Every once in a while I am very impressed with the marketing strategy planned for particular artists. Of course, many people feel that talent is secondary to the brilliant plan to sell a musician and their music. The reality is that it takes both components to create widespread success. Still, the object is to make people notice the talent, and then give them a reason to like what they are hearing. A term you hear a lot in marketing is – create a buzz. In preparing for this week I wanted to understand that word: buzz. Sure I have heard the buzz of a bee or other insects. I have heard the buzz that comes from small motors found on electrical devices. Certainly, the word buzz when speaking of marketing music must have a different connotation. In this instance the word buzz must refer to the sound of many people speaking about the music and artist. The louder the buzz, the more effective the marketing. The buzz has been particularly loud when it comes to new singer/songwriter Tori Kelly. Lately the young woman seems to be everywhere with everyone talking about her music. That is the result of great marketing, and great talent. However, Kelly is not new on the musical scene. Why is she now such a big name?
Victoria Loren Kelly was born in Wildomar, California on December 14, 1992. Growing up, she was exposed to a variety of music by her parents. “I give them a lot of credit for just playing all different genres, and no genre was off limits.” she said, when asked about her upbringing. Tori really got exposed to performing music at a very young age. After several appearances on televised amateur talent shows, at the age of twelve, Kelly was offered a major record deal with Geffen Records which she accepted, but because of conflicting ideas, it was mutually agreed for Tori to be released.
My first thought when I learned about Tori Kelly’s early start was that she certainly exhibited a lot of talent before her teen years. It was so noticeable that major talent evaluators became aware of her musical skills and moved to make offers at the time. Several years ago I worked for a record company that developed young musicians, but not as young as twelve. Nonetheless, Tori Kelly got a prompt introduction to major music business.
The difference between Tori Kelly and some of the other very young artists in previous years, is the fact that technology has created more opportunity of exposure. Yes, Tori Kelly began posting videos to YouTube in 2007, at age 14. She gained much attention when her cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You,” went viral, racking up over 22 million views.
Kelly later auditioned for Season 9 of American Idol in Denver, Colorado and made it through to Hollywood week but did not reach the “Top 24.” In one recent interview Tori Kelly related that after one of her performances Simon Cowell, then one of the panel of three judges, called her singing voice “irritating”. I wonder if he feels that way today. Whatever the case, since her Idol experience Tori Kelly has obviously successfully moved on.
One of the most impressive accomplishments by young Tori Kelly came at the age of nineteen, when she released her first EP Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly. Aptly titled, Kelly wrote, produced, engineered, and recorded the six song EP by herself in her bedroom. When it was released on iTunes it made it to the Top 10 Pop Albums. Later on Kelly stated that this was one of the things that she was most proud of because she did it all on her own. “It was something that I felt like I needed to do to prove to myself that I could do it…”
After all the music industry skepticism and outright rejection, Tori Kelly easily proved to herself and all other onlookers that she had the talent to be a major force in modern music. In an interview on the Elvis Duran Show, Kelly stated that after all the rejection she grew less interested in overtures from music industry executives. However, Scooter Braun persisted and got a chance to meet Tori Kelly, eventually becoming her manager. In mid-2013 Braun introduced Kelly to the heads of Capitol Records. Kelly approached the meeting carefully. She said, “I’d been burned before. But when I met those guys, I had never felt that way: They were fans and really got me.” On September 6, 2013 she was signed to Capitol Records.
Many of you reading this post may have already been introduced to Tori Kelly and her music. As I stated earlier she has been interviewed on just about every television and radio show imaginable. You may have also learned of her rise in the music world. However, there are millions who do not know her entire story. In many ways it is still in the writing process. As I listened to her new album Unbreakable Smile, the very first song “Where I Belong” contained that lyric used in the title of this post. It seemed to really sum up her push to get to this point. Also in her interview with Elvis Duran, Kelly said from the contract signed at twelve years old, she has been working in music for ten years. This has been a great deal of “life” for such a young person. Tori Kelly most certainly has more music in her future. I think we are going to hear more of her story as the dream becomes reality.