Up, Up & 'Away': How Daya Has Found Success With Her Debut Hit 'Hide Away'

Daya
Cha?n Andre

The 17-year-old pop singer released her eponymous debut EP in September. 

Released on new label Artbeatz, the pop singer, 17, is competing with (and out-charting) songs with major-label backing. Artbeatz founder Steve Zap discusses the label's & Daya's breakthrough.

As Daya's "Hide Away" keeps scaling Billboard charts, pushing 15-14 on the Pop Songs airplay tally (in its 16th week) and knocking on the door to the Billboard Hot 100's top 40 (rising 48-41 on the Jan. 2 list), the song's success is notable not just for the 17-year-old newcomer, but for its rise as an independent release.

The positive pop anthem ("Where do the good boys go to hide away?" Daya daydreams) is being promoted by new label Artbeatz, founded by 30-year industry vet Steve Zap, formerly of Virgin, Warner Bros. and MCA, among other posts. Sony Music's indie arm RED is aiding the song's push (distributing Daya's self-titled debut EP, which hit No. 20 on Heatseekers Albums in September), with RED senior VP promotions/artist development Danny Buch noting that while major-label hits are almost the exclusive norm at pop radio, indies boast their own positives. "Majors are working several songs at once and have to move on from them eventually. With Daya, [Artbeatz] can keep promoting 'Hide Away,' and keep letting stations know how it's developing."

Daya EP Premiere: Hear the 'Hide Away' Singer's Debut Release

To Buch's point, "Hide Away" gains by 6 percent to 30,000 downloads sold in the week ending Dec. 17, ranking at No. 34 on the Digital Songs chart, and has sold 376,000 to date, according to Nielsen Music. It also grows by 17 percent to 3 million U.S. streams in the tracking week.

The four months and counting of pop radio's acceptance of Pittsburgh native Daya (born Grace Tandon) has included key milestones, including her August appearance in the Artist of the Month spotlight on NBC's Today, the new music discovery outlet spearheaded by Elvis Duran of the syndicated Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. (Today co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb entered the set singing, in unison, "Day-ah … Day-ay-ay-ah!" to the tune of "Day-O [The Banana Boat Song].")

SiriusXM's Hits 1 has also been a key supporter of "Hide Away," having played it more than 1,200 times to date. "I've never heard a listener say, 'I don't care for a song because it's not on a major label,' so treating all songs as equal regardless of their attachment has been a consistent mindset for me for decades," says Kid Kelly, SiriusXM vp music programming (and former terrestrial radio programmer). "While it's true that the majors are likely to have the widest breadth, strongest overall promotion and a lot more cash to promote a song or signing, the way I've always approached it is simple: it's about a song's qualities and if I feel the audience will vibe on it initially and enjoy hearing it repeatedly.

"Basically, 'Hide Away' sounded like a song our audience would want to hear," Kelly says. "Remember, there's no real data with a brand new artist. It's ears and gut at first. But, on the air, 'Hide Away' sounds like a hit, and now it's selling."

As Daya's debut continues to build momentum (her first full-length album is due in 2016), Billboard chatted with Steve Zap about the launch of Artbeatz and its out-of-the-gate hit single and artist.

Can you please describe the origins of Artbeatz, including why you started it?

Artbeatz is only a few months old. It's is a partnership with and division of my main company, Z Entertainment, that I created with singer/songwriter/producer Gino ("Farrago") Barletta. I've been managing Gino's songwriting career for a few years and have watched him write incredible songs for major-label artists that would continually get turned down. He wasn't getting the opportunities that I felt he deserved, because the labels were so caught up in the "who's-who" politics of the music industry, dead set on only using A-list songwriters of the moment.

So, instead of continuing the pursuit of a big cut on an [established star's] album, we decided to create our own company, where we could pair emerging musical artists with Gino's songs and use my marketing expertise to get them major mainstream exposure. When Gino brought "Hide Away" to me in February, I immediately knew we had a hit on our hands and that, instead of pawning the song off to a major label, we could break the record ourselves.  

How did you decide to sign Daya and promote "Hide Away" to pop radio?

Gino has known Daya since she was 13 years old. For the past few years, he has been mentoring her in her vocal and songwriting studies at workshops that he was holding every few months at the Accelerando Music Conservatory in Pittsburgh. This past February, he invited her to take part in a writing camp in Los Angeles, where Gino and his creative team gave her an up-close look at the songwriting, production and artist development processes.

During the camp, he, Brett McLaughlin and Britten Newbill wrote "Hide Away" and thought Daya's voice would be perfect for the song, so we had her record it. Once he brought me the final version, I knew I had to get it on the radio and work with Gino to develop her. I knew right then that we had something special on our hands.

For what, specifically, do you credit the rising success of "Hide Away" at pop radio?

From a listener standpoint, the song is insanely catchy and has an amazing message. From a statistics standpoint, the song is incredibly reactive, meaning that, once it's played in a market, it translates to sales, spikes on Shazam and more radio requests.

What do you look for regarding a song and/or artist when taking on a project?

Artbeatz is about bringing something uniquely special back to the airwaves, which is the pairing of true artistry and hit songs. [Gino and I] aren't the type of businessmen who aspire to make a quick buck on overnight success, just for a little fame or a big check. We both truly love music and want to impact the world with great songs, all while giving undiscovered artists a real platform to reach the masses.

It's our mission to find the most talented artists and introduce them to the world with superb music. Whether or not they have hit songs at the beginning doesn't necessarily matter, because we have an awesome creative team in-house to guarantee that real artist development happens, as well as the delivery of hit records.

What advantages do the majors have, but, at the same time, what advantages do you have that they don't?

The majors have a lot of advantages, from huge budgets to political ties that get their songs played without question. In the music community, they have a lot of clout and, in many instances, for good reason. Major labels have history that most indies don't, so many people assume that the "big break" can only come with the assistance of a major.

However, we are helping prove that indies can give an artist their big break, as well. We are quite literally breaking records by having a formerly-unknown, independent artist chart at pop radio in Daya, and we are confident that we are going to do it again. 

I think our biggest advantage, aside from the power team that we've assembled, is my passion. When I set out to do something, I don't stop until it's done, and then some. Every artist signed to Artbeatz will get the same treatment and attention we've given to Daya. That means that you will be developed, you will be given the highest-quality music and you will be promoted. Put simply, you will get a more than fair shot.

I won't sign you unless I fully believe that I can take your project to the top.

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