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U.K. SPECIAL ISSUE: RCA'S DAVID DOLLIMORE

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 32, Example 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 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.

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