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I.B. BAD: THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED
Grammy kingdom intrigue (12/12a)
THE GRAMMY WHISPERER PICKS THE BIG WINNERS
Who's taking home the hardware? (12/12a)
ASK THE GRAMMY WHISPERER
Factoids galore (12/12a)
THINGS THAT MAKE US
GO HMMMM
Lenny Beer's trending topics. (12/11a)
NEW RELEASES: LET'S LUKE AT THE NUMBERS
It'll be #1 this week.. (12/11a)
MORE GRAMMY SECRETS
The biz talks committee.
NOT PIZZA AGAIN!
Seriously, can we order something else?
A BIG FAT DEAL
With a gigantic check. Soon.
WE'RE ON TWITTER
You follow?
Blighty Beat
U.K. MIDWEEKS: ATLANTIC EYES CHRISTMAS #1 WITH SHEERAN
12/12/17

Atlantic U.K. has expertly gamed the British charts this year with Ed Sheeran and, as year ends, the WMG label is doing so again. A re-release of “Perfect” f/Beyonce is on course for its second week at the top of the singles list with another—f/Andrea Bocelli— arriving on Friday.

Meanwhile, ÷ is back at #1 on albums. You’ve gotta hand it to ‘em…

If you’ll recall, Sheeran spent 13 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Official Singles Chart with “Shape of You” in January. On the release of ÷ in March, all 16 album tracks were in the Top 20. Now Atlantic is taking full advantage of the featured artist trend to try and ensure Sheeran ends the year on top. It’s working so far.

“Perfect,” which originally peaked at #4 in March, is on course for its second week at #1 on the Official Singles Chart. The sales of the original version as well as remixes and new editions all count toward the current version f/Beyonce hitting #1. So if the track stays there next week and onward, it will be because of Beyonce and Bocelli, plus the original, the acoustic version, and remixes by Mike Perry and Robin Schulz.

...Read more

 

U.K. SPECIAL ISSUE: REBECCA ALLEN
12/8/17

Interview by Rhian Jones

Rebecca Allen is a long-serving UMG exec who was upped from MD to President of Decca in May after 17 years of service. Described by boss David Joseph as a well-loved “exceptional leader” with “steely determination,” Allen has enjoyed a string of Top 10 albums over the last year. Decca ended 2016 with one of Blighty’s biggest sellers in Ball & Boe’s Christmas #1 Together, and was recently #1 and #3 on the U.K. charts with the follow up, Together Again, and Gregory Porter’s Nat King Cole & Me. Allen’s imprint is also the U.K. home of The Lumineers, who hit #1 last year with Cleopatra, and has enjoyed Top 5 albums from country duo The ShiresDame Vera Lynn and Imelda May.


 What is your strategy for running Decca? 
At Decca, we try to swim against the tide and to seek out artists and music that don’t necessarily conform but deserve to exist and to be heard. This means we have to fight harder for our artists to be heard, but with that comes a real sense of achievement. Creating a uniqueness about your company can lead to so many more opportunities. 

How ambitious are you for the second Ball & Boe album?
On the second album, we have taken nothing for granted and have worked so hard to ensure that every element feels more ambitious. We went out into the U.K. regions and sat in the homes of their audiences, we talked to them, listened to them and went away and hopefully created an album and campaign that ensures they stay loyal to these two fantastic artists. 

What are the biggest changes you’ve experienced in the music industry this year?
For me, it’s optimism in the business, in our business. It feels exciting again, and it feels like anything is possible. 


“Creating a uniqueness about your company can lead to so many more opportunities.”


What’s on the horizon for the business as a whole in 2018?
As the business is back in growth, it will be exciting to see that money reinvested back into the development of new artists. New artists don’t happen overnight, and I think the business lacked patience for a while in the development of these artists. There is nothing more exciting than being part of a journey when an artist makes his/her mark on the world. I love being part of that journey. Sometimes it can take one album; sometimes it might be album three or even four. But the moment the world wakes up to someone new is the moment I love the best. 

