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INDEPENDENT WOMEN: ALISON DONALD
11/28/18

Head of Creative U.K., Kobalt

Respected A&R exec Alison Donald has recently returned to the independent world at Kobalt as Head of Creative, U.K., where she’s working with a host of exciting new and established acts. She joined the company in 2017 after spending six years as co-President of Columbia U.K., where, alongside Mark Terry, she had success with a number of breakout acts including George Ezra, Tom Odell, Rag’n’Bone Man and The Vaccines. That followed a stint in publishing at Warner/Chappell as Head of A&R, and roles at the Capitol Tower in L.A. and EMI Capitol back home in Blighty. Her career started at famed British labels Chrysalis and Stiff Records. In her current role, Donald leads A&R activities in London across AWAL, Kobalt Music Recordings and Kobalt Publishing, whilst driving business growth across all divisions.

On the publishing side, Donald and team have recently been setting up co-writing sessions for Atlantic developing act Mahalia and London singer/songwriter Delilah Montagu, who was recently featured on a David Guetta track. Artists and writers she’s excited to work on in 2019 include Sam Fender, Jade Bird, Idles, Slowthai, Gerry Cinnamon, The Howl & the Hum (who are also signed to AWAL) and Apre. Donald adds: “At AWAL, we are loving working with the iconic Neneh Cherry, whose album is just out, and finishing a Jordan Mackampa record for release next year. We just took delivery of a fantastic second Blaenavon record and continue working Rex Orange County, Little Simz, FKJ, Tom Misch and The Night Café.”

What does she find challenging about working in today’s music business? “The biggest challenge,” says Donald, “is getting the music heard in the first place, then having a compelling artist story so that people not only listen but actually care. It’s a very crowded and competitive marketplace and will only get busier as content/music consumption becomes more ubiquitous.”

However, while things change, much stays the same, and Donald says the key to cutting through the noise remains in “investing and developing world-class artists,” adding, “It takes patience and belief as well as hard work to continue to reach for the stars. At AWAL, we are at an advantage as we can be global from day one with our artists.”

According to Donald, the most exciting thing about British music and the industry right now is the potential that streaming brings. “There’s the potential to find all kinds of new talent of any genre from every corner of the globe, thanks to the digital platforms artists can use now and that we have access to as an A&R resource,” she points out. “And there’s the potential for all artists and us to make significant income as streaming grows, and hopefully as a business we can consistently break more U.K. artists worldwide. We Brits have always been excellent at navigating global trends and exploiting new opportunities. With everything changing, British artists will continue to take advantage of this.”