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MAX LOUSADA: TRANSCONTINENTAL MOVER

With all eyes on Max Lousada’s new gig—he stepped into the Global Head of Recorded Music post at WMG overall just six weeks ago, meaning all three U.S. majors are now steered by Brits—it’s easier for his myriad achievements as U.K. boss to be eclipsed in stateside coverage.

Incorporating Atlantic, Warner Bros., Parlophone and East West, WMG had grown its album marketshare to 23.5% at the half-year mark and song marketshare to 20%. Lead British acts include megastar Ed Sheeran and global phenoms Coldplay, as well as Muse, Clean Bandit, Dua Lipa, Anne Marie, Jess Glynne, Royal Blood, Liam Gallagher, Gorillaz, Rita Ora, Charli XCX, Lily Allen, Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd and James Blunt. The company has also scored with imports such as Bruno Mars, twenty one pilots, Charlie Puth and more.

Each U.K. label had big moments in 2017, but looked at together it’s the range and diversity of the company’s artist roster that’s most striking. Earlier this year, Atlantic matched the all-time record for a label to consecutively hold the singles chart position, with 22 weeks at #1 for its various acts. That achievement was due, in part, to Ed’s “Shape of You” spending 13 consecutive weeks at #1. In “Rockabye,” Clean Bandit had the longest-running #1 by a British act since the 90s. WBR’s Liam Gallagher had the third-fastest selling title of 2017, outselling the rest of the top 10 combined; and Dua Lipa’s album had the top-selling bow by a solo British female this year. Parlophone’s Coldplay was named the biggest band in the world by IFPI and East/West continues to gather momentum with mainstream signings such as Sheridan Smith.

Lousada says the prospects for the next wave of British talent are better than ever. He also acknowledges the “strong sense of community among the current crop of British acts—of support and encouragement, of creative cross-pollination,” singling out Atlantic boss Ben Cook’s fostering of collaboration across the label’s roster. Further, he credits the growth of digital marketing and distribution channels “to drive attention and consumption simultaneously.”

“Combining that with the more traditional promotional levers we can pull,” he adds, “means we now offer British talent unprecedented opportunity on the global stage.”

Last year, Lousada separated Warner Bros. and Parlophone into two distinct labels. Phil Christie was named chief of WBR, while last month it was announced that Miles Leonard will step down from the Chairmanship of Parlophone and Mark “Mitch” Mitchell was tapped as co-President. “Phil has done amazing work in less than 18 months on the job,” he says. “His A&R instincts are impeccable and, with his roots in publishing, that makes him very song-driven, which has been central to the label’s many successes. Phil and his team have some great developing artists in the mix, like Mist, Catherine McGrath, Steel Banglez, Magic Gang and Crystal Fighters.”

Turning to Parlophone, he praises Mitchell as a pioneer with “tremendous experience shaping artists’ careers at both indie and major labels. He’s been doing a stellar job as GM of Atlantic U.K., and already has some superb ideas for how to evolve the legendary Parlophone brand into the future. We will be appointing a co-President to work alongside Mitch, and when we have that lined up, you’ll be one of the first to know.”

The WMG topper is also especially bullish on original content and production studio The Firepit; the entity, led by Chris Bovill and John Allison, is dedicated to developing “visual formats and programming” for the company’s artists. “It’s still early days, but it’s been a big step change for our company,” he says. “It’s an original content studio, a tech incubator, and a recording facility in one. It’s helped put true innovation not only at the center of our offices but of our consciousness, which is hugely important as the industry continues its transformation.” Firepit Tech, meanwhile, headed by Emmy Lovell, has spearheaded innovation in apps and other emerging digital platforms.

Though he’s only been in his U.S. post for six weeks, Lousada has moved quickly. His early decision to place Aaron Bay-Schuck and Tom Corson at the top of Warner Bros. indicated a proactive and thoughtful approach, as he lured away potent execs from his two major label competitors. He’s also tapped Rani Hancock to run a relaunched Sire, redeployed Asylum in the U.S., boosted his U.K. team by promoting execs Peter Breeden and Mel Fox and beefed up his Global Recorded Music staff.

“As everyone knows, we’re working out Aaron and Tom’s official start dates,” he says of his stateside situation. “They’ll be an amazing team and will bring a new energy, inspiration and enterprise to the label. In the meantime, I’ve spent a lot of time in L.A., and everyone’s doing a tremendous job during this transition, as the success of Lil Pump and Dua Lipa has shown.”

And so the “Brit-ification” of the U.S. biz is now complete. Pass the scones.

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