KAMAU, Lolo Zouaï, Emily Browning, Raelee Nikole, Mac Ayres, Bruno Major, Aron Hodek, Tash Wolf, Dori Valentine, Melanie Faye, Jesus Molina Acosta, HANNIE, Ayla Tesla-Mabe, Cautious Clay, Pomo.
This year, we discovered so many incredible artists who are on the up. Our list of Top Artists to Watch in 2018 was difficult to make because we couldn’t possibly include all our favorites.
You’ll find a mix of instrumentalists, child prodigies, and recorded artists below. Some of them have had their ‘break-through moment’, while others are just getting started. Every artist’s path is different, but the common ground between them all, is they have developed hyper-engaged followings on Instagram – which in the past year has become a hotbed for artists pushing music in new directions.
The thing is, not many “lists” or music blogs are commenting on the explosion of artists within the Instagram eco-system. Just like Vine was the starting ground for current-day social media stars and YouTubers – who in many ways are now more famous than pre-social media celebrities – we see this crop of artists as a new wave of creators up to big things.
That’s a bold statement for us to make, and we stand by it. We hope you’ll revisit this list in years to come.
Emily Browning’s remarkable rise in 2017 is testament to the power of the Instagram music community, and proof that if you have the talent it doesn’t matter where you live – which in Emily’s case, is Christchurch, New Zealand.
Her videos on Instagram have racked up millions of views. We saw her go from a “bedroom artist” playing local bar gigs in New Zealand, to debuting a Maroon 5 song, and selling out shows in NYC and LA. She has a down-to-earth and honest persona which cuts through the noise of other more fabricated artists, and backs up her songwriting with on-point guitar playing. 2018 will be a big one for her.
Few artists captured our attention in 2017 like LA-based singer, guitarist, and songwriter, Raelee Nikole. She almost defined the “viral artist” phenomena on Instagram, with millions of views across just a few videos.
While Instagram served as the starting point for many of the artists on this list, for Raelee, the platform seems to have served as additional fire to an already rapid rise. Her single Dreamin was placed on Spotify’s US Viral 50 playlist, and we’ve closely watched her collaborations with other on-the-up artists, including Bruno Major, Emily Browning, Hailee Steinfeld, and Kurt Hugo Schneider.
Even by watching one video of Raelee, It’s not hard to see that big things are in store for her in 2018 and beyond.
2017 was Mac Ayres’ year. His album Drive Slow gained a lot of attention on Spotify with millions of streams, and we saw the hype spread to Instagram as videos emerged of his live shows.
Mac is a part of new breed of artist-producer types, who emerged out of the SoundCloud, home-producer scene, blew up on Spotify, and are quickly building a loyal fanbase on social media. He’s a complete, well-rounded artist – ticking all of the boxes of songwriting, producing, vocals, and musicianship – coupled with an approachable persona and sense of humor. Even with all his success so far, it feels like we’re witnessing the early stages of what will be a long career for Mac. We’ll be following his future releases and live shows closely.
Few musicians grabbed our attention in 2017 like seven year old bass player, Aron Hodek. In many ways, he defined the viral musician phenomia on Instagram, with his at-home playalong videos gaining massive amounts of views and recognition among the musician community.
Aron’s older brother David “H0wdy” Hodek is an established drummer, who’s been a guiding force in Aron’s upwards rise. At only seven years old, we can’t wait to see what’s next for this young prodigy.
Australia-based model, guitarist, and singer Tash Wolf, burst on the scene in 2017. Her guitar videos have gained millions of views, and we’ve seen her rapidly move into full-out influencer-level stardom with tons of loyal fans.
These are still early days to what seems like a rapid rise for Tash – and from the few original songs we’ve heard so far, we’re betting 2018 will be a big year for her.
One of the youngest and most promising artists we’ve seen emerge from Instagram is Nashville-based, Dori Valentine.
Her songs and covers are strikingly sincere and real. Her honest low-fi bedroom videos receive thousands of views each, with only a relatively small following. These incredible numbers speak to her artistry and musicianship, and for us, hint at big things to come in 2018 and beyond.
