Pukkelpop’s Numbers, Alternative Edge, and the Artists That Got on Our Radar

Although Electronic artists have the numbers on Pukkelpop's lineup, Rockers are at their heels, and a quarter of all the musicians on the lineup boast "Indie" or "Alternative" as their subgenre. We dug deeper to explore this Belgian megafest with an alternative fringe, and to point out a few artists you should get to know – if you aren’t stanning for them already.
Pukkelpop: Alternative Edge and the Artists You Should Know
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Urska Jaksa

All the avid festivalgoers with an ear for the alternative who are starting to create their bucket lists for 2020 should take a closer look at Pukkelpop. The festival has three decades of tradition, around 200 artists on the lineup, and is also the second largest in Belgium (behind a little Electronic extravaganza called Tomorrowland). 

When taking European and US festivals under the microscope (here’s the dish), it was clear that especially in Europe, Electronic music is the queen. Not much difference at Pukkelpop, as Electronic artists represent 42% of the lineup. House takes the crown, followed by Techno, Downtempo, Drum & Bass, and Dance. Among the biggest names: ModestepGhostemaneMartin SolveigSOHN, and Paul Kalkbrenner

Things do get interesting when we look further, especially considering that artists often don’t want to be compartmentalized into a specific genre, and that Pukkelpop’s organizers select a lineup with an "alternative fringe", as they put it.

There’s a roller coaster of genres, with Electronic music taking the lead and Rock and Hip Hop following.

Indie leads the lineup

Indie Rock is the strongest subgenre overall – just oh-so-slightly (by one performer, actually) ahead of House, with headliners such as Crystal FightersTame ImpalaFranz FerdinandThe National, and Eels. Even Johnny Marr of the Smiths, who has famously said, “We invented indie as we still know it,” has played the stage.

Indie Rock originated in the UK in the 1970s. The term was initially coined to describe independent artists, but it doesn’t mean the same to everybody today. Namely, what happens when an Indie band scores a record deal, or what about e.g. independent rappers – are they also in the Indie pool? We could go to the lab to create a formula for the perfect Indie Rock song – people have tried –, but that’s a topic all to itself. It’s hard to get consensus on a definition, but the term loosely refers to music that isn’t created with all the ingredients crucial for commercial success, and a sound that diverges from the mainstream – and is sometimes also interchangeable with "alternative". 

Indie Rock and House won the subgenre game, with 22 and 21 artists respectively.

The biggest discoveries and the rising stars

We used our time machine to see what had been happening with the artists on the lineup a year before their Pukkelpop 2019 gig. Some stood out – we found those whose fan bases on social media and streaming sites have been rising the fastest. 

 

The winner, unsurprisingly: Billie Eilish (she's gained 37M of her 42M followers on Instagram, her SoundCloud following increased by five times, and her Twitter audience by six times). She’s also one of the three superstars that were on the Pukkelpop stage in August (besides Post Malone and Twenty One Pilots). And that’s an achievement all to itself. Here’s the background: using Viberate data, we can determine the overall rank of artists according to their digital popularity. Only 200 have the status of superstars. Eilish ranks at #77 and gives people minor headaches when trying to pinpoint her genre. In light of her being nominated for the “Best New Artist” at the 2020 Grammys, we also did a little research here. And yes, we know she posted “Ocean Eyes” on SoundCloud four years ago. Behind Posty as the second most streamed artist on Spotify, Billie Eilish has had an amazing year. Since the release of her album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” in March, the crowds have learnt her songs by heart and have been going crazy for her throughout the festival season. 

Now it gets a little less predictable. Here are ten musicians you should keep an eye on. The size of their following varies, but they've all been gaining momentum. For starters, each of their Instagram following increased by at least five times.

The Comet is Coming and it has landed. This London-based band has been taking the world by storm by mixing Nu Jazz with elements of Funk and even Psychedelic Rock. Their Instagram following increased by 6.9 times to 10k, while their SoundCloud followers doubled and Spotify followers quadrupled, to 56k.

Here they are jamming at the NPR Tiny Desk Concert. If you don't have 20 minutes, save the link. Trust us.

Yves Tumor is an experimental-noise artist, a man of many pseudonyms, who’s currently based in Turin, but grew up in Tennessee. To say he’s making Electronic music wouldn’t do him justice. His latest album “Safe in the Hands” projects transcendent feelings, 1990s Alt-Rock, and doesn’t really pick a genre. On Instagram he’s followed by – wait for it – Madonna, and also A-Trak and . His Instagram base has increased by 7.3 times to 42k, and his Spotify following has more than tripled to 50k.

