Rising to fame in the music industry: is social media the way to go?

I’ve grown up watching talent shows like The X Factor, The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent. People would  audition with the hope of making it big, of signing a record deal and becoming a success. For most, their experiences on the show didn’t come of anything significant, but for some, these contests led them into fame. I used to think that the only way of becoming known in the music industry was by going on these shows: walking on a big stage, and waiting for the judges to tell you that you’re through to the next round.

Nowadays it seems a lot easier to make your way into the music industry, thanks to apps like Instagram and TikTok. All it takes is for one of your videos to go viral, and if people like what they see, they might give you a follow and check your other stuff out. Maybe they’ll share the video with their friends. And before you know it, other celebrities might mention you on their story, particularly if you’ve covered one of their songs. They might even invite you on tour with them if you’re really good.

In an increasingly virtual world sharing musical talent has never been so easy. Rising singer-songwriters such as Lizzy McAlpine, Maisie Peters and Laufey are examples of what can happen when you mix talent with a social media following.

Lizzy McAlpine is a 23-year-old America singer-songwriter who first rose to fame on TikTok after she posted a song titled ‘You Ruined the 1975’ in June 2020. The song instantly went viral (I have to admit it is very catchy and I have watched it many times) and the number of her followers rapidly increased. After continuing to post snippets of original songs and unique covers, she soon established her own musical style which people seemed to love. Fast forward to 2023, she has now opened for Coldplay, collaborated with Finneas O’Connell, surpassed 4 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and is currently embarking on a world tour for her highly acclaimed album Five Seconds Flat.

Maisie Peters is a 22-year-old English singer-songwriter who, in a similar way to McAlpine, found fame primarily through social media. She started posting original songs on YouTube from a young age and then did the same on Instagram. From this moment on she gradually rose in success – releasing EPs, co-writing for film soundtracks with other British songwriters – but her real breakthrough was when she signed with Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records. Along with Sheeran she produced a hit pop album which shows off the lyricism she first gained praise for  – You Signed Up For This. Like McAlpine, she is currently performing all over the world, and teasing her fans with the prospect of a new album.

Around the same time, 23-year-old Icelandic singer-songwriter Laufey also rose to fame thanks to her video making on TikTok and Instagram. She started by posting covers of a mixture of jazz classics as well as popular music, playing the cello like a guitar to accompany her soulful voice. Even though she did actually partake in the 2014 season of Island Got Talent – the Icelandic version of Amercia’s Got Talent – it was social media that helped her gain fans from all over the world. She has now released a debut album – Everything I Know about Love; has gained attention from celebrities like Willow Smith and Billie Eilish; hosted a weekly music show on BBC Radio 3; performed her songs with London’s Philharmonic Orchestra; and even appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

These three artists are some of my favourites. Their successes are totally deserved. But I wonder whether they ever would have had the opportunity to share their music had they not set up a camera, filmed themselves, and dared to click post.

Image by HS You

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