As part of our year-end special, we asked you, the audience three specific questions about 2012 – and we got dozens of thoughtful, intelligent, well-considered responses. Rather than dropping all of that knowledge in one big pile, we’re publishing one group of responses — the answers to one question — per day.
HUGE thanks to everyone who took the time to respond — from the president of RCA to a DJ we hadn’t heard of — and you can see all of our year-end coverage right HERE.
QUESTION: Which artist this year has been most important/influential in the music business, and why?
Larry Miller, Executive Vice President and General Manager, MediaNet
One artist in particular that stood out for me was Mumford & Sons. “Babel” shattered streaming records on Spotify, with more than 8 million streams during release week, while at the same time debuting with more than 600,000 albums sold. It was a real success story for Glassnote, the industry, digital music, and a great rock band with great songs.
Marcie Allen, President, MAC Presents
Carly Rae Jepsen [Billboard’s Rising Star of 2012] is a testament of how social media can truly break an artist in today’s industry. She started the year as a virtually unknown artist with no established fan base in the US — then she caught fire with the viral YouTube video for “Call Me Maybe” and a little help from Justin Beiber. A few months later, the single hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained at the top of the chart for 9 weeks. Just last week, Jepsen was nominated for two Grammy awards in two of the most highly sought after categories — Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. In short, she went from YouTube sensation to a two-time Grammy nominated artist in 10 months. The explosive growth of her artistic brand affirms the power of social media and most importantly the power fans have to demand today’s hits before they even make it to radio.
Ian Rogers, CEO, Topspin
It’s hard to pick just one artist, but I’d have to go with Amanda Palmer, for redefining the artist’s relationship with their fan base.
Michael Schneider, Artist Relations, BandPage
Skrillex. I remember being reintroduced to Sonny back in 2010 as “Skrillex” and, walking past his open apartment doors and hearing his “music,” thinking he’d lost his mind since From First To Last. Fast forward to hundreds of thousands of albums sold, two Grammys, the recent launch of The Nest (Skrillex’s OWSLA label’s subscription service), and it’s clear the influence he’s had, across the board. Dubstep sounds are gracing even the likes of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift’s latest releases!
Tom Corson, President and COO, RCA Records
A major change this year is in what is considered mainstream: eclectic acts Gotye, Lumineers, etc.; others like Fun., Grouplove, Imagine Dragons and RCA’s Walk the Moon. It’s great to see this community making some of the biggest worldwide hits this year.
Jim Donio, President, NARM/digitalmusic.org
It’s hard to pick just one artist because different artists have influence for various reasons. But from a commerce perspective, I would have to cite the two top sellers of the year: Adele and Taylor Swift. Last year, Adele single-handedly disproved the myth that people do not want to buy albums any more. And she continued the momentum into 2012 with her Grammy sweep and culminated just a few weeks ago with her RIAA Diamond Award certification for 10 million albums sold. Most recently, Taylor reinforced the album value proposition with her second consecutive 1 million-plus opening week, a feat not seen for a decade.
Rich Bengloff, President, American Association of Independent Music
Despite unfortunately limited radio play, the Americana musical genre has continued to break out, and the success of Mumford & Sons — who have garnered fans via social networks and radio, resulting in incredible chart and revenue success — is a leading story for me. The Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros & Old Crow Medicine Show video is a classic.
Vickie Nauman, President, 7digital North America
The continuing success of Adele — she has truly honed her craft as an artist; her voice and music resonate across international borders and generations. This demonstrates that while we all have millions and millions of songs, not all music is created equal – it takes a lot of time and work to reach a level of mastery, and with Adele it shows. The artistry and emotional connection that her music exudes are powerful and inspiring.
Kenneth Rhodes, Director of Purchasing, Ingram Entertainment Inc.
Lionel Richie’s success with “Tuskegee” supplies several key takeaways: 1. The song is most important element. It transcends age, genre and physical format. 2. Country music is America’s music. 3. The compact disc, under the right circumstances, isn’t dead yet. 4. There is a way to repackage your old hits for a new audience, and for a more profitable royalty rate, but you have to successfully walk a narrow tightrope to do it. 5. People still like Lionel Richie, a lot.