His bio states: “Distorted electronics chameleon.” See for yourself.

The Beths is a New Zealand trio that broke through in 2018 with the debut album “Future Me Hates Me”. They're the embodiment of something you’d imagine an Indie band to be, even though they're signed to a label. Their Spotify followers grew by 7.5 times to 30k, and their Instagram following has been rising consistently to 14k followers today (it has increased by 7.1 times).

Hear them out.

Jeremy Zucker is already known to many, as his song “comethru” has around 200M views on YouTube. His songs have a chill, poppy sound with an Indie Pop vibe, and he also tackles heavier topics, like in the song "all the kids are depressed". He has gained more than 300k new Instagram followers and more than 400k Spotify followers. His debut album is scheduled fotr the beginning of 2020.

The video for his hit song “comethru” was shot on a roof in Toronto.

IDLES are a Bristol-based band bringing British Punk and a sound floating between Punk Rock and Indie Rock. They've built a strong YouTube base, which has increased by 4.5 times to 46.5k followers, and also gained more than 100k new followers on Instagram.

IDLES rockin’ Pukkelpop 2019. Source: Facebook

Time for some soul. Followed by Kehlani and Black PumasDurand Jones & The Indications aren’t new to the music circle. They say their 2016 album “The Indications” was recorded for $452.11, including a case of beer. They’ve added almost 50k Instagram followers and their SoundCloud following has quadrupled (and is now at around 1.2k).

 

Channel Tres is where Hip Hop meets House. This “weird kid from Compton”delivers lyrics in a smooth deep voice over a groovy dance beat. Ok, fine, we're fans. But we're not the only ones. His Spotify followers increased from 4k to 46k, while his SoundCloud followers went from 1.5k to 5.5k.

 

Dermot Kennedy represents Irish Pop. He’s currently promoting his debut album "Without Fear", and during the time we’ve analyzed, his YouTube followers increased by 5.8 times to 216k, and he also gained 317k new Spotify followers. He performed at open mics while underage, developed his sound busking in Dublin and Boston, and when he won a local talent competition, his career trajectory started to rise.

Dermot Kennedy on the stage at Pukkelpop 2019.

Slowthai isn’t your usual pretty boy. Breaking out in 2019, this British rapper speaks truth to power with politically charged lyrics addressing Brexit, Theresa May, and even Queen Elizabeth II. Weirdly charismatic, he doesn’t hesitate to shock the crowds, and they, in turn, are eagerly coming back for more. He’s strong on Twitter, as his following there has multiplied the most – by 12 times to 75k. He has also gained more than 100k Spotify followers (which is an increase of 9.4 times).

"I tell you how it is, I will treat you with the utmost respect. Only if you respect me a little bit Elizabeth," says Slowthai, who isn't afraid to shock and doesn't spare the royal family while doing so.

“i make music in my room and im not a band lol” is what girl in red, a 20-year old Norwegian Indie Pop singer would like to tell you. She's been gaining momentum on the streaming services. She's gotten 45k new SoundCloud followers (an increase of 4.6 times) and has went from 38k to 476k Spotify followers, which is highest increase on the channel, by 12.5 times.

She's written, recorded, and produced the song by herself. “This makes me feel like a strong independent female. I am a Mexican male.” is a comment that explains a lot.

Genre-wise, Pukkelpop served a diverse lineup with lots of household names, but also predicted some massive blow-ups in terms of artists’ popularity. Booking artists that will excite the audience before they make it big is a special kind of art that festival owners know all too well. Festival gigs can also be a springboard for up-and-comers, as they present them to a wider crowd. That’s why we often see the social media numbers explode after a great performance. And it’s true that live shows can make or break a relationship with fans. 

Making a great lineup is a little bit like predicting the future, but the risk is much smaller when there is reliable data to lean on. That’s what Viberate has been striving to do – to bring clarity to the otherwise chaotic world of live music, with tools that can help music professionals make better decisions.

 

Cover photo: Billie Eilish at Pukkelpop. Source: Facebook

 

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Urska Jaksa

Urska Jaksa

Managing Editor at Viberate
Storyteller with a nerd eye for music data. Believes in the healing power of group singing, while her ultimate cure are live shows.