Laufey is taking modern jazz mainstream.
Raised between Reykjavík and Washington, DC, and now based in Los Angeles, the Icelandic-Chinese singer-songwriter has been racking up streams and streaming records in the two years since signing a global recordings deal with AWAL (in 2021).
Laufey released her debut full-length album, Everything I Know About Love, last year and became the most-streamed Jazz artist on Spotify in 2022.
She’s also currently the biggest streaming artist from Iceland worldwide.
Her new album, Bewitched, was released on Friday, September 8, breaking the all-time record as the biggest debut for a jazz album on Spotify in the platform’s history.
Bewitched debuted at No.2 on Spotify’s Top Album Debut Global chart (just behind Olivia Rodrigo).
It also reached No.1 on Billboard’s Independent Albums Chart, No.1 on the Traditional Jazz Albums Chart, and No.3 on Vinyl Albums Chart.
From The Start is the album’s break-out hit single. According to AWAL, the track topped 1 million streams in less than 24 hours following its release and continues to achieve over 1.75 million streams per day across DSPs, with (at the time of writing) over 139 million streams on Spotify alone to date. The track, notes AWAL, is also currently the most streamed jazz song in the world.
Behind Laufey’s rising success, according to AWAL SVP Victoria Needs, is her “mission to bring Jazz to Gen Z”.
Justin Macchio, SVP Marketing at AWAL, tells MBW that there has been “steady growth” to Laufey’s audience and streams on “every platform” since AWAL started to work with her in 2021.
“From the time of her first release to Bewitched, her monthly listeners went from under 1 million to over 13 million and she has added more than 6 million social media followers this year alone,” says Macchio.
With over 12 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, and 925 million global streams across all platforms to date, the rising jazz superstar has also developed a dedicated fanbase in multiple markets.
AWAL tells MBW that her Top 5 streaming markets in September by volume were the US, Philippines, Canada, Indonesia, and the UK. Further evidence of that global interest arrived during the marketing campaign around the new album.
On September 10, AWAL and Foundations Music launched a global activation called ‘A Very Laufey Day’ which it describes as “a curated Laufey-inspired day with activations in multiple cities around the world. AWAL says that the response to the campaign in each of those cities “was unprecedented”.
AWAL says that the interactive website, averylaufeyday.com, saw over 100,000 unique visitors with “tens of thousands” of fans venturing to real-life Laufey-curated locations.
The campaign culminated in Laufey giving a free performance in Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Park, which was live-streamed globally via the artist’s YouTube channel with 50,000 “organic” views on the livestream.
Furthermore, social posts around the activations generated over 12 million views and 7 million likes, numbers that would hardly be laughed at for an emerging pop star, let alone a debut jazz artist.
But AWAL General Manager Bianca Bhagat tells us that Laufey “is already sparking conversation around what jazz music is and what pop music is”.
“We believe she’s going to be a major voice in those conversations for decades to come,” adds Bhagat.
“Laufey is a once-in-a-generation talent and we collectively have ambitions for her that are incredibly lofty.”
Bianca Bhagat, AWAL
Laufey’s career milestones to date, including tens of millions of streams and sold-out tours in multiple markets, are a major coup for a rising jazz star and a clear indicator of shifting listening trends amongst younger audiences in the streaming age.
It’s also a key win for the now Sony Music Group-owned AWAL, who, MBW understands, currently counts Laufey as the highest-streamed artist on its roster.
Commenting on the role that AWAL’s own set-up played in delivering the biggest jazz album debut in Spotify history, AWAL’s Victoria Needs says: “Working as one global team with one global budget, we can move fast, whether that’s adding or moving around budget, reacting to data, or growing the network around the world at the right time for the campaign.”
Bhagat adds: “That global collaborative approach has been critical.”
Here, AWAL’s Justin Macchio (SVP Marketing), Victoria Needs (SVP) and Bianca Bhagat (General Manager, AWAL) give us more insight into Laufey’s streaming success and offer their predictions for the jazz artist’s own career and wider impact following the release of her most recent album…
BEWITCHED HAS RECEIVED OVER 290 MILLION GLOBAL STREAMS TO DATE – FROM AN OVERARCHING STRATEGIC PERSPECTIVE, HOW HAS LAUFEY BEEN ABLE TO GENERATE THIS VOLUME OF STREAMS FOR HER DEBUT?
Justin Macchio: We have always focused on a holistic artist career and have had multiple songs gaining traction simultaneously. On this cycle, the runaway success of lead single From The Start on both digital and traditional media contributed to accelerated growth and throughout the campaign, we ensured that each new track had a specific moment that led back to the album. Ultimately, this allowed songs to find different audiences without cannibalizing one another, while driving repeated listening of the overall album.
Victoria Needs: Laufey is a maestro of social media who has an unparalleled understanding of what her fans want and need. To help further execute her vision, AWAL has built a team around the world to tell her stories to DSPs, brand partners and media. She also has an exceptional and contagious work ethic.
LAUFEY HAS BROKEN THE RECORD FOR THE BIGGEST JAZZ ALBUM DEBUT IN SPOTIFY HISTORY – WHAT DOES THE SUCCESS OF THIS JAZZ RECORD TELL US ABOUT THE SHIFT IN CONSUMERS’ LISTENING BEHAVIOR IN THE STREAMING AGE?
Bianca Bhagat: We don’t believe that consumers pay attention to genre much anymore. What Laufey has been able to do – finding a massive, young audience for her brand of jazz and classical music – is a testament to that.
“We don’t believe that consumers pay attention to genre much anymore.”
