In an effort to elevate the profile of, and gain exposure for, emerging artists, NPR Music and programmers from public radio stations in the VuHaus network have teamed on a new multimedia venture dubbed “Slingshot.” Launched on Wednesday at npr.org/slingshot, the inaugural class of artists include Big Thief, Jamila Woods and Lo Moon.
The new project is described by NPR VP for programming and audience development Anya Grundmann as an “exciting and game-changing opportunity for emerging artists.”
Over the years the network’s participating stations have discussed ways to “collaborate on music discovery and use it to help bands reach a larger audience,” WXPN Philadelphia assistant general manager, programming Bruce Warren exclusively told Inside Radio. Warren, along with WXPN general manager and NPR Board chair Roger LaMay and Grundmann, spearheaded the project.
“NPR Music and public radio music stations have an unparalleled relationship with their listeners,” LaMay remarked in a release about the project. “It’s exciting that these trusted sources for music discovery are collaborating to maximize our impact as we find, celebrate and ‘slingshot’ artists into the next chapter of their careers.”
VuHaus station network programmers were asked to provide five new artists for consideration to be part of Slingshot. The initial submissions were whittled down to a smaller group and then to the final three that are now featured. “Even though there are a lot of unique differences in our stations, there’s a lot overlap between the artists we all love,” Warren explained of the selection process. “Our stations work closely together….This is what we do and this is why our audience trusts us. That combination of having loyal audiences and a broad reach, collectively and collaboratively with our stations and NPR Music, has us optimistic that this will have some impact for the artists.”
Big Thief, Jamila Woods and Lo Moon will be the featured Slingshot emerging artists for up to six months. “The great thing about public radio stations is that we are in the artist development business, unlike commercial radio where it’s all about playing a hit song,” Warren said. “We want to get behind an artist and support them over a long period of time.”
The website features content from NPR Music, such as a Tiny Desk Concert from Big Thief and an article from NPR music critic Ann Powers on the new release from Jamila Woods, alongside station-provided pieces such as a 360-degree video of Lo Moon performing from the KCRW Santa Monica “Morning Becomes Eclectic” studio. “You’ll be able to listen, see and read” about the Slingshot artists, Warren told Inside Radio.
While the initial play is digital, the artists will receive airplay and participate in live performances and other station events. “Each station is going to take their own unique approach to it,” Warren said. Artist airplay, which has been ongoing even before the launch of the new project, will lead to “natural conversations around the artists” and the Slingshot emerging artist project.
“Radio airplay is the big thing,” Warren acknowledged. However, the extension of additional content around the artists is what can set the project apart from just a new artist feature on-air. “Each station is going to be doing some unique digital stuff as well” he continued. “For example, Big Thief was in town this past weekend so we sent a photographer out and we did a portrait series with them. That will be something that we will be able to contribute. We also have somebody riding the bus with Big Thief and they’re going to do an article about the band.
“We love music, our audiences love music” Warren concluded. “Combined, we have a fantastic reach that individually none of us would be able to have as much impact with.”