There was once a time when the world was only familiar with mainstream musical artists. Backed by big record labels, these artists were ensured a straight shot to fame thanks to record labels bankrolling their music videos and promotion. How else could emerging artists get their names out there?
But there are new young names that have demonstrated otherwise. Due to the increasing accessibility of the music industry, new musicians have been able to insert themselves into the industry and do exceedingly well. Emerging artists Alaina Castillo and Anson Seabra were once small–time musicians. Now, both receive huge streaming numbers because of the evolving nature of the music industry and the platforms they use to share their music.
Alaina Castillo didn’t start her career in music. She initially created her YouTube channel to share ASMR videos, which was a growing trend at the time in 2019. Her first ASMR video on YouTube received over 1.6 million views and now, her YouTube channel has over 800,000 subscribers, each of whom is familiar with her routine background of a bedroom filled with fairy lights and Alaina singing with an orange microphone in hand.
Her “Sing You To Sleep” ASMR videos show off her soft, melodic tones that she eventually used to create covers of songs from Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” to Billie Eilish’s “when the party’s over.”
Even before she signed with AWAL Recordings—joining the likes of artists, like Lauv and Daya, whom you’ve definitely heard while waiting in line at coffee shops and clothing stores—Castillo already had a large following. Castillo collaborated with singer–songwriter RØMANS to produce her first EP, antisocial butterfly, through his label Chosen People in November 2019. But it wasn’t until May 2020 that she and Chosen People signed a deal with AWAL, which was recently acquired by SONY.
“Walked Through Hell” and "Robin Hood” show off a voice that parallels those of James Arthur and Lewis Capaldi, so it’s no surprise that Anson Seabra’s music took off. But the degree of how viral his music became took the artist off guard.
In a TikTok, Seabra demonstrated his amazement with how his song “Welcome to Wonderland,” originally released on Spotify in 2018, suddenly blew up in February 2020 due to it gaining traction on TikTok. TikTok increased the virality of the sound, and Seabra watched as his song surged from a few thousand streams a day to nearly 400,000 streams per day on Feb. 11.
Seabra said that TikTok “runs the music industry,” and most people who have paid attention to trending music on the app and the songs that appear on the top charts would agree. The app constantly catapults unknown artists to the top of the charts, with the music soundtracking viral TikTok trends.
The accessibility of sharing music—whether it be through SoundCloud, Apple Music, Spotify, or even TikTok—demonstrates that all it takes is a computer and some headphones to produce music and share it with the world. This new independence for artists represents a change in the relationship between artists and record labels.
Being signed to a label is no longer a requirement for success in the music industry. Especially when artists have now realized that self–promotion has a lot more to do with appealing to audiences rather than having a huge corporation behind you. Emerging artists have found that advertising their new work on social media apps like TikTok has been critical in the success of their work. Had it not been for the app’s dance trends, how else would BENEE's “Supalonely” or Doja Cat’s “Say So” have become Gen Z’s quarantine anthems?
In his TikTok, Seabra said that “this app is too powerful,” and it is. It has served as the direct connection between us and emerging artists, whom we might not have heard of otherwise. Social media has not only allowed audiences to discover artists, but also has allowed them to relate more to artists as people, whether it be through TikTok videos, live streams, or daily vlogs. We love hearing from our favorite new artists, and we’re excited to stream more of their music, too.