Generally speaking, we're all used to Top 10 charts of some kind. It's quite natural to focus on the most extraordinary, and who doesn't like a good Buzzfeed list every now and then?

But part of what we try to do as a music business analytics firm is squeeze some unique value out of the data we collect. So, it's worth asking, what defines "extraordinary"? Does it have to be just the absolute top?

For us, looking at the change or gain of a particular data series can be much more exciting. And that's what we've aimed to do with our 6MO reports.

In October 2019, we released our first one, which looked at the top social and streaming performers out of the 2M+ artists we track for the January through June 2019 period (H1 2019). For a portion, we sought out what we'll call "rising artists."

Here's an example with artists on Instagram:

Top Instagram Follower gains for emerging artists between January and June 2019.

We had to be creative in the way we queried our database of artists: If we just looked for the biggest gains overall, we'd potentially rank Artist A, who went from 1 to 100 (9,900 percent increase), over Artist B, who went from 100K to 1M (900 percent increase). I think most people would agree that Artist B's growth is a bit more significant, so we had to apply some thoughtful filtering.

On the other hand, if we were too aggressive with our filtering, then we would likely "discover" top A-listers, providing no real interesting insight into untapped talent. Additionally, due to the sheer size of their audience bases, the most popular artists simply can't maintain a high enough percentage gain, so this method tends to favor emerging artists. Due to the constraints of a certain platform's user base size (or even just the number of people in the world) it would be hard for someone at the top of their game to compete in the percentage gain game.

As such, for the example above, we eventually settled on artists in our database that had more than 100K Instagram Followers on or around the first day of the measured time period, Jan. 1, 2019. This yielded much more interesting results, like Belgium's Angèle and Dominican rapper Yomel El Meloso.

Having said that, with a different threshold, you could uncover a whole new set of up and comers, which is pretty exciting.

United States' Don Toliver with "No Idea" (May 2019), the track that launched a million TikToks throughout H2 2019

This week, we released the second edition of our semi-annual 6MO report, where we decided to really double down on the idea of "breakthrough artists" and finding novel ways to discover them through data.

Across YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, TikTok, Shazam, Bandsintown, Twitter, Wikipedia, and our own Cross-Platform Performance metric, we explicitly shined a light on who was bubbling up in popularity between July and December 2019.

We also repeated our Instagram exercise for the July to December 2019 period:

Top Instagram Follower gains for emerging artists between July and December 2019.

Half of the previous list's artists were from Latin America, and this time around, that number jumped to seven! We've written about the popularity of Instagram in the region, and apparently, it just continues to grow.

Recently, Rolling Stone's Elias Leight keyed in on TikTok as one of the major new sources for breaking artists — a takeaway that has proven itself over and over, with Australia's Tones and I, the United States' Arizona Zervas, and US/Europe's Ashnikko all riding the TikTok wave. Our new report helps illuminate that dynamic in the second half of 2019.

Burna Boy's "Gum Body" with UK's Jorja Smith (released Sept 2019)

However, Leight also picked up on Nigeria's Burna Boy showing strong growth on Spotify and Twitter in H2 2019, "all without one major song storming up the U.S. charts." For all the hoopla that the Bytedance app has been attracting, Burna Boy's a great example that a slow and steady approach over time can still win the race.

From our perspective, the Burna Boy example seems to be a career path that demonstrates great potential for long-term success.

We invite you to check out our new 6MO: Breakthrough Artists report here.


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