Every day, artists engage with their fans on various social media and streaming platforms — and more importantly, those fans engage back. Distilling that engagement from metrics on dozens of platforms is dizzying, but crucial for labels and artist managers. To simplify how an artist is faring in today's digital music landscape, we developed our own categorization system of Artist Career Stage and Artist Growth.
With help and inspiration from Next Big Sound and music educator Terry R. Tompkins, who developed their own artist career categorization systems, we hope to make our own system one of the most intuitive and accessible tools for bookers, A&Rs, marketers, and artists themselves.
Setting the Stage
In his 2019 academic study (An Artist Management Practicum: Teaching Artist Managementin the Twenty-First Century), music educator Terry R. Tompkins (Program Director at Hofstra University and Columbia Records A&R who discovered John Legend) broke down the artist world into six distinct career stages, outlined below.
Stage 1: Undiscovered Act
- Little or no previous track record of success
- No tour history
- Performing local shows and garnering local press
- Low streaming and social numbers
- Little to no branded messaging
- Members of artist professional team (manager, agent, attorney) not in place
- No record label or publishing company
Stage 2: Developing Act
- Recently signed to a label
- Regional touring base established
- Playing 300-500 capacity rooms
- Booking agent on team
- Social or viral presence
- Self-managed or could have manager on team
- Business manager not needed yet
Stage 3: Mid-Level Act
- One largely successful release or multiple consistent sellers
- Sales, radio, touring, and/or sync licensing stories
- Touring venues with 500-3.5K capacity
- Next release is anticipated by fans, press, and industry
Stage 4: Established Act
- Fully developed core fanbase
- Multiple successful releases
- Tour base in several territories
- Playing 5K-10K capacity rooms
- Household name, but not a superstar
Stage 5: Superstar Act
- Artist established in many worldwide territories
- Released several platinum records and worldwide tours
- Huge grossing tours in arenas and stadiums (10K-100K capacity)
- Merchandising and branding are large sources of income
Stage 6: Heritage Act
- Long established fanbase
- No need for label (self-releasing/distribution deal)
- Self-administer publishing
- Streaming and social media challenges (older demographic)
- Touring large arenas
With Tompkins’ artist classification system as a precedent to build off of, we then needed a core metric to measure artist progress with. Enter the Chartmetric Artist Score.
Chartmetric Artist Score
Before digging into our own Artist Career Stage system, it's worth discussing the data upon which we've developed our categories. Our specialty is measuring and communicating the digital impact that an artist is having at any point in time. That's why we developed Chartmetric Artist Score and Chartmetric Artist Rank, which provide a holistic view of an artist's digital performance writ large.
The Chartmetric Artist Score is a global popularity index that updates our millions of artists daily, and is meant to reflect the ups and downs of an artist’s career. The effects of a promotional campaign, a new release, or a trend on social media should all be visible in your score. While touring data is not currently included in this index, we condense more than 50 metrics from 16 social media and streaming platforms into one number, which makes it the perfect data source for measuring an artist's stage and growth.
The Chartmetric Artist Rank is simply how your Artist Score ranks in relation to the millions of artists on Chartmetric. Are you in the Top 100? Top 10,000? Big accomplishment. In addition to what you do as an artist, it also reflects what your fellow artists are doing, so think of it as a way of giving context. Your score is all about you, your rank is all about your environment.
Now that we understand what fuels Artist Career Stage and Growth, it's worth noting that artist careers can be examined from a short-term, as well as long-term perspective. While it’s easy to focus on the now, Tompkins remembers to look at artist stage from a long-term perspective as well. So when it comes to today's digital music landscape, we evaluate an artist's short-term performance in a very dynamic way, and include many other contextual factors when also looking at an artist's long-term growth.
Defining Artist Career Stage and Artist Growth
Chartmetric Artist Career Stage
Chartmetric Artist Career Stage is a long-term career view that is calculated according to the median of the past 360 days of an artist's Chartmetric Artist Score. It's updated twice a week. “Median” is important here, because it ignores extreme highs and lows of a career, and truly focuses on the middle-most performance. In other words, it’s how you performed the most often during the year.
Examining the millions of artists on Chartmetric, we found these definitions of the below five categories to be the most meaningful, taking cues from the Tompkins model:
- Legendary: Top 1.2K artists having releases > 30 years ago.
- Superstar: Top 1.2K artists having releases < 30 years ago.
- Mainstream: Top 2K-8K artists.
- Mid-Level: Top 8K-30K artists.
- Developing: All other artists.
Chartmetric Artist Growth
Chartmetric Artist Growth is a short-term metric calculated according to the difference between the past 30-day average of Chartmetric Artist Score and the past 60-day average of Chartmetric Artist Score. It's also updated twice a week. Note that Artist Growth is a relative metric, which is calculated within each Artist Career Stage. In other words, artists are only compared with other artists in their same career stage, so Developing artists are not compared to Superstar artists like Beyoncé or Bruno Mars.
Within each Artist Career Stage, this is how we categorized the five levels of Artist Growth:
- Explosive growth: Furthest above the average, i.e., 8+ standard deviations above mean.
- High growth: Second furthest above the average, i.e., 3-8 standard deviations above mean.
- Growth: Third furthest above the average, i.e., ~3 standard deviations above mean.
- Even: Closest to the average, i.e., ~0 standard deviations above mean.
- Decline: Below the average or mean.
It should be noted that our current Chartmetric Artist Growth definition may not capture the wild success of a new release that’s only been out for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. Likewise, it may not capture a very recent slump after a viral career period two months ago. It is not meant to gauge real-time career momentum, and one should use Chartmetric Artist Score for such instantaneous measurement.
However, Artist Growth should indeed be more sensitive than Career Stage and give you an idea of how the cumulative effects of your efforts have added up over the past two months.
Enjoy using the Chartmetric Career Stage and Career Growth categories to help guide your career! We hope it becomes a trusted (and honest) confidant in your business circle. If you have any input, we’d love to hear about it: You can use the chat icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the Chartmetric app or email us.