When Jordan Topf launched Windser during the height of pandemic isolation in 2020, he didn’t expect 1.4M Spotify monthly listeners by the fall of 2021. Something about Topf’s wistful nostalgia connected with listeners, coaxing them into his California memory palace and bringing some of the most experienced artist development and marketing strategists into his corner.
According to Topf, “I wasn't inspired to write about where the world was currently at, so I went back in time. I hadn't ever written about the place where I grew up, the early memories that shaped who I am today, and I realized there was so much I’d left unsaid, so much nostalgia, so many stories I’d never shared until now.”
Having come up in the Santa Cruz music scene, Windser was no stranger to the DIY ethic, but Topf’s time as an independent artist was short-lived. Spotify playlisting and a fortuitous collaboration with Macklemore helped get Windser noticed quickly, first by Doug Neumann, Artist Manager and Co-owner of Standards Music, and then by the team at artist services company Rareform—led by Jess Page and Hallie Anderson, the former General Managers of Mom+Pop Music. In less than three years from inception, Windser was signed to Bright Antenna Records and had gone from Undiscovered to Mid-Level.
“When we first discovered Windser, we were instantly fans of the music. It wasn’t until months later that we saw Jordan and his band first perform the songs live while on tour with alt-J and Portugal. The Man that we knew we had an artist who shined on stage," Neumann told Chartmetric. "When we saw bumps in social and steam after each show, we felt it was the loudest validation of what we witnessed; a true artist being discovered and connecting.”
Windser's Big Break
In 2020, the Rareform team met Windser and his management team at Standards Music. At the time, Topf was completely independent and had been asked to record a hook on a demo by producer and songwriter Sam Hollander. That demo made its way to Ryan Lewis and Macklemore, who requested to use the track and keep Jordan’s vocals on. Titled “Next Year (feat. Windser),” the track was set to be Macklemore’s first song back since 2019, so Standards knew Mack and his team wanted to make a moment of it–in other words, official ad spend, guaranteed DSP support, press coverage, and a shot at late-night television appearances. His collaboration continued with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis when he co-wrote and featured on Macklemore’s summer 2022 single “Maniac (feat. Windser).”
Windser and his management team wanted to put together the best strategy around this raised visibility. Standards and Rareform decided that they would launch a new Windser single off the back of the Macklemore/“Next Year” success when listenership and popularity were at its highest. They were able to leverage editorial support for Windser’s single “Memory” and use the high listenership generated from that track to convert listeners to fans.
“After the first couple of Windser releases, we felt it was time to pull in the team at Rareform. Working with Jess and Hallie, we were able to elevate our strategy, digital and traditional marketing as well as properly pitch the DSPs,” Neumann said. “That first release was “Memory” which went on to be the current top-streaming song for Windser. Rareform has been with us every step of the way ever since and integral in all aspects of our growth strategy.”
Rareform used historical Chartmetric data to try and find that sweet spot to align with the launch of “Memory,” choosing to release the new single on December 2, 2021, which aligned with peak listenership and popularity on Spotify. Consequently, even though Windser’s monthly listeners declined as the hype from the Macklemore collaboration faded away, his popularity stayed consistently above 50.
The release of “Memory” was a turning point in Windser’s career. While he had some historical editorial support at Spotify and Apple, it was admittedly quite light. However, Rareform was still able to ramp up Windser’s editorial support and get the Amazon Music team on board. “Memory” made it to multiple Amazon charts, including Alternative Rock - United States, and has amassed 2.8M+ streams on Spotify. Windser was also included in Amazon’s 2023 Breakthrough Artists To Watch Campaign as a result.
Where Windser Meets Success
As important as digital success is today, artist development is a multi-faceted process. So, even though “Memory” raised his profile online, it was important to develop his experience as a performing artist and translate that digital success to live success. Windser quickly landed a support tour and headed out on the road with alt-J and Portugal. The Man.
As evidenced by his social and streaming stats in 2022, the success he found on the road from March to June 2022 then fed back into his digital success, coinciding with significant bumps in Spotify followers, YouTube subscribers, TikTok followers, and even some engagement metrics as well.
While labels were also showing an increasing amount of interest, it was so early in his development that Standards Music and Rareform really wanted to give Windser time to grow. Setting up an artist for success has a lot to do with patience, timing, and achievements across multiple dimensions—in part because the more developed an artist is, the more negotiating power they have when it comes time to sign with a label. So, Rareform went about expanding Windser’s reach from digital and live to terrestrial and satellite radio as well.
Soon after “Memory” dropped in December 2021, Windser saw support from SiriusXM Alt Nation, where he cracked the station’s Top 18 Countdown. The track went on to spend 11 consecutive weeks (and 12 total) on the chart, ultimately peaking at No. 5. Off the back of Windser’s interconnected satellite radio, Shazam, and streaming growth, Rareform brought on Hard Boiled Promo’s Chris Stowers, Co-Sign’s Jess Weber and Christine Sanley, and HITS Magazine’s Karen Glauber to help introduce Windser to terrestrial radio. With their help, Windser’s tracks started charting on the SubModern Singles chart and became Audacy and KROQ’s pick of the week in early April 2022.
Having demonstrated considerable potential on digital platforms, in concert venues, and across the airwaves, by the fall of 2022, Windser’s team felt like it was finally time to secure a record deal. In late October 2022, Windser released Where the Redwoods Meet the Sea on Bright Antenna, netting around 4M streams on Spotify and 3M streams on Pandora to date.
“When myself and the team all heard 'Memory' for the first time, we were instantly hooked on Windser and had to form a partnership together. We love his amazing storytelling and knack to write emotive songs that take you to another place,” Matt Aure, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Bright Antenna Records, told Chartmetric. “Plus, when we heard he was from Santa Cruz and wrote a lot of his debut in the Mill Valley (Home of Bright Antenna), we knew it was a perfect match.”
The success of the EP also helped Windser go from a Developing to a Mid-Level artist with a Steady Career Trend and Good Social Media Impact.
For Rareform, all signs are pointing to Windser maintaining a healthy and sustainable music career, especially because the team was able to develop him independently on a shoestring budget. Now that a label partner has been brought in, the goal is to multiply the streaming, touring, and radio success that Windser is already having by increasing the marketing budget, resources, and personnel that he has behind him. With the increased support from Bright Antenna they increased the radio team to continue to support the growth of “Memory” and impacted Alternative Radio on March 28, 2023.
In August, Windser will be playing Lollapalooza, one of the biggest and most anticipated music festivals in North America. Given the keen strategic decisions being made by Windser’s team, you can be sure that we’ll be hearing new music from him leading up to his festival performance.