Tori Kelly: From bedroom EP to Grammy nominee


Highlights:
  • Tori Kelly, who has built her career on YouTube over the past eight years, is nominated for Best New Artist.
  • She’s bootstrapped her community of now 2 million subscribers, built on prolific uploading and YouTube collaborations, a contrast from the tried-and-true strategy of studio releases and radio play.
  • Instead of studio releases, her most-viewed videos are covers (albeit well-timed with official releases) and collaborations, the predominant source for gaining new fans.


At a 2010 “American Idol” audition, Simon Cowell told 16-year-old Tori Kelly that she looked like a human orange, noting, "I thought your voice was almost ... annoying."

Now, at 23, Tori Kelly is nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best New Artist.

She’s built much of her career on YouTube, with subscribers trickling in with every new cover, song, and video uploaded. Unlike most emerging artists, surprisingly, there’s no single track or video that is responsible for her success: her achievements are the result of a steady grind. It’s an aspiring musician’s dream: she has built an enormously loyal fan base at ~2 million YouTube subscribers, and she did it without a major release or significant radio play.

So how did Tori Kelly go from a six-song EP in her bedroom to performing alongside Andrea Bocelli? Of all Tori Kelly-related activities, what attracted the most new fans?

We dug into the data to find out.



First, let’s look at Tori Kelly’s subscribers over the past eight years (shown relative to her fellow Best New Artist nominees, for context).

2016 Grammy Nominees for Best New Artist: YouTube Subscribers
On Artist’s Official YouTube Accounts (including VEVO)


Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 4.36.50 PM.png

Tori Kelly’s first real brush with YouTube came much earlier than for the other Best New Artist nominees. In 2007, as a 14-year-old, Kelly uploaded a cover of John Wesley Work, Jr.'s "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.47.27 AM.png

Tori Kelly’s first upload, singing "Go Tell It On The Mountain"

Over the past several years, she’s released more than 200 videos on her personal account (excluding collaborations with other YouTubers) — that’s more than twice as much as the second most prolific Best New Artist Nominee on YouTube, Meghan Trainor (86 videos). The hustle has paid off: many of her fans have been following her career for years, with roughly a third of her subscribers dating to 2013 or earlier.

Here are the most significant events during this time period, denoted by increases in subscribers to her YouTube channel.

Daily Increase in Subscribers: Tori Kelly’s YouTube Channels
1/1/2010 - 12/31/2015 for ToriKelly and ToriKellyVEVO


Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 1.45.01 PM.png


There are some 25 notable “spikes” in the above chart – moments when her subscribers suddenly increased, signaling an important event, such as a new upload, press coverage, or live performance. Let’s take a closer look at each of these spikes.

2010

November 9 (+1,033)
Kelly almost replicates her previous success by collaborating with AJ Rafael and JR Aquino to cover Far East Movement’s “Rocketeer.”

2011

July 22 (+847 subscribers)
Kelly & Todrick Hall cover Beyoncé’s “Best Thing I Never Had.”

November 14 (+608)
Kelly and AJ Rafael cover Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe.”

December 1 (+867)
Kelly joins fellow YouTube musician AJ Rafael to cover Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

2012

January 22 (+2,815 subscribers)
Kelly duets with beatboxer Angie Girl, performing a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You.” It goes on to receive over 24 million views.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 3.36.13 PM.png

Tori Kelly’s most popular video, a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You”

August 7 (+1,198)
Kelly releases a live acoustic version of “All In My Head," which receives more than 17 million views.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 3.39.17 PM.png
Tori Kelly’s “All In My Head”



By the end of 2012, a 20-year-old Tori Kelly has more than 250,000 subscribers, almost entirely built on the success of her covers. None of these videos are breakout hits, but they are brilliantly timed and well-received: astutely, Kelly often covers songs within weeks of their release, and seizes on their initial buzz.

Her cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You,” for example, preceded the official release of the song by three months. Ocean’s track had leaked online in mid-2011, but was promptly removed until its official release in the spring of 2012. Kelly’s cover, meanwhile, came out in January 2012.

Kelly also built off the popularity of Beyoncé’s “Best I Never Had,” releasing her cover weeks after the song’s official debut. Similarly, her second most popular video, a cover of “Suit and Tie,” was uploaded three months after Justin Timberlake released the track.

