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“Yahoo! Music has been more successful at breaking new artists than any other online outlet, so we want to make sure we can represent as many angles and as much diversity as possible.”
——Jay Frank, Yahoo! Music head of Programming and Label Relations
YAHOO! KNOWS WHO'S BEST
Yahoo! Music Picks the Winners When It Comes to New & Emerging Artists
If anyone still has any doubts that cyberspace is currently one of the hottest places to break new artists, they need to look no further than Yahoo! Music’s Who’s Next program. An outgrowth of Yahoo’s Emerging Artists of the Month program, Who’s Next” spotlights four emerging artists a month, featuring a video, streaming song, bio and record review of each act. Yahoo visitors then have an opportunity to vote for their favorite—and the winning act become the site’s New Artist of the Month, complete with an exclusive Yahoo in-studio interview and live performance.

“The old program was enormously successful in breaking new artists to a mainstream audience—last year, 75 percent of the featured artists went gold or better—but featuring only one artist was too limiting to all the genres that the Yahoo! audience represents,” explains Yahoo! Music head of Programming and Label Relations Jay Frank. “Who’s Next allows us to promote a variety of new artists on a multitude of levels, expanding our ability to break new acts.”

One of the strongest facets of the program is its interactivity, allowing fans to voice their opinions. “Bands really get into it and start lobbying their fan bases,” says Frank. “There are endless chats going on at message boards, arguments over who is the best artist going back and forth. But in the end, because we have such a wide volume of traffic, we know that the best artists does prevail. The great thing is you see people getting passionate and enthusiastic about new music. In other music programming outlets, it’s just sort of there. We present it in a way that people get excited about it—it makes their blood boil. And that’s what new music fans love.”

Past winners of the contest include Reprise’s My Chemical Romance, Victory’s Hawthorne Heights, Capitol’s Relient K and Columbia’s Anna Nalick, with Metal Blade’s As I Lay Dying the most recent victor. “My Chemical Romance—the first winner—was the perfect artist because they needed more exposure at the time,” claims Frank. “It not only kick-started sales by 30 or 40 percent, but it also helped the record at a vital point in the project. It helped it gain more fans which resulted in a gold record for the band.”

“Relient K’s album has gone gold,” says Capitol GM Mark Didia. “The fan base was certainly there but the ‘Who’s Next’ competition is what really helped to get the ball rolling and built momentum.”

Says Phil Costello, Reprise’s Senior VP of Promotion agrees: “Although My Chemical Romance was building a buzz through touring, press and other Internet activities, things really started to come together when Yahoo put them front-and-center. They gained a much wider audience, thanks to Yahoo’s homepage placement for a full month.”

Franks is especially gratified by the success of Hawthorne Heights. “They recently went gold, but they’ve had an extraordinarily difficult time getting on radio because they’re on an independent label,” he explains. “We demonstrated how big the fan base is, and after our involvement, the album went from 4,000 to 8,000 units a week. During that month, we played the track 1.3 million times—more than every American radio and video station combined. As a result, radio and MTV are both now playing them—so it’s not just a sales increase for these artists but the visibility to make them stars.”

The most recent contest debuted last week, with the artists up for consideration including Interscope’s Dredg, Tooth & Nail’s Mae, Capitol’s Marjorie Fair and New Line’s The Sights.

In addition to the contest portion of the program, Yahoo has two other components for new artists: New Now featuring artists that “we know are going to go the distance, based on all our internal matrix and instincts and irregardless of votes,” and One To Watch, featuring artists that “our editorial department feels has enormous musical talent despite their potential in the commercial marketplace.” In recent months, the latter program has featured such artists as Vice/Atlantic’s Bloc Party and Sire’s Futureheads, while New Now artists have included Warner Bros. Nashville’s Cowboy Troy, Island’s the Bravery, Atlantic’s Webbie and Asylum’s Mike Jones.

“As one of the earliest believers in Mike Jones, Jay and Yahoo! had an enormous impact on the project,” says Asylum President, Todd Moscowitz . “From the time that Mike was put into the ‘New Now’ program, his Internet activity and overall presence shot through the roof."

“Yahoo Music has been more successful at breaking new artists than any other online outlet and has been an extremely viable tool in breaking an artist,” concludes Frank, “so we want to make sure we can represent as many angles and as much diversity as possible.”

Check the program out at: http://music.yahoo.com/promotions/whosnext/

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