The Rise of Phillip Phillips: Seems We Can’t Get Enough Folk

Posted November 27

The world must be looking good from Phillip Phillip’s side of the moon. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you are bound to soon enough. Having done well with his winner’s single ”Home,” the young singer-songwriter from Georgia who got his break by snagging the top spot on American Idol this past May is seeing some great feedback following the release of his first studio album The World From The Side Of The Moon last Tuesday. Yup, we just can’t seem to get enough of folk music this year.

While American Idol may no longer be at its peak in terms of viewership, participation in the televised singing competition provided Phillips with a great platform from which to launch his career, and since releasing the album, he has been rapidly adding to an already solid social fan base. Last week he attracted more than 8,000 new fans on each of the major social networks, which translates to 137 percent increase in new Twitter followers from the week before, and similarly a 142 percent increase in Facebook page Likes.

When it comes to online consumption of his music, Phillips has seen an even heftier bump with Rdio plays up 245 percent since release compared to the week before, and with more than 650,000 video views on YouTube, his total surpasses 7 million. People are definitely interested in knowing more about him; the graph below shows a large spike in his Wikipedia pageviews that correlates to the date of drop.

Phillips, whose fan base is heavily skewed toward females and still very much concentrated in the United States, has a voice that is eerily reminiscent of Dave Matthews, and a folky sound — if somewhat oriented toward pop. As for his choice in music, the timing is spot on; it seems it is definitely the year for his genre.

Other similar acts such as Colorado-based folkband The Lumineers have seen their following grow steadily over the summer, adding more than three-quarters of their total Facebook page Likes and seeing more than a million plays on Rdio. Not to mention one of Phillips’s self-proclaimed inspirations, Mumford and Sons, who did fantastically well with their sophomore release Babel. Record-breaking sales numbers aside, they are on the rise, and, at 3.4 million, they have close to doubled their fan base on Facebook since this time last year.

The World From The Side Of The Moon, which includes both a studio version as well as a live recording of ”Home,” a cover of Chris Isaak’s ”Wicked Game,” and a bunch of guitar-heavy potential hits with the occasional blast of brass, is already making its way to the top of the charts, both in iTunes and on Amazon.

It looks as though it is onwards and upwards from here on out for Phillips.

Photo Credit: Screen Grab from the Official Video for Home, YouTube. 

Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, The New York Times Local East Village, Westchester Magazine and more.