2013

March 10 (+5,264 subscribers)
Tori Kelly uploads a cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie.”

July 30 (+5,976)
Tori Kelly uploads a Vine of herself singing “Sun Is Out and I’m Feeling OK” in her car on the way to the studio.

September 5 (+2,344)
Scott Hoying (of Pentatonix) and Tori Kelly post a video of themselves covering Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

October 3 (+2,274)
Kelly uploads a lyric video for “Dear No One,” setting it in one of her oldest fan Tumblr sites.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 3.50.30 PM.png


Tori Kelly’s “Dear No One” lyrics video

November 7 (+3,780)
“Dear No One,” Tori Kelly’s first official Vevo video, is released.

December 26 (+2,947)
Tori Kelly appears as a guest on SUP3RFRUIT, the YouTube channel run by Pentatonix members Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying.

2014

February 27 (+4,044 subscribers)
Kelly premieres “Paper Hearts.”

August 8 (+1,517)
Kelly uploads a video for “Silent,” featured on the soundtrack for “The Giver.”

November 4 (+2,669)
Kelly joins Pentatonix on a rendition of “Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 3.55.08 PM.png


2015

February 27 (+1,902 subscribers)
Tori Kelly releases the official video for “Nobody Love.”

March 31 (+1,959)
Kelly releases a Snapchat-themed lyric video for “Nobody Love” on her own channel.

April 28 (+3,036)
Kelly takes part in a live stream with fans from Google NYC HQ.

May 18 (+4,846)
Kelly performs “Nobody Love” at the Billboard Music Awards the night before.

June 24 (+4,026)
Kelly’s first major label album, “Unbreakable Smile,” is released.

August 3 (+24,775)
Tori Kelly appears as a guest on Miranda Sings’ channel for a vocal lesson.

August 7 (+8,587)
Miranda Sings joins Kelly on her channel and the two perform a unique cover of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 3.46.33 PM.png


August 31 (+6,968)
Kelly performs “Should’ve Been Us” at the MTV Video Music Awards.

October 25 (+3,478)
Andrea Bocelli and Tori Kelly duet at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

It’s worth noting that collaborations with other YouTubers were an important source of subscribers. At the beginning of her career, Kelly would often team up with fellow YouTube musician AJ Rafael, and it was her joint cover of “Thinkin Bout You” with Angie Girl that resulted in Kelly’s most-viewed video. Later, she began to work with members of the prominent YouTube group Pentatonix (10 million subscribers), joining them on their track “Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy.” She also appeared on the popular channel SUP3RFRUIT (~1.9 million subscribers) and collaborated with Scott Hoying. Finally, in August 2015, the first of her two video with Miranda Sings (6 million subscribers) resulted in the single largest daily increase over the past 6 years (~25,000 new subscribers in one day); in sum, both videos resulted in a staggering 33,362 new subscribers.

2016

January 4 (+2,648)
Kelly lands on the cover of Seventeen Magazine.



If there is one common thread running through Tori Kelly’s career, it is her unwavering work ethic.

Percent of Artist’s Views, by Video
On Artist’s Official YouTube Accounts (including VEVO)


Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.06.15 AM.png

Over the course of nearly 10 years, she has released a multitude of videos for her fans, whether covers, originals, or vlogs. No single video is responsible for than 10 percent of her total views – a stark contrast to the other Best New Artist nominees, for whom one or two tracks are responsible for the bulk of their popularity.

As validating as winning this year’s Grammy for Best New Artist would be for Tori Kelly, she has already achieved what seasoned musicians have managed to foster: a remarkably caring and involved group of fans.

