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91 Percent of All Artists Are Completely Undiscovered…

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What percentage of artists are even marginally successful in the industry?

These stats come from Next Big Sound’s 2013: The Year In Rewind.   NBS tracks an extremely large number of artists’ online activities, or in their words, “more artists online than anyone else in the world”.

NBS used social media benchmarks to group artists.  They also took “artist milestones” into account, such as record deals, TV appearances, and charting on Billboard.

Above is the distribution of all the artists they track.  These stats assume that successful artists have an online following.

NBS found that 80 percent of artists receive less than one new Facebook like per day.

Overall, over 90.7 percent of artists can be considered undiscovered.

Turn that upside down, and you get these glaringly-lopsided network reach stats:

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Mega-sized and mainstream  artists make up 1.1 percent of all artists yet have 87.3 percent of Facebook page likes. They also have 88.4 percent of artist Twitter followers.

Smaller artists have more popularity on YouTube and Vevo. Undiscovered and developing artists get 9.7 percent of all artist views.

Interesting tidbit: NBS says Lorde moved from undiscovered to mainstream in less than eight months.

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Comments (37)
  1. TuneHunter

    This is why we need Discovery Moment Monetization.
    The minute you convert 100,000 Radio stations and few million websites to music merchants you will start to see many new faces, superb (no label chosen 100 song/day meet grinding) programming and a lot of MONEY!

      1. TuneHunter

        I agree with you.
        Current internet music monetization or artist creation mechanisms have no logic.
        Land of free with most productive discovery tools (i.e Radio) controlled be few and benefiting chosen few.
        YouTube has a lot of discovery muscles but ad based monetization is not adequate for total access with option to “own”.

  2. / ValslistRadio

    As long as the big platforms are giving us “all the music in the world” the little guys will be buried. John Jurgensen WSJ describes it as “search bar paralysis” Need more filters like the old DJ…

    1. TuneHunter

      The minute Radio DJ and the Radio station will be able to monetize music discovery of new artist will become key part of profit.
      Reformed YouTube as a source of coded tunes and current pimp Shazam, as a cash register, needed as partners!

    2. any mouse

      the promise of “internet empowerment” has been a lie. artists are not more empowered, they are more exploited. the only way to empower artists is with better copyright enforcement not weaker copyright enforcement.

      1. GGG

        False. An artist can do everything they once NEEDED a label to do for relatively cheap (obviously to varying extents depending on how much they can afford to spend on stuff, i.e. some solo folk singer with no familial support vs a Strokes-esque trust fund kids band). They can literally reach the world through a seemingly endless stream of online promotional tools, they are distributed for cheap on the same platforms superstars are, they can share and work with artists literally on the other side of the planet, etc etc.

        Being an overcrowded clusterfuck of a marketplace does not remove the idea of empowerment, it’s just a negative byproduct of it.

        1. hippydog


          see my post below, what makes it worse is the ‘old time curation’ is somewhat broken, making it even harder for artists to make that ‘jump’

        2. Erik P

          Right. Now you just NEED the site/service. You’re still at someone else’s mercy.

          1. GGG

            Well, technically you could build it into your site and do it all yourself a la Louis CK, but sure, you need sites but you can still spend very little money on distribution/promotion via the internet. Bandcamp is free and takes 15%. Facebook is free and despite getting shittier and shittier in terms of promo is still a way to promote. You can buy a domain on GoDaddy for like $5-15. You can promote on twitter for free, you can promote on countless blogs for the price of a low-level PR person.

            And yes, none of that may matter or do anything or nobody pays attention to you, but that’s not the internet’s fault. That’s the fault of every asshole who can strum a few chords and/or make a beat in garageband thinking they’re the next superstar.

            1. eusoudjcuco

              I Agree!

            2. Erik P

              That’s not what I mean. If one of those sites changes their rules, starts charging or shuts down tomorrow…then what? Don’t think for a second that it will never happen. I built a whole business on Blogger. Once Google bought them they didn’t like how I did things & deleted my site without warning & refused to explain themselves or reinstate my site,. I have plenty more similar stories. Is that ’empowerment?’

  3. Minneapolis Musician

    If everybody is playing essentially the same kind of popular music, why would you need more than a few mega-size artists for each of the main genres of pop music?

