Via Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Billboard Magazine

Last Friday, October 20, Spotify announced Rise, a new program which every quarter will select four up-and-coming artists to champion with specific playlist placements and other promotional events. So far, four artists have been tapped: country singer Russell Dickinson, aspiring pop-star Kim Petras, electro-pop singer Lauv, and emo-rapper Trippie Redd.

When I originally read the statement about Rise, I was struck by Spotify’s proud trumpeting of a commitment to lesser known artists: “For the first batch, we’re featuring four predominantly independent and unsigned artists that we’re really excited about.” That struck me as odd, because the chosen artists may be on the “rise,” but all of sit with millions of plays across multiple streaming services and hold numerous strong industry ties.


In particular: Russell Dickinson is signed to Thirty Tigers, who partnered with Sony RED last year for distribution; Variety referred to Kim Petras as a “protege” of the publicly shamed producer Dr. Luke; Lauv has already scored two songs with over 100 millions plays on Spotify each and is about to tour with Ed Sheeran; and Trippie Redd is currently signed to Strainge Entertainment, a partner label of Caroline Records. (The news was first reported by All Access and later, confirmed to TrackRecord by a representative from Capitol.)

When reached by TrackRecord, a representative for Spotify said about the Rise program: “We plan to have additional artists as a part of the program who could fall into the independent/unsigned bucket.”

The phrase used in Spotify’s original announcement—“predominantly independent and unsigned artists”—is technically correct, but clearly, these four artists have already established connections (and big-name ones at that) in the music industry. Why not support other artists who haven’t had that kind of break yet?

Through Rise, Spotify will partner with Delta Airlines to “create one-of-a-kind experiential events for each RISE artist and release bespoke audio and video content that dives deep into the story behind each rising star,” according to the press release. These are cool opportunities for the selected artists, but in future, Spotify can go a bit deeper to find artists who would really benefit from the help of a billion-dollar industry titan, instead of supporting those already in the system.

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