For the first time in history, we’re hearing music made by a generation of artists who haven’t experienced life without the internet. Creators of all ages have figured out how to use the internet to their advantage, but there’s something special about this new wave of young artists and the way they interact with the world. Any information they could possibly want is at their fingertips, they can consume content from all over the world, and they can learn how to do anything they want to do.
And learn they do. Within a couple of years, young musicians can teach themselves how to make music, how to record it, how to share it, and how to build a fanbase with it. The traditional paths to a music career still exist, but there’s something particularly compelling about the kids who found success from their bedrooms.
Right now, we’re seeing a lot of those artists picking up momentum. Once relegated to niche pockets of the internet, many of them are starting to go mainstream, or at least showing potential that they can. Aside from putting up huge numbers in the streaming-dominated market, many are proving themselves on stages across the country, bringing sounds they made in their bedrooms to crowds in cities they’ve never even visited.
The DIY ethos is present across genres, but there are some shared characteristics among some of the most rapidly rising newcomers, and the term “bedroom pop” became the easiest way to describe it. “There's a certain lo-fi, psychedelic-leaning sound that most artists in the space touch on,” says John Stein of Spotify, “but the real thing that connects these artists, in my mind, is that they're creative and independently minded. They're making their music themselves—it's personal, and it feels fresh and real to fans. To most people, your bedroom is where you can truly be yourself... I think the term works well in that mindset.”
The traditional paths to a music career still exist, but there’s something particularly compelling about the kids who found success from their bedrooms.
John Stein and the Shows & Editorial team at Spotify noticed the rise of the DIY artist in the middle of June of 2017. “We were starting to see some great new artists really connect,” he says. “Many of them were on our radar for a while, but more and more it was feeling bigger than just a few cool, young, unique artists. It felt like there was a proper movement building.”
Toward the end of 2017, one moment confirmed Stein and his team’s impression. Clairo’s “Pretty Girl” music video—a video she made in her bedroom, with zero budget, in 30 minutes—went viral. “I'm still not entirely sure how ‘Pretty Girl’ blew up the way it did,” Clairo told us in September of 2017. “It wasn't really meant to… I only expected about 5,000 views at most!” The video now has over 12 million views, and Clairo is well-positioned to be a breakout star.
By the end of the 2017, Spotify had decided to make a playlist featuring Clairo and some of her like-minded contemporaries. “Seeing Clairo's ‘Pretty Girl’ video blow up, and then the real connection she seemed to be having with listeners, really solidified making the playlist for us,” Stein explains. “We tried to think of a clever title for the playlist for about three months before it came out in January 2018, but decided to keep it simple with Bedroom Pop.”
In just a few months, the Bedroom Pop playlist has close to 100,000 followers. It currently features Clairo on the cover, with just over 100 songs by acts like Yellow Days, MorMor, Gus Dapperton, Banes World, ROLE MODEL, Michael Seyer, Still Woozy, Cuco, Roy Blair, Steve Lacy, Kevin Abstract, Rex Orange County, SALES, London O’Connor, and Cosmo Pyke.
“The biggest thing, in my personal opinion, is that it sounds authentic and fresh,” Stein says of why things are starting to click for so many of those included on the playlist. “These artists are making music on their own terms, and you can hear it. That doesn't mean it's poorly produced or something, you just know that it's not being done with huge mainstream audience in mind. They're making what sounds good to them, and I think the audience really feels that.”
In speaking with many of these artists, that term “bedroom pop” isn’t very popular. For most, making music in their bedroom is just the first step, not a label they want to carry for their entire careers. Of course it starts in the bedroom, it always starts in the bedroom these days, but usually the kids who take initiative to create, record, and distribute music from home are the ambitious types with goals more lofty than can be achieved from a bedroom.
In speaking with many of these artists, that term “bedroom pop” isn’t very popular. For most, making music in their bedroom is just the first step, not a label they want to carry for their entire careers.
At the same time, when any new movement gets identified, some artists can feel boxed in. “From what I can tell, a lot of the backlash comes from taking the term as a rule,” Stein says. “But I feel like the majority of fans don't care whether it's made in a bedroom, or a studio, or wherever. If the music starts to feel less real, less authentic—that's when there's a problem.”
“I have a love-hate relationship with the term ‘bedroom pop,’” says Clairo. “I definitely understand where it comes from but people have been writing and recording music in their home studios for years. I guess what makes this wave of artists different or special is the fact we’ve created a community among ourselves.” Clairo’s intention was never to make bedroom pop-sounding music—she was just working with what she had, which wasn’t the highest quality equipment. She thinks of many of the songs she’s shared so far as demos, and she’s enjoying the process of working in a studio.
Whether you call it bedroom pop or not, and whatever it evolves into, there’s no denying that some common thread runs through the music. As is the case with most flourishing scenes that start with a small group of acts, things will probably start to branch out quickly. Like Clairo, many artists who start out making uncomplicated, lo-fi music plan to eventually embrace a more ambitious sound. What will remain, and what's really compelling about this new movement, is the community they're building. From leafy London suburbs to sunny Los Angeles, these artists are making some of 2018's most exciting new music, and they're doing it together—even if it all started solo in the bedroom.