose new single, “Scared to Start,” is positively blowing up, having earned 500k+ at Spotify on its first day, as is "The Other Side" (north of 5m globally there after one week; Marcagi has racked up more than 7.5m for both tracks at Spotify alone). He's also streaming impressively at Apple Music and logging huge sales at iTunes, where "Scared" shot to #4. (Amazon, by the way, is seeing strong streams and sales with all these acts.) “Scared” first took off on TikTok; fans are now finding it everywhere.

How big is big with these emerging artists? The majors are already writing substantial checks for acts in this developing space; expect more stories like these over the course of 2024.

Pictured: Zach Bryan, Noah Kahan, Teddy Swims, Michael Marcagi, The Red Clay Strays