Billboard is proud and excited to introduce Uncharted, a weekly ranking of emerging artists who have yet to appear on a major Billboard chart but are mapping new territory in online fan engagement.
These are artists who are making their mark in ways other than mainstream sales and airplay--they're building an audience by sharing their music through social media and other online resources, and finding the fans who will help push their careers to the next level. Uncharted artists are ranked by Heat Score--a formula incorporating that week's streamed plays, page views and fans according to MySpace Music as well as sources tracked by online aggregator Next Big Sound, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm and others.
Every week, the Uncharted Territory column will spotlight these artists, their music, and the stories of how they represent the future of the music business.
Billboard's debut Uncharted chart is topped by Southern California rapper Traphik, who build his YouTube superstardom from the ground up. Attracting more than one million YouTube views during the chart week, Traphik has collected fans through his clever lyrics, freestyle skill, and, initially a little bit of deception.
"I started putting up freestyle videos of my rapping, which I would tag as Jin, an Asian rapper that was kind of popular for a while, in hopes of kind of tricking people," says Traphik. "One half would be angry, the other half would be like 'I kind of like this guy.'" Now fully claiming his own identity, Traphik has been a YouTube staple for five years, and says his fans are attracted to his dirty jokes and off-the-wall sense of humor.
One of Traphik's hallmarks is his clever confrontation of stereotypes, especially those of Asian Americans.
"People say I'm cocky, but I try to overdo that because the typical stereotype of the Asian American is timid and shy, so I try to combat that," says Traphik.
Coming in at No. 2 is Los Angeles mixmaster DJ BL3ND, perhaps better known as "that DJ in the Chucky mask."
With more than 188,000 YouTube views and 34,000 MySpace song plays during the chart week, the mysterious DJ is an online powerhouse; he has also graced Billboard's Social 50 chart, which ranks the most active artists on the world's leading social networking sites, regardless of previous charting achievements.
His breakthrough video, the DJ Bl3nd Club Mix 2010, has now earned more than 22 million plays. He still focuses on mixing other people's music-his favorite artists are Afrojack, DJ Chucky, the Swedish House Mafia and the Bloody Beetroots (No. 46 on this week's Uncharted list)-but will release an original electro-house track later this year. He's also planning a world tour-but the mask will stay on.
"BL3ND is a mystery to a lot of people," he says. No one knows my voice, my age-all anyone knows is the character.
Following DJ BL3ND is pop/hip-hop ingenue Colette Carr at No. 3, who is signed to Interscope's imprint Cherrytree, but has earned her buzz under the mainstream radar with aggressive online fan engagement. With an unabashed personal style she describes a "rainbow in the dark," Carr kicked off her career by jumping on stage before a Game concert when the rapper was running late.
Further down the chart, singer/songwriter David Choi clocks in at No. 13 thanks to a staunch YouTube following and music appearing in commercials and on American and Korean television. At No. 23, Bali-based punk outfit Superman is Dead scores their first Billboard chart showing after 15 years together. The band signed to Sony Indonesia in 2003 and have amassed over 1.6 million Facebook fans worldwide.
Kanye West protege Big Sean plans to release his debut full-length album this year, which may push him onto one of Billboard's sales and airplay charts--but until then, the Detroit rapper lands at No. 29 on Uncharted, thanks to successful mixtures that have continued to earn him constant streams and thousands of new Facebook, Twitter and MySpace fans every week.
A few Uncharted artists are starting out in music careers after earning fame elsewhere--The Pretty Reckless, fronted by "Gossip Girl" star Taylor Momsen, come in at No. 17, while Heroes star Hayden Panettiere earns a No. 41 spot off the momentum that began when she released her first single, "Wake Up Call," in 2008. Even martial arts/action star Steven Seagal makes a showing at No. 38, thanks to streams and page views associated with his two blues albums.
To discover new music and get a head start on following the careers of these emerging artists, find the rest of this week's chart on Billboard.com or in Billboard Magazine, and check in with Uncharted Territory every week for more.