-- Posted by the YouTube Culture & Trends Team

The Impact of the Grammys on Artist Popularity



Highlights:


  • Grammy nominations tend to have a greater impact on artists who have yet to gain mainstream prominence; winners may see a spike in popularity, but the effect of reaching a newfound national audience is mitigated by prior exposure.
  • In 2015, Brandy Clark was relatively unknown among other Best New Artist nominees (i.e., Iggy Azalea, Bastille, HAIM, and Sam Smith). She had the largest percent increase in popularity on YouTube, following the show.
  • Over the past four years, no artist has benefited more from Grammy exposure than Bon Iver. In 2012, they were famously nominated for Best New Artist, Best Alternative Music Album, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. Following the show, their popularity doubled on YouTube and “Holocene” plays increased 150 percent.
  • The 2016 awards are most likely to noticeably boost the popularity of Best New Artist nominee Courtney Barnett, whose views increased twofold after the announcement and who remains less known within the U.S. than the other nominees.
  • 2016 Record of the Year-nominated “Really Love” by D’Angelo also stands to benefit. Plays for the track tripled in the week following the announcement.



Anecdotally, the Grammys provide a huge spotlight for both winners and nominees, especially for smaller, independent artists (e.g., Bon Iver, or colloquially, “Bonnie Bear,” after the 2012 Grammys).

But how does that exposure translate to YouTube? To determine the Grammys’ effect on artist popularity, we examined the nominees for Best New Artist and Song/Record of the Year over the past five years on YouTube.

First, let’s look at last year’s Best New Artist category, which highlights emerging musicians — artists who stand to benefit the most from Grammy exposure.


Daily Views for 2015 Grammy Nominees for Best New Artist
“Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 6.36.32 PM.png

When we take the popularity of all artists together, it’s clear that last year’s winner, Sam Smith, received a noticeable bump in views on YouTube as a result of his Grammy win (~26 percent views/day increase from week before the awards vs. week after). Trends for Iggy Azalea and Bastille, whose music had already permeated through culture over the course of the past several months, were more modest. Brandy Clark, the least well-known musician of the group, seems to have received little benefit, but the change in her views is masked by the sheer magnitude of the viewership of Iggy Azalea and Sam Smith.

When examined individually, Brandy Clark’s music received the largest boost on YouTube following the Grammys. Even though she didn’t win, the week following the ceremony saw her views spike by 327 percent, receiving a much greater relative gain in popularity than artists who had already been exposed to the public. This increase slowly tapered off until late May, but never returned to baseline, with Clark consistently receiving 25+ percent more views than she did prior to the Grammy ceremony.


Daily Views for Best New Artist 2015 Nominee Brandy Clark
“Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.37.19 AM.png

In fact, Grammy nominations tend to have the greatest impact on musicians who have yet to be discovered by a mainstream audience; winners may see a spike in popularity, but are often already fairly prominent, as Sam Smith was, thus having fewer people that have yet to hear their music.

While Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won in 2014, their views/day had only grown by 18 percent in the week following the Grammys compared to the week prior. The largest benefit that year went to Kacey Musgraves, who remained below the radar of the wider public until the Grammy evening, and whose average views grew by 125 percent in the following week. Bon Iver, whose pared down take on folk music sealed their win in 2012, were able to benefit from both their relatively low exposure prior to the award, as well as the boost that a Grammy win provides: after taking home the Grammy for Best New Artist (as well as for Best Alternative Music Album), their views in the subsequent week increased by an impressive 95 percent.


Best New Artist: Percent Increase in Total Views One Week Before vs. After the Grammys
Note: views are approximated using all videos associated with artist
*denotes winning artist


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.55.33 AM.png

For Song of the Year and Record of the Year, the results are similar.

Note: Song of the Year and Record of the Year are both awarded to a single track, but for different reasons. Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriters, the people who wrote the lyrics and melody. Record of the Year is awarded to the performer, producer, recording engineer, and mixing.


Song/Record of the Year: Percent Increase in Total Views One Week Before vs. After the Grammys
*views are approximated using all videos associated with track


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.14.44 AM.png

Over the past four years, no artist has benefited more from Grammy exposure than Bon Iver. In 2012, they were famously nominated for Best New Artist, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. Following the show, their popularity doubled on YouTube and “Holocene” plays increased 150 percent. Other indie hits, such as “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys and “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons, were also significantly affected.

Song/Record of the Year in 2015 was an anomaly – every track nominated was a huge hit with millions of views on YouTube. The Grammys didn’t provide significant additional exposure relative to previous years.


