Why You Should Be Paying Attention To James Bay If You Aren’t Already

James bayIf James Bay isn't already on your list of artists to watch in 2015, the Brits Critics Choice Award winner should be. Currently projected by Next Big Sound to have a 40% chance of hitting the Billboard 200 this year, Bay has leveraged social media to grow his fan base and build his career. 

Guest Post by Liv Buli originally appearing on Forbes.com.

James Bay is a well-spoken and thoughtful young man.

While it would be easy to get caught up in the trappings of everything that is going on with his own career – awards, press, world travel, sold-out tours – Bay is reflective about the hard work and good fortune it takes to get where he is, the essential value of time and experiences when it comes to creating music, and the direction and future of the music industry.

Bay grew up in Hitchin, a small town north of London. Despite his young age – Bay is just 25 – he has been making music for more years than he can count. He taught himself to play the guitar, and spent years writing music and playing in bands. At 19, he moved south to Brighton, and says that is when he started stepping out on his own. “That’s where I went crazy with the whole solo thing, playing open mic nights,” he recalls. “Really learning how to play live, and how to capture an audience.”

One thing led to another says Bay. A video recording of a performance ended up at Republic Records and they reached out. “They said ‘we’d love to fly you over and hear some more songs.’” That was only Bay’s second trip to New York in his life. Next time he’s in town, he’ll be releasing his debut full-length album. Chaos and the Calm will hit the shelves this March.

And the timing couldn’t be better, recently the accolades have been rolling in for Bay. “The Brits Critics Choice Award was out of this world,” he says. “I get to release my debut album soon. I’ve been dreaming about this for years.” He also received a nod from BBC as runner-up for Sound of 2015. He’s been highlighted as a rising star by Spotify, Yahoo, Next Big Sound, MTV – and the list goes on and on.

The first track to really gain traction for Bay was “Let it Go.” A melancholy track about love and loss, Bay’s pristine and aching vocals have made it an instant hit. In recent months, he has been seeing a similar amount of play for “Hold Back the River,” as well as a significant number of radio spins. (About 140,000 YouTube detections in the US since the beginning of the year for either track.) But Bay says there is no single track that represents his upcoming album.

He currently has about a 40% likelihood of hitting the Billboard 200 this year, according to Next Big Sound. Driving this high chance of success is strong social growth. He added more than half his Facebook following in the past three months, and more than 50,000 new followers on Twitter, a 262% increase from the three months prior. He has close to 14 million video views in total on Vevo, and 3 million plays on SoundCloud.


As for the current state of the music industry, Bay has a strong sense of the value of working with a label. ”They’ve given me time and space, which are pretty priceless things to be given,” he says. “I didn’t sign a deal and start making a record right away.” He says he didn’t feel ready, he wasn’t sure what he wanted it to sound like just yet. His team at Republic recognized that, and didn’t push, giving him the bandwidth to really figure it out.

On artists that leverage independent opportunities he says: “There are a lot of different streams to that ocean.” It costs money to make an album. How you pay for it is up to you, but every route to success is valid.

When it comes to brand collaborations, Bay is clear. “I think it’s a way forward for music, the industry has struggled with the internet.” But he doesn’t see the value of working with just anyone. “I am not going to throw myself at some enormous car company,” he says. “It has to come down to the artist. It has to feel right.”  What he is really excited to see, are brands digging deep and uncovering real talent at an early stage, and bringing this music to a wider audience.

Bay has a warm and welcoming disposition. He greets me by my first name off the bat, squirms a bit when I ask him what his favorite song is – how do you pick just one? He settles on “Lean on Me,” thanks me for asking him fun questions, and shares that his favorite color is purple. Given his current trajectory though, don’t be surprised if it’s soon gold or platinum.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. She takes a data-driven perspective to covering the ins and outs of the music industry. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, Forbes, Billboard, Hypebot and more.

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1 Comment

  1. Still not sure why I need to know about this guy. Republic Records will throw the first single at radio and if it doesn’t work, they’re on to the next. C’mon.

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