    Look at other commodities. How many brands of fast food are there? Just a few. How many brands of ketchup do you need?

    If artists were all essentially different, and the audience had a thousand types of musical tastes, then I could see that logically more musicians could make a living.

    1. TuneHunter

      Are you a musician?
      Music is not a ketchup.
      Same human can be in love with Fifth Symphony, Beatles, Metallica, Smooth Jazz or EDM – future has no limits and entertainment has to be fresh or it is not entertainment!
      Last, digital music is superb for monetization – just few players have to change the business mode.
      Lets knock on the Google’s door – no response? lets knock on the Congress’s door so we change “fair use” and start monetization at the discovery moment.

      1. Minneapolis Musician

        I think once Clear Channel radio bought up all the radio stations and started playing the same 30 songs over and over in constant heavy rotation, pop music became, essentially, ketchup. A commodity. A formula, like a standard recipe. Over and over and over and over and over…

        1. TuneHunter

          Yes, looking at current situation it is label controlled ketchup.
          Why Radio listens to them and how they can have a nerve to ask for any royalties from Radio?
          Yes, they will get more breadcrumbs form Tube player for all tunes they have managed to hummer in to human brains, but this is desperate and very low quality business model!

          KISS FM in London UK grinds just 100 tunes in any given day. (news clip I’ve seen) I feel less in Cleveland, OH.

  4. artkritic

    Radio stations repeat …repeat…. repeat. Why not an hour now and then for new artists? Same for all other artists, visual, dance etc…. Take a risk now and then, change like everyone else.

    1. SM

      Find them on Twitter and ask them in public to play more new music. You would be surprised how well they respond when you humiliate them like this. They don’t like to be caught in their lazy mode.

    2. Jughead

      The stations lose listeners if they play unfamiliar music during peak hours. Then, they lose advertisers.

      Commercial radio just gives the general population what it wants.

  5. visitor

    piracy has eliminated the incentive to invest in anything other than what can become major cross platform merchandising bands – the labels have “adapted and evolved” to the new reality of the digital marketplace by building brands instead of brands that can be monetized over various platforms, like… t-shirts, touring, merchandising, endorsements, sync placements, etc.

    welcome to the future piracy brought you.

    1. Anonymous


      1. Simon

        No, its the: ‘future that the Record Companies response to (so called) “Piracy” brought us’… P2P file sharing always proved to be a great method of music discovery, but it was squashed and stigmatized before it could be enhanced and developed for what it does best. However, don’t worry.. the final chapter of the story hasn’t been written yet.

  6. Tyler

    Invest on your .com. It is more important than ever.

    Make your server super fast. Strip widgets, get rid of stupid add ons.

    Use good analytics. Avoid Google Analytics and Google products like the plague, except Google Webmaster Tools.

    Work on your SEO.

    Backlinks still matter.

    Stop using URL shorteners.

    Use social media to build traffic to your website, not the other way around.

    You are welcome.

  7. Some guy

    These are the symptoms of a power law distribution (commonly the 80/20 rule). More specifically, it’s a Zipf distribution, which generally models frequency distributions of “rank data.”

    Power law distributions characterize the naturally occurring popularity of websites, the net worth of individuals, the popularity of given names, etc. If a radio station tried to manipulate this curve, listeners would presumably tune out.

    There is a valid is-ought question at the core of this discussion, but that question is really about the eccentricity of the power law distribution. There will always be a long tail – but can we make it a little fatter? Artists will benefit, but will it be at the expense of listeners who actively seek out the most popular music? Do certain platforms foster a fat tail, or heap more traffic on the top 1%? Seems like YouTube is doing a better job than other platforms at distributing traffic to the tail. What is it about YouTube that leads to this behavior?

    1. hippydog


      I dont remember the name of the Ted talk but this was explained quite well, and when you start to look around it applies to a lot of things..

      Quote “Overall, over 90.7 percent of artists can be considered undiscovered.”

      The biggest reason why the artist popularity is so uneven (even though artists DO have more access, IE: “empowerment”)
      is simply that people still follow what others are doing..
      as per

      16% of the people are early adopters, They actively look for new music, unknown artists, etc etc
      the other 84% (majority adopters) will usually follow (or at least base their decisions) on the first 16%..