Daily Views for 2015 Grammy Nominees for Song and Record of the Year
“Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 11.43.00 AM.png

Three of the six tracks nominated for Song or Record of the Year showed a noticeable increase in popularity. Sam Smith’sStay With Me” won both award categories and subsequently increased from roughly 1.3 million views/day the week before the Grammys to 2 million views/day the week after, a 53 percent change. Hozier’sTake Me To Church” saw a similar increase of about 37 percent over the same period, while Meghan Trainor’sAll About That Bass” grew in views by 22 percent. But the Grammys seem to have had no effect on the popularity of “Chandelier,” “Shake it Off,” and “Fancy.”

Who stands to benefit this year?

The 2016 Best New Artist nominees are an unusual field, including Meghan Trainor — whose “All About That Bass” proved to be unusually catchy and launched the singer to international prominence — and a number of lesser known artists, like James Bay, Sam Hunt, and Tori Kelly, who have received notable acclaim on a lesser scale.


Daily Views for 2016 Grammy Nominees for Best New Artist
“Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 9.57.27 AM.png

Among this second group counts Courtney Barnett, the final nominee, who has been growing in popularity both in her homeland of Australia and within the indie rock community in the U.S. Despite having been included on several “Best of 2015” lists by music critics, her stature remains relatively obscure when compared to the other artists in this category; being nominated led Barnett’s view popularity to nearly double in the week after the announcement (compared to the week before), and — whether she wins or not — previous years would suggest that she’s likely to benefit the most from the evening’s exposure.


Daily Views for Best New Artist 2016 Nominee Courtney Barnett
“Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.23.19 PM.png

When it comes to Record of the Year, we also expect attention will be drawn to one track: “Really Love” by D’Angelo. Relative to its fellow nominees, it has the biggest opportunity for Grammys exposure.


Daily Views for 2016 Grammy Nominees for Record of the Year
“Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.35.06 AM.png

Compared to huge hits such as Bruno Mars’Uptown Funk” and Taylor Swift’sBlank Space,” D’Angelo’sReally Love” is relatively unknown. When it was announced as a nominee, it tripled in popularity, averaging 12,087 daily plays (one week after the announcement) from 3,809 daily plays (one week prior to the announcement). Expect an even larger change for “Really Love” after the awards show.


Daily Views for 2016 Grammy Nominees for Song of the Year
“Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 5.27.34 PM.png

Of all the tracks nominated for Song of the Year, the largest post-Grammy increase in views is likely to go to Little Big Town’sGirl Crush” and Kendrick Lamar’sAlright.” In the past nine months, “Girl Crush” has garnered nearly 41 million views; “Alright,” over the course of the past half year, has received 40.5 million. Although these numbers seem remarkably high, it’s important to note that over the past nine months Wiz Khalifa’sSee You Again,” the most-viewed nominee, has amassed an astronomical 1.4 billion views.

-- Posted by the YouTube Culture & Trends Team

YouTube's Trending Games of January

Do Super Bowl Halftime Performances Increase an Artist's Popularity?



Highlights

  • Similar to the Oscars “bump,” musicians have a significant increase in popularity on YouTube, following a Super Bowl halftime performance.
  • Beyoncé, as a headliner in 2014, and Missy Elliott, as a special guest in 2015, have had the largest lift in popularity on YouTube, following a halftime performance.
  • Missy Elliott’s music experienced a renaissance: two of her tracks entered the Billboard Hot 100 in February, and traffic to her videos on YouTube nearly doubled.
  • 2016: unlike previous years, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé (the latter two both repeat Super Bowl performers) are of similar current popularity; thus, it will be a big challenge for an up-and-coming or classic artist to experience a noticeable Super Bowl bump.



In music, a Super Bowl halftime performance is the equivalent of the “Oscars bump” in film: enormous exposure, and an opportunity for increased sales.

To see which artists have benefited from Super Bowl halftime performances, we examined the data on YouTube from the past four games (2012 - present).

The Super Bowl “Bump” (2012 - present)

In the past four years, Beyoncé, as a headliner, and Missy Elliott, as a special guest, have had the largest lift in popularity on YouTube following a halftime performance.


Percent Increase in Total Views Before vs. After Super Bowl Performance
Using 7-day average views prior to performance announcement vs. 7-day average post-performance. “Total Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Super Bowl 2015
Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.25.34 PM.png


Super Bowl 2014
Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.26.01 PM.png


Super Bowl 2013*
Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.26.23 PM.png
*views are approximated using all videos associated with artist.