Tell us about the projects you’re excited about for next year.
We have some very young and talented artists coming through our label at the moment. In particular, from the classical part of the business, is a young cellist called Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who won the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year in 2015. Sheku is 18 years of age, and I don’t doubt that he will become one of the most famous classical musicians in the world in the next few years. He is an exceptional young artist, world-class. 

What are your personal career ambitions, and your ambitions for Decca as a label?
I entered this business as a music fan, so my ambitions are only ever about the artists. I also love Decca. I have grown up at this label and hugely believe in the role it plays in the music business. The significance of being responsible for this historical label actually blew my mind in the first instance. The responsibility of keeping the flame burning into 2019, when this great label will celebrate its 90th birthday, feels huge. Decca is one of the oldest British labels left in existence; it has such amazing stories to tell, and my role now feels like being the custodian of these moments. Music is for everyone, and our ambition is to seek out as much variety as possible and present it to as many people as possible.

U.K. CHARTS: ED'S "PERFECT" WEEK
12/8/17

The Prince of Wales presented Ed Sheeran with an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) medal Thursday at Buckingham Palace. Today, he scored his fourth U.K. Official Singles Chart #1 with a reworked version of “Perfect” (Atlantic) f/Beyonce, as X Factor boyband Rak Su debut at #2 with their feature-heavy winner's single, “Dimelo” (Syco) f/Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy.

“Perfect” first peaked at #4 in March, and the duet version has sold 89k combined this week. After spending 15 weeks at #1 this year, is Sheeran have a shot at claiming the coveted Christmas #1?

...Read more

U.K. SPECIAL ISSUE: DAVID DOLLIMORE
12/6/17

Interview by Rhian Jones

David Dollimore
 is nearing the end of his first year as President of RCA U.K. and Ministry of Sound, after enjoying a strong international release schedule and two Top 5 albums from British acts. It’s the exec’s first venture into major-label land after working at Ministry of Sound, which is now Sony-owned, for over 15 years. While there, he helped steer the label known for dance compilations into artist development territory. Success with Wretch 32Example and London Grammar followed. Achievements of note this year include the Chainsmokers and Coldplay hit “Something Just Like This” passing 1m sales, while Yungen’s “Bestie” is expected to top 500k by Christmas. On the albums front, London Grammar had their first U.K. #1 album in June with Truth Is a Beautiful Thing. The campaign for Paloma Faith’s fourth album, The Architect, out 11/17, has kicked off with airplay hit “Crybaby,” and will be followed by second single “Guilty.”


In this climate, you can’t sign lots of acts and hope one of them connects. It’s about focus, less is more, and realizing the potential of things that are already on the roster.


What is your strategy for RCA?
When I started at the beginning of the year, it was about understanding what was on the roster and what domestic and international acts were returning, as well as what new signings were coming this year. I prefer doing A&R and working closely with artists in the studio—the thing that has taken a lot of my time has been the Paloma Faith album. I walk hand in hand with RCA MD Neil Hughes, so if I’m in the studio, he can take care of things if international acts are in town.

What are your hopes for the Paloma album?
The pre-order numbers we’re seeing are very good. I think we could sell around 40k week one and keep growing that into Christmas. 

What are you looking for in new signings?
In this climate, you can’t sign lots of acts and hope one of them connects. It’s about focus, less is more, and realizing the potential of things that are already on the roster. We’re looking for ambition, artists that have more hunger than you do. You want them to be driving the campaign. We can put good teams around them and the right producers and writers, but they’ve got to be really hungry for it.

Evidence suggests it’s been difficult for new acts to cut through the U.K. market this year. Would you agree?
There’s an element of that, but it’s more about defining what success is nowadays. In the old world, it was having a Top 5, #1 album or having a hit. Things do take much longer, but you just have to plan for that accordingly. We’ve been working Yungen’s track “Bestie” for two to three months, and now it’s a proper hit and he’s on the map as a key artist. 