      I think one of the big problems we are having now is Radio was the primary place where the Majority Adopters found their music, but its was somewhat based on what the Early Adopters created (by requesting that their favorite bands are played, buying the LP’s and Discs, etc)..

      that is now somewhat broken..
      Whats is played on the radio is NOT created by the early adopters, it is almost completely manufactured..

      The Early Adopters on now on youtube or spotify, Itunes (or less legal means).. but they are not truly connected ‘to the masses’ cause the ‘other 84%’ is not looking there and following the 16%.. (instead the 84% is still getting the majority of ‘whats cool’ via the radio)

      again.. The 16% is what sways the other 84% , but the oldtime curation is somewhat broken.. AND the noise level is a LOT higher..


      the make that jump from “Developing” to “Mainstream” is a heck of lot harder then it used to be..
      I know.. duh. right?
      What has to happen to ‘make things better’ is one of the ‘new’ formats (Itunes, Spotify, youtube, etc etc) needs to be even more adopted by the mainstream so that natural progression can reaffirm itself ..
      I dont know what that ‘critical mass’ is but I have to think Itunes and youtube are pretty close..

  8. Dave

    “the only way to empower artists is with better copyright enforcement not weaker copyright enforcement” Are you talking about illegal downloading? The percentage of music downloading is way down compared to what it was a few years ago. Why bother when there are legal streaming sites with most of the music in the world available to play within seconds. What needs to be done is getting more people on those sites which will generate more listens and make more money for the artists.

  9. Kellie

    A lot of artists do not deserve to be discovered, as they have nothing fresh to offer and poor production standards often hamper their work. The idea of the long tail online marketing was proved to be a myth many years ago. The media is is run by a handful of large corporations like Sony, that have the financial power to put blockbuster marketing strategies into place and manipulate the entertainment we digest.

    On a more positive note, playing music is a nice hobby and if you can sell a few t-shirts in the process then go for it. If you have something fresh to say, well then that’s a different story and hopefully you will work out a signal to noise strategy that will get your heard.

  10. Back hole question to ponder!

    Has music become a black hole of impossible to scale high mountains where the fight to the top is inhibited by tastemakers clueless to what a hit record actually sounds like?

  11. Danwriter

    The promise of Internet empowerment for music artists hasn’t worked out as many had hoped. It was simply too much to expect those with true right-hemisphere orientation to also simultaeously be able to handle the left-brain logistics of managing a palette of online toolkits (most of which seem of dubious value) to run a career. (There have been a few notable exceptions, of course.) Seems inevitable that the nature of the music artist itself will have to change.

  12. R.P.

    and what percentage of these undiscovered artists are consistently making new music? How about, how many of these would be considered hobbyists at best?

  13. rikki

    here is my take as a dj….why not look at how many undiscovered artists have really crappy videos on you tube. I think there is a big correlation….

    Poor or distorted audio, bad lighting iphone videos that never capture the FULL song let alone a set of music…..

    Here is a big hint people……most better camcorder have a setting in the menu called WS windscreen….to help cut down the noise like at the beach………BUTTTTT the other feature is it cuts the Bass before you record it….ever notice its always the bass that distorts or send the camcorder into massive compression?

  14. Kellie

    Your audience are professional viewers that have heard and seen millions of hours of video on TV etc and one cannot expect a poorly made video to cut through the clutter. A modest budget for a below the line video without FX should start at about US $10,000.00 to allow for recording and professional editing (this excludes audio production).

  15. Dan (Sweden)

    That’s why it’s becoming very important to try to stick out among others, and that’s what I write quite a lot about on my site, for young talents/artists. It’s not a sensation to sing like Mariah Carey when you’re 14-15 anymore, writing great songs/lyrics + playing an instrument really well + finding an intereresting artistic concept + thinking “outside ot the box” very early, is.

    1. You

      oh then


  16. (Insert Name)

    I agree radio is becoming repeat repeat repeat but I understand why. Iy is annoying to most people however and that is when they loose listeners. See what happened with happy!

  17. John

    ayo mahhh hmu when ur gud aight fahm

    1. Jeff

      Peep me on soundcloud fahm, + my twitter ahlie lmao fbgm ku$h dank yahh


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