Music’s Hottest New Stars
September 10, 2012 by staff
Music’s Hottest New Stars, Some recording artists toil for years without ever scoring a big hit. Then there’s the fortunate few who skip all the dues-paying hardships and skyrocket straight to stardom. That pretty much sums up the experience of Sean Kingston, Colbie Caillat, Flo Rida and other new music acts on our list of music’s hottest new stars.
For this new generation, getting established is as much about nurturing an Internet audience as playing gigs and knocking on the doors of hot record producers and promoters. Posting music and videos online and interacting with fans who can help get the word out about upcoming concerts and TV appearances through their personal blogs and Web sites are crucial pieces of the puzzle.
“Nowadays, a marketing plan always has a significant element that is based around the Web,” says Lee Trink, president of EMI Group’s Capitol Records, home of new R&B hitmaker J. Holiday. “Radio is shrinking; video channels don’t play as many videos. But the good news is, there are so many different ways to get to people [online] and to get to people in very niche ways.”
Still, while the radio dial doesn’t command the same audience it once did, radio exposure remains crucial to generating blockbuster hits, Trink acknowledges.
“All of those have massive radio,” he says. “The way things sell big numbers is still the old-fashioned way.”
To compile a list of the hottest new stars of music, we examined several measures of popularity and success. To start off, we looked at the top searches and downloads on peer-to-peer networks during the past 12 months as measured by BigChampagne, as well as press mentions as measured by Factiva.
Then we looked at U.S. digital track downloads and album sales in 2007 and the first two months of 2008, as measured by Nielsen SoundScan. Finally, we took a look at “mastertone” ringtone sales during the same period, as measured by Nielsen RingScan (mastertones are ringtones that play a snippet of the actual recording of your favorite song).
So who made our list? R&B and hip-hop acts dominate, including hitmaking singers Kingston, Holiday and former American Idol champ Jordin Sparks and rappers Flo Rida, Plies, Huey and Hurricane Chris. Also making the list are the rock band OneRepublic and easygoing singer-songwriter Caillat.
On top: Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, whose “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was one of the biggest hit songs of the year. Soulja Boy (DeAndre Way, to his mom) got his first exposure by posting songs and videos on his YouTube and MySpace pages, which helped attract the attention of hip-hop producer Michael “Mr. Collipark” Crooms and eventually landed him a contract with Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records.
To refer to “Crank That” as a mere “song” would probably underplay its multi-platform ubiquity. The official video racked up tens of millions of hits on YouTube and spawned a dance craze that prompted Soulja Boy to shoot an instructional video that generated more than 30 million hits of its own.
Then there were the countless spoofs and imitations that featured mashups of SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora The Explorer, Alvin and the Chipmunks and others. “Crank That” has also sold more than 3 million song downloads and more than 2 million ringtones. With that kind of reach, it was hard to escape the song’s catchy refrain of “Yoooooo!/Crank that Soulja Boy, now watch me/Yoooooo!”
In a shifting entertainment landscape where young consumers are spending more of their free time online, building a strong Internet presence is important to set the stage for a recording artist’s first big hit. To push J. Holiday and his breakout hit single “Bed,” Capitol Records used the singer’s fan base to help fuel further interest in the singer by supplying them with embeddable videos and other tools so that they could share their enthusiasm with others online, Trink says.
“We found that to be incredibly effective,” he says, noting that, for many listeners, “It’s a badge of honor to turn people on to music that you really love.”
But despite all the added attention focused on online marketing, the biggest hits–the ones that dominate the upper rungs of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart–still tend to be the songs that get the most radio play.
Many of those hitmakers fail to generate much in the way of album sales. With sales of albums dropping sharply across all genres, why does that matter? Because album sales can reflect how interested consumers are in a recording artist, as opposed to just their hit song. And that, in turn, can be a barometer of a music act’s ability to sustain a career beyond their debut on the pop charts.
Strong album sales for hot new artists on our list such as Caillat (certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America with more than 1 million units shipped for sale in the U.S.) and Kingston and Holiday (both certified gold with U.S. shipments of more than 500,000) would seem to bode well for their next releases.
But weaker album sales for other new hitmakers might be a sign that they’ll have to work harder to ensure their first flush of commercial success doesn’t turn out to be just a flash in the pan.
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