What acts are you tipping to break next year?
We have a few new artists coming through RCA U.K. One is a girl called Au/Ra, who is from Antigua and Ibiza. She’s similar to Lorde and writes her own music. Her record “Concrete Jungle” is out now, and we’ve recently launched “Outsiders.” It’s very much in the blog and early-tastemaker world, and there are a lot of people talking about her. I think she is incredible. Another one of our artists is a U.K. rapper called Avelino, who is an exceptional talent. His music has got a futuristic house feel that a Kaytranada record might have, mixed with traditional grime records. He’s doing a lot of promo for the next month or so, and next year he will definitely be very much on the map. 

How about returning artists?
We have another MØ record, “When I Was Young,” which feels so true to form. An EP will follow, we’ll release another single in January and she’ll probably put an album out around April. Nao is in the studio at the moment and has a cool vibe record called “Nostalgia” that is getting a lot of support at Radio 1. She has been in L.A. recording with some A-List people, and there will be an album coming from her next year. 

Final question: What are your ambitions for RCA?
To make it the #1 label in the U.K., and to break not least one, but two, maybe three, acts over the next five years.

U.K. SPECIAL ISSUE: EMMA GREENGRASS
12/5/17

Interview by Rhian Jones

Emma Greengrass  began her career in the ’90s at stomping ground London Records and, following a stint at Warner Music, handled the marketing of British stalwarts Oasis during their record-breaking rise to fame at Creation Records. When the label closed in 2000, Greengrass was hired by the band to launch their own label, Big Brother Recordings. Then, after working as U.K. Label Head at UMG distributor Caroline International, Ian McAndrew hired her as MD of his Wildlife Entertainment management company last year. The firm’s roster includes such great British bands as Arctic MonkeysRoyal BloodTravis and The Last Shadow Puppets, as well as rising star Isaac Gracie.


What does Wildlife look for in new signings?
Ian has built Wildlife over the last 27 years based on a tradition of great songwriting—everything starts with the song.

What’s the role of management in 2017?
Managers have to be multitalented and experienced, and have every single area covered off, particularly when developing a new artist. The label expects you to come to the table with a pretty much fully formed plot, a fanbase, socials ready to go and often an album ready to go too. I think perhaps years ago labels were able to do more in terms of artist development, although in my experience in the industry—at least since 1995, when I began work with Oasis—I have always known the most successful managers to be hands-on in every area of their artists’ careers.

How do you cut through the noise on streaming services, and how do you measure success?
There is no easy answer to cutting through the noise, but I am a believer in quality music cutting through eventually. If you assume that is the starting point, then I think it’s about patience, perseverance and a great team who are dedicated to the cause. If everyone pulls their weight, I firmly believe you can get there in the end. I experienced that in a really positive way when I was at Caroline International working on everything from St. Vincent to Bear’s DenGaz Coombes and Glass Animals. We knew we had amazing music, we were nimble and kept at it, and all four of those campaigns reached great milestones eventually.

What’s your opinion on the health of the British music sector?
Streaming is really taking off and putting music back into the hands and ears of fans young and old around the world. The labels are clearly already benefiting financially, which means there is more money to invest in new talent. One has to hope that will soon find its way down to the artist level too. I feel very glass-half-full about the industry. The next few years are going to be very interesting.

What are your ambitions for Wildlife as a company?
We aim to keep the boutique quality of the company, which offers a service that is second to none if you are an artist, maximizing the potential of every project we work on. That said, I think we have some capacity to work with one or two other artists, so we always have our ears to the ground for the right thing to help us grow in an organic way.

