Tracking the Evolution of an Artist from Unknown to Overexposed

If you’re not familiar with Next Big Sound, it’s time to change that.  Next Big Sound is a data crunching and analytics firm that looks at the relationships between artists and fans to help figure out which artist are on the rise, which are on the decline, where a particular band has a strong fan base, etc.  The firm puts out deeply analytical tidbits and provides context to explain trends in the music industry.

In a new report, published Monday, Next Big Sound suggests creating a filing system of sorts to determine where an artist or group stands on the trajectory from unknown to over-saturating the marketing.

“If we can classify artists based on their online activity and from there set realistic expectations for performance, we arrive at something essential to artists and their teams,” the new report, called The Taxonomy of Artists, suggests. “With a benchmarking tool in hand, artists can easily understand the strength of their numbers, measure what strategies are working, and really derive value from their data. So let’s go ahead and give it context.”

The measure of success for a new or unknown artist shouldn’t be determined by comparing that artist to a megastar but instead by a growth in exposure or popularity compared with other unknown or emerging artist, the report says.

Take, for example, FKA twigs, who the report categorizes as “on the cusp of graduating from Established to Mainstream. She has been enjoying a steady drip of press coverage since the release of M3LL155X in the summer of 2015, and just shot a major campaign for Calvin Klein. Looking at twigs’ online activity over the past month, she added 1,400 new followers on Instagram on an average day, and was spun more than half a million times on Pandora. These numbers put her smack dab in the middle of all the artists within Established that are performing well on both social and streaming channels—what you might call the ‘ideal group,'” meaning she is moving in the right direction at a good speed, without becoming overexposed on social media or other platforms.

There’s plenty to be said about the dreamy-eyed musicians who still hang on to the romanticized vision of working hard and catching a few lucky breaks on the way to overnight success. There’s more to be said about smart, incremental growth in the right direction, utilizing traditional and new media tools to expand and audience and reach new fans. This report provides metrics on how to gauge where an artist is on that particular scale and how things like the album cycle (still important, by the way!) and social media can keep an artist on the minds of fans even if no new material is on the horizon.

Give the report a look and take a tour of the site– there’s great stuff in here for musician and fan alike.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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