Sarah Gecan, Marketing/Events, Daddy Kool Records
Mumford & Sons. In particular because of their new release and the way they successfully attacked in the independent record store market. RED and everyone involved knew their market and conquered it with wondrous results.
Alison Smith, Senior Vice President/Performing Rights, BMI
Lady Gaga is an inspiration to everyone who dares to be different. She does not shy away from being who she is and her global influence (whether it is as an artist or an entrepreneur) is immeasurable and enduring.
Dave Haynes, VP Business Development, SoundCloud
On the flipside to PSY, you have an artist like Alt-J who has embraced the web in a totally different way to break through in 2012. The band prove that if you make strong enough music you can still grow an audience and connect with a fanbase, even if the mainstream ignores you early on. To watch the band go from posting their first demos on SoundCloud to winning a Mercury Music Prize here in the UK has been a delight.
Julien Mitelberg, CEO, Bandsintown
Obviously EDM had a gigantic year, so I’d have to say someone like Deadmau5 best represents that. Not only did he steal the show at the Grammys, but he’s selling out concerts and festivals worldwide, and social media has played a huge role in that. He finds the time to interact with fans consistently on Twitter. These EDM artists, many of them completely shut out from the mainstream in the past, are launching their own concentrated fan engagement strategies, and it’s paying off.
Joe Riccitelli, EVP/GM RCA Records
The most impactful/ influential artist was Taylor Swift. The rollout campaign that Big Machine and Taylor put together with ITunes and Clear Channel should be a case study in the “checking every box” marketing strategy.
Carla Wallace, Partner/GM, Big Yellow Dog Music
I think bands like the Lumineers, Fun. and artists like Phillip Phillips. They continue to open the doors for Americana/pop music.
Robb McDaniels, Ingrooves Fontana
This may be a slightly biased opinion, but I think the Lumineers came out of nowhere to be the new artist story of 2012. Their self-titled record is one of the best of the year and they proved that you can go all the way while staying true to the indie spirit. Their authentic, unique sound and performances have allowed them to develop a dedicated fan base that will carry them to places they probably never dreamed of going.
Jean Nelson, the Blueprint Group
Kendrick Lamar. When I heard that kid rap, I was reminded of Nas. Here was a young artist who did not have a lot of radio love — he definitely did not have a top 5 hit on radio — and he did successful numbers. That debut of his was commercially successful and critically acclaimed with a wide range of media. Kendrick had a huge Internet following, he found his fan base and let it grow, and he had an excellent touring profile. He did everything from those XXL showcases at SOBs to Terminal 5. Sure, he worked with some big names like the Game and Lil Wayne, but that is because he kept putting out excellent music and everyone was catching notice. Everything was anchored in the fact that he wasn’t a novelty act. No goofy song, no remix controversy, nothing — just excellent lyricism, great beat selection. He sold albums not just singles and put out a solid body of work.
Marcus Grant, the Collective
That would be Frank Ocean. Here was a young artist who is a phenomenal songwriter and artist. He had a big hit in 2011 with a song that was not your typical R&B offering. He truly took his time to put out a thoughtful, well-developed album and he was very true to himself, his sound and his vision. His lyrics encourage social change and communicate a message of love and acceptance. He could become our Marvin Gaye of this generation.
Syd Schwartz, Founder & CEO, Linchpin Digital
PSY. Look no further than this artist, who stands to make more than $8 million this year from ad revenue, TV commercials and single downloads. His smartest move? Allowing use of his song throughout YouTube for parodies and other UGC which amplified the virality of “Gangnam Style” to the nth degree. It’s a seismic shift in thinking about how music business revenue can be calculated.
Andy Cohn, Publisher, The Fader
Frank Ocean, because despite his unwillingness to cooperate (or at least extreme selectivity) with the press and his turning down of almost every opportunity that was presented to him this year (except for the “Saturday Night Live” season premier, the VMAs and our Uncapped event at Angel Orensanz in New York), his art spoke for itself — and his six Grammy nods are proof of that.