Bianca Bhagat, AWAL
It’s also a testament to AWAL’s ethos around artist development – to not pigeonhole artists into traditional genre/commercial paths and rather meet them where they’re at; understand their vision and mission, and utilize our team’s broad expertise and our company’s deep resources and relationships to tailor marketing campaigns that deliver the success an artist wants without compromising their creative.
VN: There’s plenty of talk between marketers about growing audiences out of a niche, but what’s really exciting is when that niche becomes so powerful that they influence the mainstream, and that’s what’s happened with Laufey.
WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR THE IMPACT THAT THIS ALBUM WILL HAVE ON THE STREAMING POTENTIAL OF OTHER RISING JAZZ ARTISTS?
VN: It’s fantastic to see new audiences discover artists like Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald because of Laufey. Her mission is to bring Jazz to Gen Z, exposing new fans in all corners of the globe to what is often seen as an inaccessible genre.
I have no doubt that she will be inspiring a whole new future generation of jazz musicians in years to come, and I suspect she will also bring confidence to those in other genres too, who may not feel they fit in a stereotypical checkbox.
COULD YOU GIVE US SOME INSIGHT INTO HOW AWAL’S OWN SET-UP PLAYED A ROLE IN DELIVERING THIS SCALE OF SUCCESS FOR LAUFEY?
VN: We are active in pretty much every country – she’s playing stunning shows in Beijing, charting at Spotify in the Middle East, and creating absolute mania in the Philippines.
The venues she’s playing in February in Europe will be five times the size of the ones she played a year ago. The collaboration between the US-International-UK teams is key to deliver something at this scale.
“We believe will allow her to sell out stadiums all over the world for years to come.”
Bianca Bhagat, AWAL
BB: All of our marketing initiatives around this project- digital marketing, fan activations, DSP pitching, synch & brand partnerships, publicity, radio, etc have global strategies and global teams who are aligned on targets and rallied around the same objectives.
This has proven to be incredibly powerful and effective at winning over key partners and tastemakers around the world, but most importantly at activating fanbases to create one massive global fan community.
We’re already seeing the results in sold-out tours everywhere. It’s that kind of global approach and focus that we believe will allow her to sell out stadiums all over the world for years to come.
COULD YOU GIVE US SOME INSIGHT INTO THE MARKETING AROUND THE RELEASE, INCLUDING ACTIVATIONS, INTERACTIVE WEBSITE, AND CONCERT LIVESTREAM?
JM: “A Very Laufey Day” was our capstone global fan activation aligned with the album release. Laufey and team curated a global activity checklist inspired by the album that fans could participate in anywhere in the world in addition to city-specific activity checklists in 12 cities around the world.
Fans were sent to Laufey-approved coffee shops, bookstores, farmers markets, parks and other locations, where fans were treated to Laufey-custom lattes, special edition merch items, letter-writing activations and more.
Songs from the album were paired with each activity to encourage streaming while specific social media prompts were given as each activity was completed to encourage user-generated content (UGC) across socials. Fans were also provided with custom GIPHY stickers, and a custom Instagram filter and cap cut template for TikTok.
A website was built to house the global checklists, personalized video messages from Laufey, a “Laufey-core” style guide, and to compile all of the UGC being generated using the hashtag #AVeryLaufeyDay. Laufey herself took part in the Los Angeles activation, popping into the letter-writing activation, visiting fans in line at the LA coffee shop location, signing vinyl at the Melrose Trading Post merch pop-up and ultimately surprising the 1,000-plus fans who showed up for a picnic at Pan Pacific Park with an acoustic performance.
The performance was live-streamed globally via Laufey’s YouTube channel with 50,000 organic views on the livestream. In addition to bringing fans together across the globe, we drove 100,000 visits to the bespoke website, social posts generated over 12 million views and 7 million likes, and UGC for the album tripled around the activation with over 40,000 creates across TikTok.
“Working with and for the fans, we created intimate moments like the pre-release listening parties in a tiny floating bookstore in London and an intimate tea room in Los Angeles.”
Victoria Needs, AWAL
VN: As well as the big multi-territory activation, there’s also been a very bespoke approach at a market-by-market level, both for fans and media gatekeepers. Working with and for the fans, we created intimate moments like the pre-release listening parties in a tiny floating bookstore in London and an intimate tea room in Los Angeles.
For fans outside of these cities, we hosted an online listening party the week after release. For media and partners, we hosted more private opportunities for them to get to know Laufey in her element with jazz club events and release week parties, forging connections that would go on to yield high-profile opportunities across press, film & TV, DSPs, branding, and radio.
WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS FOR LAUFEY’S CAREER AND FOLLOW-UP PROJECTS FOLLOWING THIS INITIAL SUCCESS?
BB: Laufey is a once-in-a-generation talent and we collectively have ambitions for her that are incredibly lofty. As an artist, she continues to evolve and create music that is uniquely her own; music that is provocative and shaping culture.
She is already sparking conversation around what jazz music is and what pop music is, and we believe she’s going to be a major voice in those conversations for decades to come. That being said, we’re also careful not to get caught up in the noise.
We look at what we’re doing as creating timeless music, a catalog of standards, creating a legacy for Laufey that will stand the test of time like those of her favorite artists before her. Part of that will also be in exploring the myriad of interests she has that extend beyond music.
We have a global team at AWAL working on her behalf in addition to the support of the Sony ecosystem to see through her visions across fashion, film & television, publishing, branding, etc. While the music will always remain at the core, Laufey is far from a one-dimensional artist, and our team is hyper-focused on building the multi-hyphenate career she aspires to continue building.Music Business Worldwide