Of the many, many bands that are performing officially and unofficially at SXSW this year, only a handful will see major career growth in the next year. So data journalist Emily Blake of Pandora and Next Big Sound dug deep into the stats to predict which ones are poised to rise and the lead the pack.
By Emily Blake of Pandora and Next Big Sound
Tech nerds, film enthusiasts and music fans alike are dusting off their boots this week for the annual mecca to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest. If you’re lucky enough to have a SXSW Music badge, the possibilities can seem daunting, with about 2,000 acts confirmed throughout the nine-day event. And considering SXSW has been a launchpad of sorts for now-household names like Norah Jones, LCD Soundsystem and M.I.A., if you pick right, you could find yourself at an intimate gathering with music’s next big thing.
So which SXSW artists are the most likely to make it big? Here are seven SXSW artists who are worth checking out this year in Austin, based on their social and streaming buzz.
Chances are you’ve heard the hypnotic coos of “Ooouuu.” Beyoncé’s heard them. Nicki Minaj has heard them. Remy Ma and French Montana have, too. The hype around “Ooouuu” last summer was strong enough to take Young M.A. from a relative unknown to a rapper of the moment. Soon after the song’s release, she hit the Pandora Trendsetters Chart — which ranks the up-and-coming artists with the highest number of artist station adds — and hit №1 on the chart right before “Ooouuu” landed on the Billboard Hot 100 in September. Since then, her social numbers have been on fire, adding over 80,000 Twitter followers and more than 550,000 Facebook fans in the past six months.
Now, right after being named one of Forbes’ Hip-Hop Cash Princes, she announced last week that she’s got a new EP on the way with Her Story — due end of March — which comes as a lead-up to her upcoming debut album, Her Story In the Making. So when she takes the stage at SXSW, she’ll have plenty of new material to preview.
Maggie Rogers already won over Pharrell with her folk-pop diddy “Alaska” last spring. Fast forward one year and she’s got a deal with Capitol Records, a Tonight Show performance and a debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading. She’s got all the ingredients for an alternative pop star of the Banks variety, but she still hasn’t quite hit Mainstream status, according to Next Big Sound’s ranking system. Rather, she’s still at Established, meaning she’s on the brink of hitting the mainstream. So all the more reason to catch her before she gets too big.
The Lemon Twigs
For the more nostalgic SXSW-goers, get a taste of The Lemon Twigs. With their lo-fi pop-rock, harmonies and affinity for bellbottoms, the New York indie-pop band, led by teenaged brothers Brian D’Addario and Michael D’Addario, is a direct descendant of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, with a bit of David Bowie’s glam thrown in. And they’ve seemed to tapped into something some music fans have been missing. Since their debut studio album, Do Hollywood, back in October, the Lemon Twigs have seen big gains on social media, but they’re still not quite at the stage where we’d call them Established artists.
While she hasn’t hit quite that level of success stateside, it’s looking like it’s just a matter of time — and luck — until she does. She’s been touring with fellow French native Christine and the Queens and just made her late-night debut on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. And her social and streaming numbers are growing exponentially in the U.S. “Come,” for example, has seen over 200,000 Pandora spins in the United States over the past three months — up significantly from the roughly 34,000 spins the previous three months. In that same time period, she’s also seen around 65,000 Wikipedia page views and added close to 30,000 fans on Facebook in the States.
That Poppy comes off like a Dadaist art project in the body of an internet-obsessed millennial pop star. And people can’t get enough of her. She’s built a bit of a cult on YouTube, where she speaks in a baby voice about social media, says “I’m Poppy” over and over for 10 minutes, or reads the bible for almost an hour. But it isn’t just these videos that are getting attention, but also her official singles. “Lowlife,” for example, saw a nearly 300% lift in spins this month compared to last month. That Poppy has been gaining steam on Twitter, too, where she’s added an average 566 followers per day over the last 90 days and over 1,500 mentions over the past 30 days. So if you found Lady Gaga’s paint-vomit performance at SXSW 2014 not quite weird enough, give her a shot.