Franta, who counts 4.7 million fans on YouTube and 3.2 million Twitter followers, has formed Heard Well, a music label focused on producing compilation albums featuring undiscovered artists as curated by digital “influencers.”
Franta’s partners in the venture are his manager, Andrew Graham of AwesomenessTV’s Big Frame unit, and Jeremy Wineberg, who will continue to run his Opus Label music distribution and licensing company. Heard Well has signed with digital stars Amanda Steele, Lohanthony and Jc Caylen — who collectively have more than 20 million fans across YouTube and other platforms — to assemble albums featuring their favorite artists.
“We’re looking at digital influencers as modern A&R execs,” said Graham.
Heard Well arose from Franta’s passion for music. He’s shared his favorite new artists in his YouTube segments, and has already released two compilation albums: “Crown,” one of the top 20 best-selling pop albums of 2014 on iTunes, followed by “Common Culture.” Artists hand-picked by Franta have included Odesza, Zella Day and Tei Shi, and he’s set to release “Common Culture, Vol. 3” later this month as Heard Well’s the first release.
“I find a lot of up-and-coming musicians I enjoy, present them to my viewers – and hopefully inflate the growth of these artists by putting them in front an audience that wouldn’t have been aware of them,” Franta said. He describes his musical tastes as skewing toward “alternative pop.”
Other YouTubers have extended their fame into music, including beauty maven Michelle Phan. Big Frame’s Graham said the mission of Heard Well is focused on leveraging the large fanbases of the likes of Franta to promote the label’s releases with artists who in many cases don’t even have managers.
Heard Well “doesn’t really require any investment outside of our time,” Graham noted. “The influencers are identifying (the artists).” The label will share a cut of the revenue with the artists.
For Franta, the launch of the music label comes as his memoir, “A Work in Progress” (Simon & Schuster’s Atria/Keywords Press), has spent 10 weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list. The digital star also has launched a specialty coffee line, Common Culture Coffee, and the Connor Franta x Junk Food clothing collection. He’s also helped raise nearly $250,000 for the Thirst Project, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to African villages.
(Pictured above, L to R: Jeremy Wineberg, Andrew Graham, Connor Franta