Genre-Bending Singer-Songwriter ODIE Grew His Audience 69%: Here’s How

Timothy "Timmhotep" Cornwall / February 22, 2021

How ODIE and his team at EMPIRE think about growing his audience as his music evolves, and how testing Discovery Mode fits into his strategy.

Please allow ODIE to reintroduce himself. After releasing his well-received debut album, Analogue, in 2018, with its hit singles “North Face” and “Little Lies,” the genre-bending Canadian-born and California-based singer-songwriter is readying his sophomore album for release later this year.

Speaking to Spotify for Artists from a Los Angeles recording studio, the 24-year-old artist promises the new record will be the musical reflection of his own personal development in years since Analogue. “The whole point of my artistry, since I started making music, was to show my own spiritual growth,” he says. After the success of his debut, the challenge ahead of him is to have his audience grow along with him. Through his label EMPIRE, ODIE is one of the artists testing Discovery Mode, a new Spotify for Artists tool that enables artists to better reach new audiences on Spotify. Hard at work on his next album, he took a break from making music to tell us a little bit about how Discovery Mode fits into his strategy and helps him reach his goals.

Though sometimes categorized as “alt R&B,” ODIE’s music is an amalgam of the sounds that have influenced him throughout his life: from hip-hop to rock, to alternative, to pop, to R&B, to the Nigerian music his parents exposed him to as a child. Naming iconoclastic artists like Kid Cudi and Frank Ocean as influences, ODIE prides himself on his omnivorous appetite for music and his hard-to-classify sound. “I don’t really think of myself as an R&B artist, I don’t really think of myself as a rapper, I don’t really think of myself as an alternative artist,” he explains. “I just make music that I like, and that’s just a culmination of everything that I like.” That curiosity and willingness to experiment with new sounds have made his music a favorite on genreless, vibe-driven Spotify editorial playlists such as Lorem and Pollen and among fans who are genre agnostic themselves.

As an emerging independent artist who has seen early success in his career, ODIE wants to be able to evolve musically and take his growing audience of 1.65 million monthly listeners along with him as his sound develops. For ODIE and his friend and manager, Chris Emmett, bridging the gap between old and new requires a holistic approach. “We wanted it to be much more of an emotional journey than [just] commodities being exchanged, says Emmett. “It’s not just about releasing a song; it’s about showing an aspect of life.” For them, that means consistently releasing music leading up to the new album like his 2020 singles “Slowly” and “Miss Summer” — whose sounds were closer to Analogue’s — and his upcoming N.F.A. [No Future Ambition] Demos EP, which explores his emotional states between Analogue and now. “I’ve made so much music in the last six months and the last year that it’s like, all right, we really have a plan for what we’re releasing this year, next year, and where we wanna go.”

Growing his audience, in the meantime, is key to their plan. As they supply current fans with new transitional material, they also want new listeners to discover his older music and dive into his catalog on Spotify. Discovery Mode is helping them achieve those goals by giving ODIE’s music the chance to reach more Spotify listeners in contexts where they are most open to discovery. EMPIRE has been one of a small group of labels testing out this new audience development feature and providing feedback to make sure Discovery Mode is a valuable tool for artists in all stages of their careers.

With Discovery Mode, artist teams select music they want to prioritize in our algorithmic recommendations, when Spotify uses a variety of signals to pick the next track for listeners to hear. We’re giving artist teams a say in our recommendations, and we’re helping to find listeners who are most likely to enjoy their music. After the release of “Miss Summer” last fall, ODIE’s team at EMPIRE leveraged Discovery Mode as a trial to see how they could amplify the attention garnered by the new single and encourage more listeners to form a deeper connection with all of his music. They saw ODIE’s audience grow by 69% thus enabling him to grow his royalties significantly, compared to before Discovery Mode.

Discovery Mode is still in an early testing phase, but with these promising results — and feedback from our partners — we’ll expand access to more labels later this year. Our algorithmic recommendations are a powerful tool for reaching potential fans on Spotify who are interested in finding new music. For an independent artist like ODIE, whose sound isn’t easily categorized into one genre, the Spotify algorithms are able to intelligently test his music with listeners who might respond well. And since there’s no upfront budget required to get started, it's accessible to labels and distributors of all sizes — giving all artists the chance to attract more attention, grow their fanbase, and have more control over their success on Spotify. “It’s great for the democratization of music for independent artists like us,” says Emmett. “It’s great that it’s helping to expand the reach of our music.”

For ODIE, turning casual listeners into big fans is also about sharing relatable experiences with the world, making the personal universal — just like his idols have done. “When I listen to music, as a fan, I don’t listen to Kid Cudi and think, ‘Oh, I wonder what Cudi was going through when he wrote that’ he says. “I’m thinking, he’s just narrating my life. And now, the more consistent I can be, the more I can be the narration for these kids’ lives [today]. People will be able to grow with me and evolve with me.”

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