Tidal Has Chosen The Next Great Musicians The World Needs To Hear—But How? - Forbes
Share on facebook

Tidal Has Chosen The Next Great Musicians The World Needs To Hear—But How? - Forbes

Tidal’s Rising Artists to Watch 2023.
It’s January, and that means it’s time for all new everything–movies, TV, and especially music. Many publications and media companies compile rankings of titles to look out for or talents to discover in whatever field that may reside in. While December is typically packed with lists of the best of what has already been released, January is dedicated to unearthing what’s next.
But how are these lists of relative unknowns created? If no one is sure what’s going to blow up, how can those in the music industry pick just a handful of names to stand behind? How does an artist wind up being included?
This year, Tidal released its inaugural Rising Artists to Watch list, which features 13 emerging artists across 18 different genres that the streaming platform is betting on. The ranking includes the following musical talents: BIBI (K-pop), Hector “Roots” Lewis (reggae/dancehall), Hello Mary (rock/indie), Isata Kanneh-Mason (classical), James Brandon Lewis (jazz), Limoblaze (gospel/Afrobeats), LP Giobbi (dance/electronic), Maeta (R&B), Paopao (Latin), Sunny War (country), Symba (hip-hop), Teddy Swims (pop), and Tom the Mail Man (pop/rock/hip-hop).
These 13 artists were hand-picked by the staff at Tidal. Streaming data played into the curation process, but Tony Gervino, the streamer’s executive vice president and editor-in-chief of programming and editorial, says that it’s really about more than numbers.
“The team I’ve built… I have ex-journalists and ex-label folks. A lot of us worked at record stores when we were kids. We’re music nerds. We’re always saying, ‘Let me show you something.’” Gervino explained that his group is constantly listening to not only what’s out there, but what’s coming next. When something jumps out to one of them, it’s worth noting. Each person’s individual taste is trusted and valued.
Gervino called those he works with “musical geniuses,” and then, after a pause, joked, “but I don’t want it to go to their heads.”
When it came time to begin putting this ambitious-yet-restrained list together, the person in charge of each genre at Tidal combed through what they know is slated to drop in 2023 and created their own ranking of names they believe deserve to be featured. Then, everyone got together, and the whittling began. “We just sat in a room and hashed it out…like the Continental Congress” Gervino compared.
Gervino called the experience of honing this list, “fun and intoxicating and…a little bit slightly infuriating when people don’t understand what the point you’re trying to make.” The music industry veteran confessed that “people could quibble, but the way you would quibble with your friends.”
It would be easy for a company like Tidal to rely solely on what it hears from its major label partners in order to predict who will become the next breakout star–and it wouldn’t be wrong to stick to that plan. If an artist has an album coming and the label behind them confirms they’ll be spending huge sums to promote their work, it’s easy to suggest they have a good shot at becoming a name-to-know. But according to Gervino, that’s not what Tidal wanted its first edition of this ranking to be. “It’s not just people we think are going to be huge. It’s also people we think are important. These are people who people should listen to.”
This list should be taken seriously, as Tidal has a track record of supporting and championing artists early on in their careers who went on to accomplish incredible things, such as Kehlani, Alessia Cara, Halsey, Kaytranada, and Maggie Rogers. Efforts like this ranking are fun to create and music lovers enjoy digging into them, but they are also important to the company.
“Rising artists have always been at the forefront of what we do,” Gervino confirmed, detailing all the ways that Tidal helps will-be stars, such as playlisting, sponsoring live performances, producing video content, and helping those musicians find partnership opportunities. “However long it takes, we’re going to be there.”
Lifting the voices of unheard talent may be an integral part of what Tidal does, but there’s another reason why the team behind this list wants to take risks and include those artists who might be ignored by other companies playing it a bit safer when they create their own rankings—a much more personal one.
“When somebody becomes very popular, we want be able to say we’ve been here all along,” Gervino admitted, before reframing his statement with a smile. “The other version of this is ‘I told you so.’”