U.K. SPECIAL ISSUE: BEN COOK & ED HOWARD
12/5/17

Interview by Rhian Jones 

Atlantic Records
  has topped the U.K. singles chart for 16 weeks this year, thanks to Clean Bandit and Ed Sheeran, with the latter also holding on to the top albums spot for 17 non-consecutive weeks and selling 2.2m combined to date with ÷. It’s no surprise the Warner label, led by President Ben Cook, was crowned Major Label of the Year at the A&R Awards in November. Cook joined to relaunch the Asylum imprint under Atlantic 10 years ago after earning a reputation as a hitmaker at Ministry of Sound. Success at WMG with WileyRudimental and Sheeran followed, and Cook was promoted to President of Atlantic U.K. in 2014, leaving A&R Director Ed Howard in charge of Asylum. Since then, the label’s breakthrough acts have included Jess Glynne and Clean Bandit. After joining Warner from Sony/ATV, Howard has played a key role in signing and developing Sheeran and Charli XCX, and also works closely with Rudimental and Anne-Marie—who’ll release her debut album in 2018. Cook tells us there’s a rich year ahead for Atlantic U.K., with LPs from returning acts Plan B, Rita OraRudimental and Glynne. Keep your eyes peeled for such developing acts as singer/songwriter Mahalia, underground phenomenon Kojo Funds and Brighton band Yonaka.  


What is your A&R strategy?
Ben Cook: To be brave, to sign artists who are going to shape popular culture and to follow remarkable talent, not fashion. We want to go for really distinctive artists who are ahead of the curve. Then it’s all about focusing on great songs. Also, when I relaunched Asylum, one of the things about that label that originally inspired the relaunch was how incestuous it was, for want of a better word. Joni Mitchell and the Eagles, and Bob Dylan, who was signed for one record, were all recommendations from each other and were writing together. There was a lot of cross-pollination going on, and that is one thing we took on board when we set up Asylum that bleeds into the ethos at Atlantic as well. Jess Glynne has been a great example of the way we do things at Atlantic, being completely homegrown, and that spirit of collaboration was really powerful on her first album. 

When you’re looking at new signings, what attracts you to an artist initially?
Ed Howard: I look for somebody’s drive, ambition and artistic vision as much as anything else, given how incredibly competitive it is nowadays. They have to be very talented and unique to stand the course of three to five years of development. There is no quick route anymore. 

How will Max Lousada’s global role have an impact on what you do, and how Warner Music U.K. operates?
BC: The U.K. is already a great A&R powerhouse and an incoming breakthrough territory for global acts, and Max is in a brilliant position. He has great taste, and he’s great at spotting and harnessing those opportunities, so his new role is only going to further our ability to campaign acts globally, tie up opportunities and join dots.

Has streaming changed how you think about what music to release or how to release it?
EH: Yes, that conversation has developed over the last year for sure. In the case of Anne-Marie, when we launched “Alarm” and it found legs across the world very quickly, the immediate thinking was that the follow-up had to work in a lot of different places. A few years ago, you would have been thinking about the domestic market, and then based on success there you’d be thinking further afield. Now you’re considering how songs sound to someone in America, Latin America, Europe and beyond.

How do you make sure those that discover new music on streaming playlists are converted into loyal fans who remain engaged with artists?
BC: Ensure that you are more than just a song, that you are an engaging person and character. Mahalia recently did a content piece for a YouTube channel called Colours, based out of Berlin. I defy anyone to watch that and not be moved by it. It’s that kind of thing, coupled with a brilliant piece of audio, that is going to compel people to follow and to become fans 
of an artist.


A few years ago, you would have been thinking about the domestic market, and then based on success there you’d be thinking further afield. Now you’re considering how songs sound to someone in America, Latin America, Europe and beyond.” 
ED HOWARD


EH: Fandom nowadays often comes from nontraditional points of engagement with an artist. So it’s not the main video for the song, and it’s not even the song on its own anymore; it’s those little moments where they’re mucking around on YouTube with another artist backstage and that other artist is the gateway, or it’s an amazing piece of content. When talking to young people, those are the things they point to as moments when they become fans of an artist. Artists still need songs on the radio and videos, but they also need to be remarkable and engaging over time.

