In a period where social media streaming has never been more saturated and competitive amid social distancing measures brought on by the ongoing crisis, social media app Triller has launched a new star-studded singing competition to break through the noise and draw some eyes.
“Step Up to the Mic,” the video-streaming app’s new elimination-style singing competition featuring host judges Quavo and Takeoff of Migos, along with hit songwriter Starrah and producer Murda Beatz, is an ambitious program for the app, offering a head-turning prize for the winner.
Like the many singing competitions that came before it, such as ABC’s “American Idol” and NBC’s “The Voice,” “Step Up to the Mic” is offering the winner a chance to kickstart a music career through a record deal at a major label along with a management deal. A representative for Triller tells Rolling Stone that the app has agreements from all the major labels to sign the winning contestant, and the label will be decided based on fit.
Triller’s own twist, however, is offering up the competition’s hosts for the winner’s first song. Whoever wins will perform a song featuring Quavo and Takeoff, written by Starrah and produced by Murda Beatz. The winner gets a music video shoot for the song too. Contestants have been submitting videos on the platform since May 8th, and the submission period closes on May 29th. Fans will vote on their picks throughout the series, with voting starting the week of June 5th. The star judges along with fans will ultimately decide the final winner, who will be announced July 10th.
“I’m looking for the next superstar, that sauce, drip, something special.” Quavo tells Rolling Stone over the phone this week. “You’re working with superstars. You’re in front of the greatest group in the world, the greatest group of all time, you’re working with one of the greatest writers in the world, Starrah’s an amazing writer. And you’re working with Murda Beatz whose got countless hits with all the superstars across the globe and started with us.”
Contestants should have “mamba mentality,” Takeoff adds. “We’re looking for someone with confidence, has fire, someone who’s excited to work with the Migos, and my boy Murda and Starrah and make this a moment.”
Regarding having to keep the contest online through a screen rather than in-person, the two Migos members say they have no worries on getting the right choice for a feature. As Quavo says, “raw sauce is raw sauce.”
Compared to artists who have been consistently taking to livestreams and digital performances through the safer at home orders, save for the release of “Taco Tuesday” on Cinco de Mayo, Migos had been relatively quiet amid the quarantine. They’ve been busy recording new music from their studio at home, and the group released new track “Need It” featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again on Friday. Meanwhile, Quavo got his high school diploma amid safer at home orders, he says. (“I dropped out of school back in ’09,” he raps over the phone in a rhythm reminiscent of his signature triplet. “2020, that’s when I got mine.”)
Planning for “Step Up to the Mic” started before the pandemic struck the U.S., but the very nature of the competition’s all online production helps avoid complications television productions have faced. “Step Up to the Mic” isn’t the only performance competition going online through the pandemic; “The Voice” wrapped up its most recent season this week through a line set up via Microsoft Teams to maintain social distancing.
Streaming on social media has been dominant through the pandemic, with apps like TikTok gaining significant boosts in downloads. Triller — a TikTok competitor — has seen a surge in usage through the health crisis as well; the company says it’s had a 500% increase in user engagement since the pandemic struck.
“For the first time in the history of music we have a digital platform that transcends stardom. Whether you’re a rapper or a vocalist, Triller’s goal is to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and that music culture continues to manifest,” says Triller’s owner and executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht. “We created ‘Step Up to the Mic’ before COVID-19 hit, but we’re really excited that we can give aspiring artists the opportunity to be discovered, even amidst a global pandemic. We can’t wait to find the next star and see the talent unfold.”