The Passion, The Adventure, And The Fury Behind The Scenes of the Biggest Event in Global Pop
At MTV Iggy, we believe that pop music is becoming increasingly borderless. The internet age brought on the birth of millennial sensibilities – and with it, a world where western artists aren’t the only ones dominating the vernacular. Americans can listen to Korean pop. Venezuelans can fall in love with Congolese hip hop. Anyone can basically connect to the entire world at a click.
At MTV Iggy, we want to drastically propel the conversation forward; to level the playing field for artists in countries off the mainstream radar. We want to create a democratic hub in which music lovers can champion groundbreaking artists across oceans, engage in pan-continental music dialogue, and bring the best emerging bands into the limelight. MTV Iggy’s Best New Band in the World would become our crowning event.
For the past six months, MTV Iggy has been really busy. We carefully selected 10 bands from around the globe. We blogged. We filmed. We updated. We programmed through the night. We made sure that every band had the same exposure while the world frenetically voted for their favorite. An amazing 4.25 million people would ultimately cast their votes.
And at the end of the long voyage, it was K-pop group 2NE1 that took the crown, thanks to a rabid fanbase, rarefied talent, and worldwide appeal. While none of this could have happened a few years ago – when westerners took to global pop like oil and water — the world is now listening to 2NE1, breaking out their uchiwas and shrieking for more. As the first mainstream brand to really deep-dive into 2NE1′s music and break them stateside, we couldn’t be happier.
But it wasn’t an overnight affair. Best New Band in the World was a journey that began way back in January, when we embarked on a mission to introduce bands to the west, to the east, to each other, and everywhere in between. It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always fun. For the artists, the fans, and the staff at MTV Iggy, it meant plenty of blood, sweat, and tears.
In other words, it was a complete success.
Here’s how it all went down…
The Trials and Tribulations Of Choosing The Top 10
Narrowing down the bands actually took a lot of time, passion, and pain. MTV Iggy staff members listened to dozens of artists a day, holding meetings to watch, rate, applaud, and often, bicker. At times, we couldn’t even hear the music over the impassioned yelling and pounding of tables. We each had our personal tastes, of course, but more than that, we wanted the lineup to be widely diverse (among genres and countries alike), to follow a very particular criteria, and moreover, to be absolutely perfect. Shouldn’t be so hard to get a dozen people to agree on that, right?
We began our process by rifling through hundreds of global bands, gathered from promoters, our rolodexes, past coverage, and the web. During the first round, we went for relatively obscure artists who could potentially introduce something brand new to world; the kinds of bands who were fostering local niches against all odds.
But after a few weeks, we decided to shift filtration gears. If we wanted Best New Bands to have a giant impact, bottom line, we needed bands that were ready to meet the world. We were looking to incite nationalistic pride, after all. To inspire anger and accolades and general furor. To shift the global music paradigm. We needed bands with talent, edge, and the ability to make an impact on pop culture.
However, we didn’t want our Best New Band in the World artists to have previous, significant exposure on other MTV brands. The press would have given them a leg up in the event. Unfortunately, mainstream acts had to be excluded.
Most importantly, the bands needed to represent something larger than themselves. While 2NE1 is outstanding in a vacuum, they’re also indisputable magnates of the giant K-pop movement in South Korea and beyond. Yuna is an incredible singer/songwriter from Malaysia, but she also symbolizes an increasingly globalized world where Muslim women from the southeast Asia can cover Nirvana – really really well. You may love Skrillex’s facemelting club beats, but he also helped burst the long-bubbling dubstep genre into the global mainstream. These artists aren’t just making music, they’re propelling the global music movement. They’re symbols for everything MTV Iggy stands for.
It took us six whole months to narrow down the artists from about 500 to 25. From there, a few core staff members had the heartbreaking task of weeding it down to ten. To do it, we had to ramp up the criteria: only the absolute best music; only artists with active social media; only artists with a very recent, or upcoming album; and — it didn’t hurt if they reliably returned phone calls.
After some last-minute tweaks and arguments, we finally had ten candidates. Then it hit us. We had done it. Somehow we had emerged from the sleepless months with a lineup that was…well, perfect. We had Ghostpoet repping experimental urban culture in the UK, Atif Aslam spreading pop from Pakistan, 2ne1 becoming the most likely K-pop group to break out, La Vida Boheme getting kids on their feet in Venezuela — and more widely diverse, skilled, totally out-there acts who met every one of our standards. We started to pat ourselves on the back – but there was a lot more work to be done.
Artists, Fans, and Social Media: A Passionate Recipe
Once we had programmed our site, informed the artists, and unveiled Best New Bands to the world, it was up to the candidates to garner the votes. What followed was an epic maelstrom of social media, fan in-fights, and fascinating metrics.
Interestingly, it was Venezuela’s La Vida Boheme who held the lead at first. It looked like a thrilling upset, because here was a band with 50,000 Facebook fans leaving groups with millions in the dust. Clearly, numbers weren’t the key to Best New Bands, it was fan engagement — and La Vida Boheme had plenty of that. Since their inception, the foursome has consolidated a strong network of die-hard fans who attend all their gigs in Caracas and offer continuous online support. Their fanbase is so devoted, they even have a name: La Resistance. So when La Vida Boheme made a call for votes, the resistance promptly delivered.
Other fans fought hard for Atif Aslam, Skrillex, and Yuna, who have enormous fanbases and ultimately ranked in the top 5. These groups used their social media outlets to promote the event, pressing their fans with tweets, tab pages, and announcements. We interviewed some of their superfans, who not only rallied their friends and family to vote through Twitter and Facebook, they carved their idols into pumpkins, blogged about them, dressed up like them, and pushed through bodyguards to get closer to them — often at their own bodily expense.
2NE1 Takes The Crown
But in the end, nobody could topple 2ne1. Fans of the girl group kept up consistent, frenzied social media around Best New Bands from beginning to end. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Cyworld, comments on our site, and basically every social media platform available was clogged with impassioned 2ne1 lobbying. Frankly, we were worried about the fans’ lack of sleep. In the end, their devotion paid off: 2NE1 is going home with the title of Best New Band in the World.
And through all the passion, pain, anger, and Tweeting, what excited us the most was the global participation. 2NE1 has extremely wired superfans all over the world. In fact, more fans in the USA and the Philippines voted for 2NE1 than in South Korea, and a remarkable 168 countries participated in total. For a brand hell-bent on the dissemination of global pop, it was like unwrapping a birthday present. Or at least, realizing that your vision had come true.
As a result of Best New Bands in the World, 2NE1 has captured even more attention stateside and around the world. For the first time, they’re getting in-depth attention — not just an offhand mention or a footnote in a K-pop feature — in the US media. Consider this their official crossover.
Through Best New Bands in the World, MTV Iggy attracted fans from New York to Togo to Suriname, enabling an unprecedented global conversation in music, kick starting what we believe is the future of pop culture. Between the ups and downs, highs, lows, and endless tweets, Best New Bands in the World was an epic beginning for a truly innovative brand.
Best New Bands in the World…2012
…And we don’t plan to stop. In 2012, we’ll embark on a bigger, better, bolder journey to find the Best New Band in the World. Be sure to stay tuned….
To read more about MTV Iggy’s Best New Band in the World, 2NE1, click here!