We asked Tastemaker Aquaus - “What characteristics or qualities attract you to a new, emerging artist? What do you find yourself attracted to?”
As an A&R and music publisher, I'm often asked: "What do I look for in emerging Artists?" As strange as it may sound, this is never a simple question for me. In fact, I'm always looking for better ways to explain what catches my attention. When it comes to discovering new and emerging talent, there are a few elements that I find myself...well...a "Sucker For" --- here they are!
1. Production Quality (Songs)
My introduction into the world of recorded music came through producing and writing songs alongside a good friend of mine. We were HUGE fans of The Neptunes - always intrigued by the quality of their production and how they worked with a wide variety of artists. I'm very production driven when it comes to identifying Artists who catch my attention, so I tend to look for:
- Good selection of sounds (electronic, live, sampled, etc)
- Catchy melodies and chord progressions
- Clear and audible vocals
- Interesting vocal and/or instrumental arrangements
- Thoughtful lyrics and storytelling
A few days ago, I was talking to one of my friends in the lobby of my apartment building when I heard an ear-catching melody underneath some foreign female vocals. Immediately, I paused the conversation to find out what I was hearing. Thanks to Shazam, I discovered it was “Come” by Jain - a singer/songwriter from France. I looked her up to find that she was already a fanum artist thanks to one of our fellow tastemakers, Jay Lincoln. Great pick Jay!
2. Brand Potential (Cohesive Aesthetic)
I believe , "A strong brand should entail a cohesive aesthetic across all media platforms."
It's important to avoid confusing your potential consumers and make sure that they know where and how to find you. Your website, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Twitter, and Youtube all serve as primary and secondary touch-points for people to find you, so they need to be in sync.. A GREAT example of an emerging artist with a cohesive aesthetic is Kali Uchis:
I'm definitely a sucker for the small things that add up. Notice how Kali’s quality visuals match her personality, style, and theme across all channels. Even her color scheme is a consistent baby blue and pink. Brand potential plays a huge role when it comes to catching and keeping my attention.
3. Diligence, Honesty, and Initiative
Practicing diligence, taking initiative, and being honest with oneself is truly what helps to set an artist up for the long-haul. I believe Kehlani is a prime example of this. Her current label, Atlantic Records, considers her a "mindie" act (‘Major’ artist with ‘Indie’ bonafides), having her fan base as an independent artist before garnering the attention of the majors.
It's apparent that her hard work is just beginning to pay off, while the more subtle honesty bleeds through her music. In a recent interview with The Fader, she talks about going through foster care, losing her father as a child, and her wavering sexual identity. These are all topics that many artists shy away from, for fear of compromising how they are viewed in the public eye. Kehlani is different. She realizes that the to inspire others is to accept herself for exactly who she is.