VH1 Expands You Oughta Know Series; Helps JOHNNYSWIM Secure Sales Lift, 'Tonight Show' Booking

VH1 is expanding You Oughta Know, its emerging artist program, with You Oughta Know+ — a super-sized feature that debuted this month with folk-pop duo JOHNNYSWIM. The husband-and-wife group will be featured extensively over the next seven months on a variety of VH1 promos, programming and other network initiatives, a much longer flight than previous campaigns, which averaged two to three months but brought early on-air exposure to artists like Adele, Mumford & Sons, Emeli Sande, Foster The People and the Civil Wars, among others.

Rick Krim, executive VP of music and talent relations at VH1, first became aware of JOHNNYSWIM last year when Isaac Ayers, the network’s music supervisor, brought the band in to the VH1 offices for a private showcase. “We fell in love with them musically, personally, everything,” Krim says. Though many previous You Oughta Know artists have had the backing of major labels, JOHNNYSWIM was unique in that the duo had a small team that largely consisted of music booking agency Paradigm, whose independent label imprint Big Picnic released JOHNNYSWIM’s debut EP Hearts Beat in June.

“And as we started to think about it, we knew they were on a small label and that there wasn’t going to be a full-length album until January, so wouldn’t it be great if we expanded what we do with You Oughta Know and come up with a unique six or seven-month plan that could actually break an act?”

The strategy already seems to be paying off. Since spots featuring JOHNNYSWIM began airing July 1, sales for the Heart Beats EP resurged enough for the set to re-enter Billboard’s Heatseekers albums chart at No. 37, having debuted and peaked on the chart two weeks prior at No. 14. Additionally, the band was confirmed for a July 15 performance on “The Tonight Show” on the strength of VH1’s support.

Krim hopes the long-haul approach from VH1, with the aid of sponsors like Wendy’s and other to-be-confirmed You Oughta Know partner brands, will help do some of the heavy lifting that even takes major labels half a year (and often longer) to break new acts. “We had Ed Sheeran last May and Emeli Sande in June, but they really didn’t break until earlier this year. The Lumineers was last July, and that song [‘Ho Hey’] hit its peak earlier this year. We’re talking 6 to 12 months for a major label act, so we’re really hoping this one’s successful as more people find out about it. We’d love to find more we feel the same way about.”