Last October, I ran one of the most popular features ever on This Must Be Pop (mainly thanks to A&R scouts frantically refreshing the page), Unsigned Month. Every weekday I posted a new unsigned UK pop act that I felt needed more recognition, and it ended with a vote, which was won by indie-poppers Bluebell. In the year since then, I’ve been very pleased to see many of the acts I featured go on to sign huge record deals and become famous all around the world. And as some of the acts are just now finally breaking through, who knows which of them will end up achieving the most in the end?
Here’s an update on the ten most successful acts from Unsigned Month… so far!
The Vamps didn’t even have any original music online when I featured them in Unsigned Month, but I knew the combination of Prestige Management and that cute lead singer would be a safe bet for success. Their debut single Can We Dance narrowly missed out on no.1 earlier this month but the growth rate of their fanbase suggests they might go one better next time.
Chvrches signed to Virgin Records soon after Unsigned Month and were an unsurprising presence in the BBC Sound of 2013 list. They only recently broke into the singles chart for the first time with The Mother We Share, but they’ve proven to be more of an albums band. Their very enjoyable debut album The Bones of What You Believe was released last month and charted at no.9 in the UK and no.12 in America.
Luminites went down so well when they performed at This Must Be Pop Live that I invited them back a few months later. Unfortunately they didn’t get a record deal in the months that followed, so they took the Britain’s Got Talent route, and after soaring through to the final in May this year were signed to Epic. They are set to release their debut single Do Something next month.
Rixton (then known as Relics)
Rixton have had a pretty exciting year since they were featured in Unsigned Month. They performed at This Must Be Pop Live and soon after caught the attention of Scooter Braun. They were whisked away to America to work with the brilliant Benny Blanco, and finally confirmed this week that they are signed to Universal/Interscope. They released their first music video for Make Out, and the official single is set to follow soon.
FKA Twigs (then known as Twigs)
I met FKA Twigs a few years ago when she was performing pop-punk music in the style of Bow Wow Wow and known only as Twigs. She’s since taken her quirky image much further with highly stylised (and disturbing!) videos, arty photoshoots and weird songs. Personally I find the new music rather dull but I’m glad that FKA Twigs is finally gaining exposure. It would be such a waste if her star quality was never seen by a wider audience.
Tich is another artist who signed a major record deal after performing at TMBP Live. She finally released her debut single, after years of touring and recording. Dumb just missed the top 20, but her fanbase continues to grow, and she recently announced her second headline tour for February 2014. She’s also just about to reach an impressive 100,000 followers on Twitter.
Since Unsigned Month, Jacob Banks has become the go-to male featured vocalist for UK rap and dance acts, having worked with Plan B and Wretch 32, as well as Chase and Status and Bondax. After his independently-released single Worthy received plays from Radio 1, 1Xtra and more, he signed a record deal with Atlantic in August, so expect his first major label single to follow soon.
Jetta caused a huge buzz with her song Start a Riot, which spread like wildfire through the blogosphere and was no.1 on Amazing Radio for weeks. I saw her perform live, surrounded by an audience of A&R bigwigs, and she told me a secret: She was about to leave for New York to sign a huge international record deal. She wasn’t making it up – a few weeks later she confirmed she had signed to Universal Republic (US) and Polydor (UK).
Like Jetta, Rainy Milo caused an A&R frenzy when her track Bout You became a blog favourite. I remember going into A&R meetings at the time and being told all sorts of amazing things about who she was working with. Since then, I’ve seen her live, and the set was entirely devoid of big hits. However, I have faith that (like Rita Ora, who took years to release) she’ll re-emerge eventually as a fully formed pop sensation.
Camilla Roholm aka Cinnamon Girl signed a deal with Sony RCA (UK) and Columbia (US) after releasing a series of super-cool videos showing her great style and talent. She’s everything Sunday Girl was supposed to be. Since then she has been hiding away in the studio recording her debut album, but I hear that she’s now preparing for launch and I’m looking forward to hearing what she’s come up with.