“It’s definitely been a crazy year,” declared Khalid on stage to the crowd gathered for Nielsen Entertainment’s fifth annual pre-Grammy Party Friday night (Jan. 26).
The 19-year-old R&B sensation performed his breakout hit “Location” at the Nielsen bash, which took place an iconic New York location, the former Four Seasons restaurant, now The Pool restaurant, off Park Avenue.
The song “Location,” from Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, “changed my life forever,” he said. He wasn’t kidding. Introducing Khalid to the crowd, Nielsen Entertainment president Howard Appelbaum recalled the young singer’s tale.
“Just two years ago, when he was 17,” Appelbaum said, “Khalid’s goal was to be crowned prom king at his high school. So how did he win that? He uploaded a song [`Location’] onto Soundcloud which sent his votes soaring. And in less than a year he was in the top 20 on the Billboard charts.
“And how about this?” added Appelbaum. “Four years ago, when he was 15, he tweeted ‘I’d love to go to the Grammys one day.’”
On Sunday (Jan. 28), Khalid will be at the Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden as a Grammy nominee in five categories, including best new artist, and will perform on the show.
The Nielsen Entertainment party was a celebration of music, sports, brands, data and more.
“So, we’re in the data and information business at Nielsen,” said Appelbaum, offering some relevant statistics on “Location” — 635 million streams, 650,000 song sales and 300,000 radio plays. Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, added Appelbaum, “generated enough sales streams and video videos to make it the tenth most consumed album in all of 2017.”
The party was produced by MAC Presents, under the direction of its president, Marcie Allen, with booking of Khalid by Allen’s business partner, Cara Lewis of the Cara Lewis Group, and the event had no shortage of talent. Arriving guests were entertained by New York University jazz student trio — Franklin Rankin on electric guitar, Kellon Anderson on tenor sax and Immanuel Williams on electric bass. And way at the other end of the experience spectrum, the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band offered a brass-powered blast straight out of New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Nor was Khalid the only breakout star on hand at the Nielsen Entertainment party. British singer/songwriter Jade Bird, whose debut EP, Something American, was released on Glassnote Records this past summer, was introduced by Glassnote Entertainment Group founder and president Daniel Glass. Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar and backed by piano, drum and bass, Bird’s songcraft, persona and performance were entrancing. Her set included her new single “Lottery,” which debuted early this month exclusively on billboard.ccom.
Glass, earlier in the evening, was asked about the role that data plays in the development of an artist like Bird. “It’s not why we signed her, not why we’re passionate about her, but when you see stuff in the [airplay] data it’s phenomenal,” he said, noting recent support Bird had received from KCRW in Los Angeles and the Spectrum on SiriusXM. “Data just makes you a smarter business person. It’s very credible information.”
Appelbaum noted the goal of the party was to make all of Nielsen Entertainment’s customers smarter about each other’s businesses.
“The vision for this party was to bring together music, brands, games, e-sports and sports because they all want to work with each other and there’s this great symbiotic relationship. We can all have conversations because we’re all connected.
“Brands sell over $60 billion activating around the sports industry worldwide,” he said “That’s not buying advertising. That’s brands on jerseys, or sports cars, or naming rights on stadiums. The music industry, it’s [only] between four or five billion dollars. That’s a gigantic opportunity.
“So one of the things that we focus on is trying to understand the fans better, helping the music industry make its case to brands, and helping brands really understand the value of promoting with artists and songs. We’re trying to develop an authentic relationship where all these people are talking to each other. “