Chartbreaker: How Em Beihold Found a ‘Dream Situation’ In a Label Deal — And Scored Her Breakthrough Hit
The rising singer-songwriter's "Numb Little Bug" was the happy accident of feeling misunderstood by her mother.
Last spring, feeling disgruntled by the monotony of her daily routine during the pandemic, Los Angeles native Em Beihold wrote “Groundhog Day,” an endearing pop song reminiscent of early Regina Spektor and Sara Bareilles. She subsequently uploaded a video performing the track to TikTok, which led to her first taste of viral success that June. Soon, labels were scrambling to sign the budding indie-pop artist. To Beihold, it should have felt like a dream come true. But it didn’t.
“I had started on antidepressants and I didn’t realize the medication could take the highs away as well as the lows,” says Beihold, 23. “I just didn’t feel how I expected to. I was talking to my mom and was telling her that everything I ever wanted was happening, but for some reason I’m not happy. She told me I was ungrateful, so I tried finding the right words to explain it to her.”
The exchange led her to write the chorus of what would become “Numb Little Bug,” her breakthrough track and first top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. She teased the chorus of the song on TikTok last August, “not really expecting much,” but once again her music resonated with the masses: since posting the preview, the clip has accumulated over 7.1 million views.
While the snippet took off online, behind the scenes the singer-songwriter and her manager Nick Bobetsky (State of the Art Management, formerly Rebel One) — who started working with her last September — were negotiating a record deal with Moon Projects in partnership with Republic Records. The former was a joint venture founded in 2021 by Mary Rahmani, who previously worked as global head of partnerships at Triller and director of music and artist partnerships at TikTok. Beihold became the company’s first official signee.
Despite Beihold’s closest friends urging her to remain an independent artist at the time, she insisted that signing to a major label imprint was a “dream situation.” While she says “Republic has been incredible with attention, an imprint is a smaller family vibe with the resources of a bigger label. Having those resources at hand makes all the difference instead of bootstrapping it yourself.”
Beihold was most eager to utilize those resources to get “Numb Little Bug” across the finish line before the viral clip lost its momentum. “I was stressing out because the writing of the song was finished, but the production wasn’t. We ended up going through around 14 versions to get it right,” Beihold recalls. “We tried one version that was straight pop, and then we tried another that was more acoustic, but they didn’t feel like my sound. Then I brought ‘Numb Little Bug’ to [songwriter] Dallas Caton and he nailed exactly what I wanted for it.”
The quirky yet vulnerable track was officially released on Jan. 28, 2022, five months from the original teaser video of its chorus. The release date was a strategic move on the label’s behalf — but left Beihold feeling anxious. “When you release music at the top of the year, it makes a difference than releasing it during the holidays when people aren’t diving into new music,” she says. “[But] I definitely felt nervous about it flopping because it had been so long.” As a result, she doubled down on her social strategy.
“The first couple of days was all about Em and her organic posting — her relatability really propelled the song,” says Bobetsky. “It also very quickly became a global priority for Republic, working with DSP partners in the U.K., Germany, Australia, New Zealand and throughout Southeast Asia. That gave the label the leverage to take the song to radio in these markets, both digitally and physically.” He also notes that huge streaming numbers and a YouTube partnership were an added bonus.
“Numb Little Bug” debuted on the Hot 100 in February and has since spent a total of 18 weeks on the chart, peaking at a new No. 19 high on the June 11-dated list and recently entering the top 10 of Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart. To date, the song has collected 218.3 million global streams, according to Luminate.
“To grow a song to this level and beyond, it’s not just about socials,” Bobetsky emphasizes. “It’s about taking it from those discovery platforms to a more mainstream conversation for people, and that’s when things like traditional marketing, radio, press and touring come into play.”
Now, with a Hot 100 hit, a follow-up single in “Too Precious” and plans to play the radio festival circuit in June, Beihold hopes to release an EP this summer, which she and her manager believe will establish her career beyond one viral hit — while continuing to relay the message that inspired the song to take her platform to new heights. “I always try to remind my fans that it’s okay to not be okay,” she says. “And that often, in moments in our lives when we’re feeling down, they’re temporary, they’re not permanent. You can always get out of a situation.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the June 4, 2022, issue of Billboard.