Few artists had as remarkable rise in 2017 as nashville-based Melanie Faye. Her Jimi-Hendrix inspired bedroom guitar videos went viral on Instagram and Twitter, getting millions of views and attention from the likes of Willow Smith, SZA, Shawn Mendes, Chance the Rapper, Anderson Paak, and Cage the Elephant.
The sincerity and soulful musicality of her videos hits home for us, and we’re excited to see what’s in store for her in the years to come.
The steady rise of Bruno Major over the past year has been remarkable to observe. While he’s been writing songs for years and is well known locally in London, Bruno really began to pop off internationally through his song-a-month project on Spotify, A Song for Every Moon – which gets millions of monthly streams.
Bruno’s live shows are just as minimal and tight as his releases. He’s a part of a new generation of artists who produce, play instruments, and most importantly – write compelling songs which tell stories worth telling. On one hand, he’s already well established and is receiving wide acclaim, but on the other – we can’t help but feel that these are still early days for Bruno, and there will be much more to come.
Jesus Molina Acosta
Colombian piano prodigy Jesus Molina Acosta achieved viral instagram success this year with his fiery videos. There’s something awe-dropping and thumb-stopping about the effortlessness of his playing. You don’t need to be a musician to appreciate it, either. He’s a true master of his instrument, and we can’t wait to see what 2018 holds for him.
KAMAU has that rare combination of honest artistry and an extraordinarily unique voice. With strong monthly spotify streams, a hyper-engaged Instagram following, and a ton of YouTube views on a broad scope of projects – KAMAU’s upwards rise is steady, and in many ways, just beginning.
After dropping two singles at the end of 2017, High Highs to Low Lows, and IDR – artist / producer Lolo Zouaï has already gained a ton of listeners and industry buzz. Born in Paris of French & Algerian descent, Lolo immigrated to San Francisco with her family at a young age. It was there that she developed her unique sound she describes as, “Bittersweet Bangers”.
Lolo landed her first major writing placement in 2017 with H.E.R – on the song Still Down. This is just the beginning for Lolo, and we’re excited to see her next moves in 2018.
We’ve seen 16 year old guitarist and singer Ayla Tesler-Mabe go from strength to strength over the past few years. Her self-produced guitar videos get millions of views across Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram; she’s a member of Ernie Ball’s “Brotherhood of The Guitar”; and most recently, joined a band with Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and other overly-talented young musicians up to big things (album dropping early 2018).
We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ayla in 2018, and the years ahead!
Duo project, HANNIE is a collaboration between Annie Wagstaff and Hannah Koppenburg, two on-the-up London-based musicians. If you’re on Instagram, and you like music – you’ve likely seen their duo jams, which regularly achieve virality on their own channels and curated music accounts.
Instagram seems to be just the starting point for HANNIE, with their first single dropping early February, and a live show in the works for later this year. We’re excited to see how 2018 plays out for these two.
One of the artists we’ve been most excited about in 2017, is NY-based singer / producer Cautious Clay. His debut single “Cold War” has more than 2.5 million streams, hitting the number 2 spot in Spotify’s US Viral 50 playlist.
Beyond the hype of his much-streamed tracks, we see the honesty and artistry of Cautious Clay’s music as point of difference which points to much bigger things in 2018 and beyond. Be on the lookout for his third single, dropping January 10, 2018.
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Pomo has been making waves for years in the Electronic / Beat scene. If you didn’t hear his work on Anderson Paak’s track “Am I Wrong”, you might have seen his much-shared studio videos with fret-brother Danny McKinnon (some of the most popular videos on @PickUp), or listened to one of his Soundcloud remixes, which have millions of plays.
We’ll be watching Pomo’s 2018 closely. Keep an eye out for new music from Paak / Pomo, and don’t miss out on a Pomo x McKinnon live show, if they come through near you.
Photography: Major by Katie-Silvester, Faye by Marcus Maddox, Acosta by Merrick Winter, KAMAU by Arturo Olmos, Pomo by Riun-Garner.