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A Teenager, Her Ukulele and a Bedroom Pop Empire-in-the-Making


Because true online purity is all but extinct, mxmtoon has instead become a full-fledged business. A gap year after high school became a longer pause as Maia took on managers, a touring agent, a publicist and a lawyer, and has commenced agreeing to every kind of entertainment-industry meeting imaginable. In September, as mxmtoon, she released her debut album, “The Masquerade,” which did not have the backing of a proper label but received a heavy push (and an original podcast) from Spotify, an eager supporter since the company noticed the high levels of organic interest in her music.

Rosa Asciolla, the head of North American artist and label marketing for Spotify, said that the company differentiates between plays that come from its own editorial pushes, like putting an artist on an official playlist, and those that originate from a user’s own saved songs. With mxmtoon, “We could see that people were listening from their own libraries, which is a high indicator of engagement for us,” she said, crediting Maia’s emotional honesty. (For a time, mxmtoon released music as part of Spotify’s since-shuttered direct distribution service for artists.)

Now, many microgenerations after the first young musicians went viral online, there exist plenty of blueprints for success as well as cautionary tales. The mxmtoon team has opted for the complicated tactic of hitting the gas and holding back at the same time, with her manager, Max Gredinger, noting that they have conversations about avoiding burnout for Maia “every day.”

While mxmtoon’s music has the intimate, conversational folk-pop simplicity of the Moldy Peaches or Regina Spektor, mixed with the Gen-Z, postgenre bedroom instincts of Clairo, girl in red and Beabadoobee, Gredinger pointed to new megastars like Shawn Mendes and Billie Eilish as models.

“Those artists had years of genuine discovery and building brand equity and brand awareness — it’s not a flash-in-the-pan type thing,” he said. “We’re not looking at a two-, three-year plan, we’re looking at a 10-, 20-year plan.”


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