Usher has collaborated with some of the biggest stars in the business — Jay Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys — but he’s also constantly on the hunt for new, unsigned talent too.
Speaking to Business Insider after his Cannes Lions/iHeartMedia on-stage session, where he was interviewed by TV and radio host Ryan Seacrest, Usher explained that SoundCloud and Tidal are his main scouting tools.
“I think I have a very eclectic palette, so if it hits me, I’m engaged, and it doesn’t matter at what level. It could be an artist that I hear for the first time on SoundCloud,” Usher said.
Asked which tools he uses to unearth new talent, Usher responded: “Everywhere there is music, there I am.”
Usher said he also spends a lot of time on Tidal — the Jay Z-owned subscription music service. When Tidal launched last year, Jay Z memorably invited his showbiz pals to appear at the launch event, where Usher joined other artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna, and Beyoncé.
“In that space I’m actually introduced to younger artists and [it’s] great that on Tidal they have this opportunity to be seen in the way they want to be seen. It’s not necessarily packaged — it is packaged but you have this ability to be raw and that right there is another great way to do it. It’s not like you get demos and people walk up to you with demos any more,” Usher said.
Once he spots talent, he’ll get in touch with the producer or attempt to find an agent in order to offer to collaborate.
“Social media has made it very easy to connect, too,” Usher said.
Seacrest, who also joined us on our chat remarked how Usher — especially given his fame — can instantly connect with new artists by sending a simple message on social media, but he asked: “How do they know it’s really you?”
Usher responded: “They don’t. You just kind of have to go through a few conversations … and before you know it … my contact contacts your contact, and you contact.”
Usher uses Snapchat “too much”
We noted that Seacrest and Usher had been taking selfies on Snapchat ahead of our conversation. We asked how much they both use the app.
“Too much for me,” Usher responded.
Seacrest said: “It’s obsessive. I think that we recognise the value of it. Plus it’s fun, we enjoy it.”
They then took a brief break while Usher took another selfie of the pair.
Seacrest added: “It’s fun for us, we wouldn’t do it if it’s not fun.”
Usher has amassed a huge following on other social media platforms too — with 11 million followers on Twitter and 47 million fans on Facebook. With that huge audience comes an incredible amount of data. We asked Usher whether he ever uses that data to work out who his fans are and assess the kind of content they want from him.
He responded that he doesn’t comb through the data from his social media accounts in a “forensic” way, but he enjoys the form of feedback when a post resonates with his fans and he sees the “likes” adding up.
Watch the full interview below:
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