Up Next for Apple: Emerging Musicians

6black performs onstage

6black is Up Next from Apple (Photo: Drew Yorke)

Apple Inc. has unveiled Up Next, a program to give emerging artists a public platform, via one months’ exposure across various Apple Music platforms.

The first artist to go Up Next is Atlanta’s 6lack, a 24-year-old singer whose debut album, Free6lack, was released in November. Born Ricardo Valdez Valentine, his stage name is pronounced “black.”

Apple today released a documentary about 6lack, in addition to a live recording session  and an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music’s  radio station, Beats One. Lowe is also set to introduce 6lack tonight on the CBS’s “The Late, Late Show with James Corden.”

The rotating selection of Up Next artists will be featured on Beats On and through the iTunes store as well as benefitting from Apple’s considerable promotional muscle.

Apple has so far secured about 20 million subscribers to its 2-year-old Apple Music music service.

With rivals YouTube, Pandora Media Inc. and Spotify Ltd. all offering support to musicians, Cupertino, California-based Apple is eager to show artists it can help them become stars, and to lure fans with exclusive video and music.

Lowe devotes 90 percent of his Beats 1 show to new music and promotes young artists through daily tweets. “New music is consistently undervalued in the mainstream media,” Lowe told Bloomberg News. “It gets the least rotation. It’s the thing that gets talked about the least in mainstream TV.”

6lack began accruing a fan base with the singles “Prblms” and “Bless Me,” which brought him to the attention of Apple Music’s Carl Chery, the executive in charge of new music discovery. “Prblms” rose to Apple’s top 100 popular songs within a few days of its debut, which was unusual for an unknown. The song went on to spend 16 weeks on the Billboard charts.

With its Up Next program Apple Music seems to be striving for parity with YouTube, Pandora and Spotify, which all have mechanisms for promoting new talent. Apple Music is headed by record industry veteran Jimmy Iovine.

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