Here’s why we think you need to keep an eye on names like Schoolboy Q, BANKS, and Cut Copy. 

At Next Big Sound, we are harnessing the power of data to predict the music stars of tomorrow. As part of our ongoing effort to make data useful to the music industry, we have developed an algorithm that enables us to pinpoint breakout artists 500 times better than random chance, up to a year in advance. 

Each week Billboard releases the Hot 100, charting the most popular songs in the U.S. based on sales, radio, and online streaming. We chose this as the indicator of success, because the chart represents a long-running, consistent, and clearly-defined measure of the often debated concept of success in the music industry. From July 2012 to July 2013, a total of 250 different artists appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Excluding the majority who have already charted before, only 44 of these were true breakouts, in the sense that they achieved a Hot 100 hit song for the very first time.

How rare are these elusive breakout artists? We found 130,000 artists with up-to-date social media data in July 2012. Randomly choosing the hit artists from that group would yield a success rate of only .03% (44/130,000).

In an attempt to pinpoint these artists more accurately, we used the data available in July 2012 to generate a predictive model. Inputs would be each artist’s total, daily change, and rate of growth for fans, plays, and views on eight different networks including Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and YouTube. We then identified the artists who charted on the Hot 100 before July 2012 to use as training cases for what a breakout pattern looks like.

The resulting model, which generalizes from past instances to predict unseen future cases, is applied to artists’ data on July 1, 2012 to generate the likelihood of their success over the next year. (For a more detailed explanation of this supervised learning model, head on over to our tech blog.)

The algorithm’s top 44 predicted artists contained six who went on to the Billboard Hot 100, which is a success rate of 14%. The top 100 predicted potential breakouts did even better with 16 hits, a success rate of 16%, over 500 times better than random chance, and 16 times better than using most YouTube views to select artists.


Imagine you are a record label investing in 100 potential up-and-coming artists. We are correctly identifying 16 out of the 44 breakout artists, or 36%, in this batch of suggested targets. In other words, we can give you a list of 100 artists today and expect over a third of the breakthrough artists next year to come from that list.

Here is that list of top 100 artists from July 2012, ranked in order of predicted success chance via text size, along with an indication in red of whether each artist did in fact reach the Hot 100:


For instance, both Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky had released acclaimed mixtapes, but no studio albums prior to June 2012. Both of their debut albums went on to reach the Billboard 200, Lamar now counts a total of nine singles that have hit the Hot 100, and A$AP Rocky a total of three. 

Here are the 100 artists we deem most likely to reach the Billboard Hot 100 in the next year starting today. For the top 25, we include a short description of why they are hot right now. Which ones do you pick to be the breakouts? Leave your comments below!

1. Schoolboy Q - performed at BET Hip Hop Awards, has track on NBA Live 2014
2. Maluma - Performed at 2013 Latin Grammys, nominated for Best New Artist
3. Hedley - Released new album in November, performed at 2013 Grey Cup halftime
4. Noel Schajris - New music video out for new single, album coming soon
5. Reik - Released new live album, En Vivo desde el Auditorio Nacional and a new single
6. Camila - Performed at 2013 Latin Grammys
7. Ben Howard - "Oats in the Water" featured in a recent episode of The Walking Dead
8. Axwell - Released two singles in 2013, both reaching number one on Beatport
9. Kalimba - coach of The Voice Peru, performed new single on show
10. Band Of Skulls - Announced 2014 tour and new album, "Himalayan," and single
11. Calle 13 - Released new single off upcoming album (March 2014)
12. Marco Antonio Solis - Recently released a duet with Enrique Iglesias
13. Alejandro Fernandez - Just started a highly anticipated US tour
14. Gerardo Ortiz - Musical guest on Mira Quien Baila, recent single release
15. Carlos Vives - Just won Latin Grammy for song of the year
16. Voz De Mando - Regional Mexican group who performed at the Latin Grammys
17. BANKS - Her latest album named "Best of 2013" by iTunes, supporting the Weeknd
18. Cut Copy - Aussie electronic pop crew hit up Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Nov. 19
19. R5 - released a new single Aug. 30 and just announced a new world tour last week.
20. Franco de Vita - won a Latin Grammy in 2012 and is on tour in the US right now
21. David Bisbal - new album, new hairstyle, recent breakup
22. Curren$y - new mixtape out, new track with Wiz Khalifa, signed Mary Gold to roster
23. Fitz & The Tantrums - currently on tour with Capital Cities, current popular single
24. J Balvin - popular new album released late October, featured in many press articles
25. Childish Gambino - promoting new album coming Dec 9, new song releases out

The rest: Naughty Boy, Los Tigres del Norte, Gloria Trevi, Arcangel, Bonnie McKee, Abraham Mateo, Iggy Azalea, James Arthur, Local Natives, Colton Dixon, Jessica Sanchez, Banda El Recodo, la fouine, Metronomy, Deitrick Haddon, Emmanuel, Brandon Flowers, Alesso, Santigold, Bombay Bicycle Club, Chris Tomlin, Intocable, Newsboys, Armin van Buuren, Mikky Ekko, Death Grips, Shane Harper, OV7, Victor Manuelle, Julian Casablancas, American Authors, tobyMac, Jeremy Camp, Dean Brody, Nervo, United, Priyanka Chopra, Black Veil Brides, The 1975, Third Day, foxes, Cash Cash, Jake Bugg, Hollywood Undead, Axel, Matthew West, Lamb of God, Manchester Orchestra, Eros Ramazzotti, Calibre 50, Ricardo Arjona, Rich Kidz, Stereophonics, Linda Teodosiu, Mandisa, Casting Crowns, Natalia Kills, Amos Lee, Yuna, Mat Zo, Pablo Alboran, Rico Love, Katy B, Conor Maynard, Kany Garcia, Oak Ridge Boys, B. Smyth, Tenth Avenue North, Alejandra Guzman, Jarabe de Palo, Steel Panther, CA$H OUT, La Factoria, Blood Orange, Red Café

Victor Hu is a data scientist with music analytics company Next Big Sound. He is a graduate of Harvard University and has previously worked uncovering insights for the New York Yankees and the U.S. Department of Defense.