When video service Vine came on the scene two years ago, the concept of a “Vine superstar” would have sounded very much impossible. Today, not only is there such a thing, but one of them has a number-one album. Shawn Mendes, discovered through his six-seconds covers on Vine, tops the Billboard 200 with Handwritten.
The sixteen-year-old’s entire career has unfolded on social media: he’s a household name to users of Twitter and YouTube, but has yet to make a dent on radio. Despite this, his debut album’s first-week units totaled 119,000. (Billboard recently changed its album chart policy to include song sales and streams in addition to actual album sales, all at different weights).
Is Mendes’ success good or bad for the industry? It’s certainly hard to argue against the artist who’s pulling the biggest numbers, but there are economic implications to music consumption becoming more digital and streaming-based. Or at least so says Taylor Swift, who famously pulled her catalog from Spotify last year. It’s also too easy to make a case against a 2010-era-Justin-Bieber-type when it can still be argued that the pop format is lacking diversity.
Further, they’re challenged to quickly jump onboard new social media outlets and technologies to revolutionize promotion. No artist has yet harnessed the power of Snapchat for successful branding, for example. Jason DeRulo annoyed thousands when he formed a Tinder profile out of an ad for his latest single; probably not the best approach.
In the meantime, you can bet that there will be plenty of young male singers singing their heart out – six seconds at a time – for a chance at becoming the next Shawn Mendes.