Given where you place your attention, you may soon be hearing quite a bit about Conor Maynard or you might not. The latest young YouTube star who got signed and then groomed for superstardom is well known in his native England where he hit #2 on the singles chart and now the machine is bringing him to the States.
If he's another Justin Bieber, you'll just have to suck it up and deal with it. If he's the next Greyson Chance, you might just be able to avoid hearing his name as I have successfully done since his major label debut last summer.
Then again if you love plasticized pop sung by young white boys, especially young white boys with Brit accents and "urban" production, Conor Maynard may just be your man of the hour.
Conor Maynard - Vegas Girl
Actually I think Conor Maynard has a much better shot at stardom than Grayson Chance who seems to have peaked with the excessively viral video of his 6th grade cover of Paparazzi. Sometimes being plasticized increases your appeal but in the case of Greyson Chance it simply sucked the life out of this potentially formidable talent.
Much of the public story of Conor Maynard can be traced via his YouTube account with handy timeline references from his Wikipedia entry and additional details from a recent feature in The Telegraph titled Conor Maynard: Look carefully: this is pop's future.*
Beginning with an audio-only cover of Breathe in December 2008, Maynard released a series of such covers some of which have hundreds of thousands of views.
The first video to break a million viewers was a cover of Ne-Yo's Beautiful Monster posted in June 2010. According to the Telegraph feature somewhere around that time Maynard was contacted by Ne-Yo's manager, then spoke to Ne-Yo on Skype and then got signed to EMI two years ago at the age of 17.
When you look closely at the timeline, some things don't quite make sense in terms of views and so forth. But basically he dropped a bunch of covers without video footage then started releasing simple home videos singing into the mic. That continued after he got signed and began working on an album that includes the involvement of Pharrell Williams, Frank Ocean, Ne-Yo and producers Invisible Men.
With the machine now fully behind him, he received such honors as a nomination for MTV"s Brand New for 2012 Award in late 2011 after which, according to his Wikipedia entry:
"February 2012 saw the reveal that Maynard had been signed to label EMI subsidiary, Parlophone in late 2011 and that work would begin in the coming months on his debut studio album, Contrast."
However The Telegraph piece has him signed two years ago and says he's been working on the album ever since so it seems there was a period of professional development during which he appeared to still be doing things on his own. It is possible that he was signed to a management deal two years ago that then led to the EMI signing but if a highly skilled journalist from The Telegraph can't sort it out, then how could a lowly blogger such as I?
Though it Conor Maynard is off to a stronger start than Greyson Chance, he's also quite a bit older given the rapid development of teenagers. Later this month his debut album Contrast drops in the UK followed by a September release in the States. This will be interesting to watch if you're interested in how major labels are currently discovering and grooming young would be superstars.
If you are hoping to take a similar path using YouTube covers, an approach that has a lot of possibilities, here's Conor Maynard's advice on how to do cover songs and still be "respected as your own artist":
"You really need to stand out if you’re going to do it. What made me stand out was to take a song and completely switch it up, I’d either change the lyrics, the melody, whatever it needed. If it was a big upbeat song I would strip it down to a piano version, whatever I needed to do to make it fit me."
"I'd change it so it looked like I wasn’t just doing another person’s song, I took the song and made it my own and then did my version of it. When you have that and you can make your own, that’s the best way to stand out - you have to be respected as your own artist, not just as a cover artist."
From the mouths of babes!
*On a side note, the feature from The Telegraph reminds us of the difficulties of old-school journalism in dealing with the Web. It's an article on a YouTube-bred star-in-the-making available on the open Web with absolutely no links out, not even to Maynard's own site.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.