Super Bowl 2012*
Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.26.47 PM.png
*For Super Bowl 2012, data compares 7-day average pre-performance vs. 7-day post-performance. Views are approximated using all videos associated with artist.


Overall, the Super Bowl has the power to catapult an artist into the cultural zeitgeist. For the week following Katy Perry’s performance in 2015, views of her music averaged 10 million views/day, a 30 percent increase over her average plays prior to being announced as a performer.

For special guests, the increase can be even more significant. Missy Elliott’s popularity tripled, increasing to 938,000 views/day for the week following her performance. We observed a similar trend for special guests from prior years as well: M.I.A. had a 160 percent increase in 2012 and Red Hot Chili Peppers had a 65 percent increase in 2014.

The Power of a Halftime Performance

Let’s go deeper on the artist most impacted by a Super Bowl performance in the past four years: Missy Elliott.


Missy Elliott’s Total Views Before and After Super Bowl Halftime
“Total Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 4.12.42 PM.png

“Total Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID

For Generation X and older millennials, Missy Elliott remained an iconic figure, despite a slower schedule of releases than her fans had become accustomed to in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Much of the younger audience, however, never had the opportunity to be exposed to hits like "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" and “4 My People.” As a result of this gap, Elliott’s Super Bowl performance had an outsized effect: although she had received a steady stream of views prior to the announcement, they nearly doubled following her halftime act (a trend that remained consistent until late 2015, when her views increased once more), and her album and song downloads were reported to have risen 996 percent. Additionally, the two songs that Elliott performed — 2001’s "Get Ur Freak On" and 2002’s "Work It" — both entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the subsequent weeks.

An artist’s release trajectory is likely to impact their Super Bowl bump. Madonna, who holds the Guinness World Record for the best-selling female recording artist of all time, had put out her previous album four years prior, and saw an 81 percent increase in her video views; the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have consistently sold out stadiums throughout their 33-year career, had last released an album in 2011, and saw a 65 percent boost in view numbers; Destiny’s Child, perhaps the most renowned R&B act at the turn of the 21st century, had last released a record in 2004, and saw their views soar nearly 500 percent (Beyoncé — having been a core member of the group — also saw a vast increase in viewership).

Will there be a Super Bowl “bump” in 2016?

In past halftime performances, special guests and headliners have typically targeted fans of different generations and genres. In 2012, Madonna was paired with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. In 2014, Bruno Mars was paired with Red Hot Chili Peppers. In 2015, Katy Perry was joined by Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot.

This year, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars (both in their second Super Bowl halftime appearances) are Coldplay’s contemporaries, with Beyoncé, known to many simply as Queen Bey, the fourth-most-listened-to musician on YouTube. Rather than classic acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers, or more niche performances that cater to more specific tastes like M.I.A., this year’s show will feature artists more similar to Katy Perry — that is to say, ones whose popularity has remained fairly and consistently high.


Total Views for Super Bowl Performers
“Total Views” is based on both official and fan-uploaded videos claimed using Content ID


Super Bowl 2015

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 4.40.37 PM.png


Super Bowl 2016 (post-show performance TBD)

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 4.45.41 PM.png

Will Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, or Coldplay experience a Super Bowl bump akin to that of Missy Elliott or Lenny Kravitz? That’s difficult to say — it would take a remarkably large and concentrated spike in views to register amid the impressive audience numbers that all three artists draw. The most likely outcome would be the Missy Elliott scenario: Alyson Stoner, who, as a little girl, appeared in Missy Elliott’s early videos as a backup dancer, put out a dance video to Elliott’s songs on February 12, and succeeded in drawing even more views to Missy’s videos than the halftime performance itself. If a fan reimagined a Beyoncé video akin to the way in which Justin Timberlake re-enacted “Single Ladies” on Saturday Night Live, or re-interpreted Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” a viral video spurred by the Super Bowl may very well lead to a bump in views.

One thing, however, would not come as a surprise — with three of the largest names in music, this Super Bowl halftime performance may very well succeed last year’s as the most viewed halftime show in history.

-- Posted by the YouTube Culture & Trends Team

arrow