YouTube Music announced the addition of 14 new artists on Tuesday — including young stars Kenny Beats, Rema, Baby Rose, and Guapdad 4000 — to Foundry, its three-year-old global development program for independent artists.
Foundry began in 2016 as a way for YouTube to teach emerging artists how to best use its video-sharing platform and build a fanbase on it; graduates included Grammy winner Dua Lipa, Chloe x Halle, Gunna, and Latin Grammy winner Rosalía, who grew her YouTube subscriber base by more than 7,000 percent through the program and went on to also participate in YouTube’s Artist On the Rise project. YouTube refreshed the program earlier this year to include marketing and promotion support and began adding artists for longer stints. The new class of 14 brings the total number of Foundry artists this year to 25.
“Initially, Foundry focused on finding emerging acts who’d shown their qualitative and quantitative prowess on the platform and giving a few workshops to help the artists,” Naomi Zeichner, YouTube Music’s artist partnerships lead, tells Rolling Stone. After she joined the company in 2017, the Foundry team extended the scope and duration of each artist’s participation — from a day or two to around six months of coaching and support, which Zeichner says felt like a “good foundation” because the time period covers an artist’s key release window. Each of the 25 artists in Foundry have a dedicated representative from YouTube Music who works across marketing and programming teams to help them craft content strategy, she says.
Foundry complements similar YouTube Music initiatives such as Artist Spotlight Stories and Artists On The Rise. While YouTube Music is not the only digital music service to have artist development programs — Spotify’s RISE and Apple Music’s Up Next have similar ambitions of ushering up-and-coming names on their platforms to the top of the charts — its graduates have enjoyed more success, likely in part due to the YouTube website’s status as the world’s most popular avenue of music-listening. Artists who have come through Foundry have built significant fanbases through experimenting with video blogs, DIY tutorial shows that involve them teaching the audience how they make beats, and making-of videos that take fans behind the scenes of music videos. Arlo Parks, an 18-year-old Foundry artist from the UK, recently made a series of videos embedding lyrics into the frame, which YouTube says has helped her win fans from far outside her country who use those lyrics for easy translation.
“All the artists are independent, but that can mean a variety of things, so it’s unique and important that we’re able to support teams that are creating all different types of content,” Zeichner says. “We’re always looking ahead. For 2020, we’re especially looking for localized opportunities — seeing what we might do in each individual market.”
The new class of Foundry artists comprises London folk-rock artist Beabadoobee, Atlanta R&B singer Baby Rose, Nigerian rapper Rema, pop and rap producer Kenny Beats, and Norwegian bedroom pop singer Girl in Red, in addition to Channel Tres, Sam Kim, Hardy, Lean Chihiro, La Doña, Alfie Templeman, Jpegmafia, and Sanari. Its previous class of artists included DJ and producer Michael Brun, Dublin rapper Kojaque, guitarist Omar Apollo.