YouTube Announces New Class of Talent for 'Refreshed' Foundry International Artist Development Program

Aiden Cullen
Omar Apollo

Omar Apollo, Arlo Parks, iyla, Ann Marie, GroovyRoom, Michael Brun and Flohio are among the 11 musicians working with the video-sharing platform.

YouTube Music has announced a new class of musicians to participate in its Foundry international artist development program, including Omar Apollo, Arlo Parks, iyla, GroovyRoom and more. And if you don't know those names just yet, that's the point. 

"This is a labor of love for many years," says Vivien Lewit, YouTube's global head of artist services. "The real goal of Foundry is to work with promising young artists who are still independent and give them support and promotion to really grow."

Foundry was launched in 2016 as a means for YouTube to provide upcoming artists with tools and best practices for building a fanbase on the video-sharing platform by hosting workshops and content creation sessions at YouTube Spaces in Los Angeles, New York and London. Dua Lipa, ROSALÍA, Chloe x Halle, CUCO and Gunna are all alumni of the program. It is one of several YouTube Music initiatives running, complimenting those like the the Artist Spotlight Stories series and Artist On The Rise program that target more developed acts, offering support to new artists aiming to reach that level. In some cases -- such as with ROSALÍA, who grew her YouTube subscriber base by over 7,000 percent while participating in Foundry last year and is now participating in YouTube's Artist On The Rise program -- artists are graduating through YouTube's offerings with increased success. 

"[Foundry] provides a means of continued support and promotion to complement and sit alongside and feed into the other programs that are a part of our overall support and promotion system for artists. But it carries the same premise in the sense that we want to partner deeply with labels and artists, we want to help them tell their stories and support them in the creative strategies that they're using on the platform and the way they're growing and engaging deeply with their fans and connecting with our fans on the platform, as well as promoting them," says Lewit. 

The announcement comes with what's being called a "refresh" of the Foundry program, broadening its scope beyond best-practices workshops and showcase opportunities to focus on long-term relationships with artists with more consistent engagement and multiple touch points. Lewit says a new emphasis has been placed on "really building the partnership and support for [artists] in a similar way to how we think about our artists strategy overall and the relationships and partnerships that we build with labels, artists and their teams."

She continues, "There's a central premise that flows through all of our artists programs, which is that the support and the promotion of artists each phase of their career and create a longterm partnership where we can run alongside them as they continue to grow."

The new Foundry class is the first of two planned for this year and features 11 independent artists from all across the globe. Participating artists will receive help developing content strategies, learn best practices on the platform and focus on how to optimize their YouTube channels in a way to more deeply connect with their fans, while promoting their musical careers to develop a voice through the video medium. They will also receive marketing promotion with digital billboards in New York City and Los Angeles starting April 25, as well as social media support and programming and playlisting on YouTube. 

“YouTube has been a key piece in making my music global," says program graduate ROSALÍA. "I curate my music to the smallest detail and all my visuals as well. With YouTube my music can be seen while heard, which is fundamental for me because it allows my radical musical bets to be more accessible. It’s a blessing for an artist when the world can access your music -- whoever you are, wherever you are, whenever you want. When I was selected for Foundry last year I was so excited. It meant a lot for my songs and videos at a time in which I didn’t yet have the infrastructure or label support on my side, and I am very grateful for it.”

Those artists are midwestern psych-soul guitarist Omar Apollo, London poet-turned-songwriter Arlo Parks, Chicago singer and rapper Ann Marie, regional Mexican songwriter Abraham Vazquez from Houston and Chihuahua, Mexico, Tokyo rock band Ace Collection, Port-au-Prince DJ and producer Michael Brun, Los Angeles R&B singer iyla, Dublin hip-hop experimentalist Kojaque, London-via-Lagos rapper Flohio, Seoul production duo GroovyRoom and Brussels rapper ICO. Each artist will work with local YouTube support teams in their regions. 

"We're using a lot of different inputs in criteria when looking at artists," says Naomi Zeichner, YouTube's artist promotional services lead. "I think a couple of things are important to remember: First and foremost, we really want this program and the artists that are a part of it and sort of represent all the different kinds of artists and fans that exist in Youtube's global community, which is a really uniquely global community and one where artists can find and connect with fans outside of their genre or their region or even the language they speak. So we sort of want to create a class of artists that are on that journey -- starting somewhere specific but with the potential to find fans on a global scale -- and support them in that mission. 

Zeichner says the YouTube team also, naturally, looks at data and analytics from the platform, such as subscriber growth, watch time and interest in their videos. But the selection process goes beyond that into "more intangible qualitative factors."

"This program right now is right now all for independent artists, which we define as folks that are really working with teams to drive their own careers," she continues. "We're looking for artists that have put together innovative teams and are thinking thoughtfully about content and leaning into the platform already, whether that's with amazing music videos or amazing storytelling content or by leveraging the platform to speak directly to their fans and do things like live streaming and all of the tools that are available. We're looking for a team that is aware of the promise of all of those tools and eager to learn more.

"At the end of the day we want to work with artists who are creating innovative content and who are thoughtful about their content, because we want to understand more about how music can travel and how artists can create really genuine, lasting relationships with their fans."

The goal, says Zeichner is not just to use this information to help other artists coming through the Foundry program, but to help all creators YouTube works with.

"We want to apply those learnings to the wider artists community," she explains. "Whether that's an artist who is not participating in one of these programs at scale or maybe a mega superstar who actually can learn a ton from an artist who's just getting started and using the platform really thoughtfully. So we think it's an honor and a privilege to support these artists and promote their music, but also learn from their journeys and also learn from what they're doing with the platform."


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