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UMG U.K. EXECS TALK CHART, STREAMING AND A&R

Two UMG U.K. execs, Island boss Darcus Beese and Polydor co-President Ben Mortimer, have given rare interviews discussing the state of streaming’s influence on the U.K. charts.

Much has been made of the stagnancy of the Official Singles Chart in recent months, and there’s rumours measures to fix it are being considered.

In the meantime, Beese—who released Drake’s “One Dance” in Blighty—told Music Week that a #1 position is no longer exciting. “We shouldn’t get so caught up on whether a track is #1 or #5,” he argued. “There are records at the moment that are not charting in the higher echelons that are maybe not being deemed successful, but they are [successful], because of streaming and the long tail that these records have.”

In order to have success in the world of access over ownership, the Island boss said A&Rs need to step up their game and come up with better songs that work worldwide. When it comes to albums, artist development should focus more on an excellent follow-up record. 

“What we’re in now is the biggest sea change that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I remember people going on about the CD, and I remember when iTunes came online. [But with] everything else, the infrastructure still stayed the same. People still went out and bought the album. Now we’re not owning the music, we’re just listening to it.

“All the new acts should just rip up the rulebook. There are a lot of acts whose albums I’ll be putting out and some of them are going, why do we put an album out? If we just do two singles and then put the album out, you’re still living in the fucking past. There are people [out there] who haven’t even bought an album. 

“Once you get more established, it’s fine, but those initial conversations that you had last year should be totally different to the ones you’re having now.”

Mortimer agreed with Beese that the expectation of breaking an artist with their debut album is “one of the major problems in the U.K.” He told the BBC: “People are expected to come out on their first record and be as good as Blur or U2—but those bands broke on their third record.”

Playlists on Spotify are currently rewarding U.S. artists, meaning it’s harder to break U.K. talent thanks to the way streaming influences the chart, said the exec, concluding that the next Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran or Adele might have to work harder to break through. 

“You have to put out more music and put on more shows before you get noticed. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's what The Beatles did. They were tucked away in Hamburg for two years learning their craft, then they were great when they came out.”

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