Spotify Announces Emerging Artist Program, Troy Carter Names First Four Picks: Exclusive
The world’s biggest streaming service is kicking its music discovery efforts into a higher gear. Friday (Oct. 20) marks the launch of RISE, an emerging artist program that leverages the platform’s promotional resources for a hand-picked roster of up-and-coming musicians.
“We have the biggest distribution system in the world for streaming music so why not use that to help young artists,” Troy Carter, Spotify’s global head of creator services, tells Billboard.
The first round of RISE picks features electro-R&B crooner Lauv, German pop dynamo Kim Petras, pop-friendly country artist Russell Dickerson and 18-year-old Ohio-born rapper Trippie Redd. Within Spotify, RISE participants will get preferential, mixed-media playlist placement and editorial programming; outside, they’ll enjoy specialized live events and even television ads.
Carter declined to reveal how much money is being invested in each RISE artist, but stated Spotify is “putting significant resources into these partnerships.”
Spotify has ample reason to foster a stable of artists outside the major label ecosystem, but Carter stresses RISE will not act as a surrogate “record label” within the streaming service. He notes Spotify has “no interest” in owning copyrights and will not take cuts of RISE artists’ touring and merchandise. They’re also open to artists who are already with majors.
For now, though, the RISE roster contains predominantly indie and unsigned artists.
Lauv releases his music through AWAL/Kobalt. The smooth-voiced solo act carries a pair of nine-figure Spotify tracks on his résumé: 2017’s “I Like Me Better” (204.4 million streams) and 2015’s ”The Other” (115.6 million). He co-wrote and co-produced Demi Lovato and Cheat Codes' 2017 single "No Promises" and will tour Asia opening for Ed Sheeran starting next week.
Petras is unsigned, but managed by Maverick’s Larry Rudolph and boasts a sizable audience overseas; her glitzy single “I Don’t Want It At All” topped Spotify's Global Viral 50 after its debut this August, and follow-up “Hillside Boys” cracked the top 5 of the U.S. Viral tally. She’s already graced a Spotify billboard in Times Square.
Dickerson, a new-school country artist in the vein of Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett, released his debut album Yours last week (Oct. 13) via Triple Tiger Records. Its track “Blue Tacoma” is currently in the upper reaches of Wild Country, the genre’s most-followed Spotify playlist.
Trippie Redd’s inclusion follows a suggestion from Spotify’s global head of hip-hop, Tuma Basa. Both his single “Bust Down” and a video for his top-streaming track “Love Scars” are currently featured on Rap Caviar. The latter, as his recent Billboard Q&A points out, is also a SoundCloud force, with over 20 million plays to date. His most recent project, A Love Letter to You 2, was released earlier this month via Strainge Entertainment, an independent label headed by Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge's son Elliot Grainge.
Carter says RISE plans to support 16 emerging artists per year, adding four newcomers every few months. Spotify figures to have a deep pool of future picks, in large part to the resources it’s offered up-and-comers for years.
Fletcher, a 2016 alum of NYU’s Clive Davis Institute, independently released her banjo-inflected pop debut “Warpaint” in 2015. The single premiered with Nylon -- as a SoundCloud track -- and caught the ear of the Spotify staff, which invited her to perform at its office; two years later, “Warpaint” is on the brink of 20 million streams on the platform.
“Spotify has been the biggest reason why I’ve been able to have a career and be independent this far,” Fletcher says. “It’s been a very open dialogue. I listen to their feedback and ask their advice. Instead of just being like, ‘Hey, I’m going to put this out. How can you help with me this?’ it's like, ‘What do you guys think about this? How does this fit into your plans for what you’re pushing over the next few months?’”
Regarding RISE, “passion project” is a term Carter drops frequently. He acknowledges the 2017 playing field is often too diverse for one platform -- be it a label, streaming service, media outlet -- to truly break an artist the way it could in bygone eras. "We just want to be a place that artists will go and feel at home," he says. "What MTV was. What BET was. What HOT 97 was." The multi-pronged reality means even occasionally embracing competitors: "We want you to have the number one record on iTunes.”