Final question: What are your ambitions?
BC: We want to continue to shape culture, not to follow it; we want to be brave and not be afraid of innovating. The strategy for Ed Sheeran’s third-album campaign was impeccably thought through to be really innovative, and it produced incredible results, which is what we thrive on and get really excited by. So I’d like to stay right at the cutting edge and continue to work on the music we love, artists that we respect and can be proud of.

EH: For Asylum, I’d like each of the artists on the roster to have an incredibly distinct vision and for us to execute that very effectively, day in, day out.

SPOTIFY CROWNS SHEERAN
12/5/17

Ed Sheeran is the king of Spotify in 2017 after being named most streamed artist globally and in his home country as well. Fellow WMG act Dua Lipa also scores high in the U.K., as do Little MixColdplay and Stormzy

Two British acts make the list of Top 5 most streamed artists in the U.K., with Atlantic star Sheeran at #1 and Little Mix (Syco) at #3. Drake is #2, Eminem #4 and The Weeknd #5. Similarly, when it comes to top females, Dua Lipa is the only Brit at #1, followed by RihannaAriana GrandeTaylor Swift and Beyoncé. On the list of top males, three U.S. acts are sandwiched between Sheeran at #1 and Calvin Harris at #5: Drake, Eminem and The Weeknd.

Sheeran also wins on the album and singles stakes, with “Shape of You” the top performing track and Divide the most popular album. The only indie act mentioned below is Stormzy, whose ADA-distributed debut, Gang Signs & Prayer (#Merky), is #4 on top albums with 123.3m streams to date.

Top Five Artists in the U.K.

  1. Ed Sheeran (Atlantic)
  2. Drake (Island)
  3. Little Mix (Syco)
  4. Eminem (UMG)
  5. The Weeknd (Island)

Top Five Females in the U.K.

  1. Dua Lipa (Warner Bros.)
  2. Rihanna (Virgin EMI)
  3. Ariana Grande (Island)
  4. Taylor Swift (Virgin EMI)
  5. Beyoncé (Sony)

Top Five Males in the U.K.

  1. Ed Sheeran
  2. Drake
  3. Eminem
  4. The Weeknd
  5. Calvin Harris (Columbia)

Top Five Groups in the U.K.

  1. Little Mix
  2. Coldplay (Parlophone)
  3. The Chainsmokers (Sony)
  4. Arctic Monkeys (Domino)
  5. Imagine Dragons (Polydor)

Top Five Tracks in the U.K.

  1. "Shape of You" Ed Sheeran
  2. "Despacito" remix by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee f/Justin Bieber (Polydor)
  3. "Castle on the Hill" Ed Sheeran
  4. "Unforgettable" French Montana (Black Butter)
  5. "Galway Girl" Ed Sheeran

Top Five Albums in the U.K.

  1. Divide Ed Sheeran
  2. More Life Drake
  3. Starboy The Weeknd
  4. Gang Signs & Prayer Stormzy (#Merky)
  5. Ed Sheeran

Most streamed U.K. artists worldwide

  1. Ed Sheeran
  2. Coldplay
  3. Calvin Harris
  4. Dua Lipa
  5. ZAYN (RCA)

 

U.K. MIDWEEKS: SHEERAN BACK ON TOP
12/4/17

It's a battle between Atlantic and Syco on the U.K.'s Official Singles Chart this week with Ed Sheeran currently sitting at the top spot with a duet version of “Perfect” (Atlantic) f/Beyonce. Over on albums, U2 are heading for an 11th #1 with Songs of Experience (Island). 

Should “Perfect” hold on to its place, the track will bring Sheeran's total number of weeks at the top of the singles chart in 2017 to 15. After winning the X Factor Sunday, boyband Rak-Su released their debut charity single, “Dimelo” f/Wyclef Jean &Naughty Boy (Syco). It’s #1 at iTunes—will the track have cracked the Official Charts Top 10 by Friday?

... Read more