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U.K. SPECIAL ISSUE: POLYDOR'S BEN MORTIMER & TOM MARCH


Interview by Rhian Jones

Polydor co-Presidents 
Ben Mortimer and Tom March have enjoyed an 11-week run at #1 with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” f/Justin Bieber this year, as well as #1 albums with Elbow, Pete Tong, Lana Del Rey and the La La Land soundtrack. Take That’s eighth studio album hit #2 in March and was #7 on 2017’s list of best-sellers at the halfway point. The duo were newly appointed in May 2016, when marketing star March was upped from Virgin EMI GM, while A&R man Mortimer rose from Polydor A&R Director. The UMG label has also enjoyed a string of Top 10 singles this year with Jax Jones and Raye, Julia Michaels, Zedd and Alessia Cara, Demi Lovato, and another Latin American hit in J Balvin/Willy William’s “Mi Gente.” 


Tell us about your strategy for Polydor.
Ben Mortimer: From an A&R and new business perspective, Tom and I said from the start that we would be open to any opportunity that came our way. Keep a real open mind to things, no matter how crazy. We also decided to really dig in on the artists that we believed in, and not just get caught up with what’s new and hot out there. Saying that, when we knew something was hot and really starting to fly, we moved quickly to close them. 

How has that played out in your tenure to date?
BM: Being open-minded absolutely helped with us being the U.K. home for the Latin records that exploded this year. We were open to the idea of it, and took a chance on them, long before they showed signs of working over here.

We’re seeing the benefit of believing in our artists. Mabel, for example, is having a big hit with “Finders Keepers.” I signed her over two years ago but sometimes things just don’t connect instantly. Artists take time to find themselves and find their sound. Closing the deals with Stefflon Don and new artist Grace Carter was incredibly exciting. It’s a lot of fun to be involved in situations like that. We’re already seeing Stefflon Don break the Top 10 with her first proper single. With Grace it’s early, but she is incredible. We really believe in her. 

What are the biggest changes you’ve experienced in the music industry this year?
BM: The time it can take to break an artist, it’s such a long haul now. But in a way we’re just returning to artist development. Breaking artists over various EPs, singles and mixtapes is the modern day version of David Bowie finally exploding after years in the business, or Kate Bush being developed by EMI for years. So perhaps it’s just a change back to how things used to be.

Tom March: How we release music has completely changed. An artist can’t go away any more.  You have to keep active, trying different things and collaborating. You have to keep releasing exciting music and content in a variety of forms to guide fans to your music. 


An artist can’t go away any more. you have to keep active, trying different things and collaborating.—TOM MARCH


What are your priority projects next year?—
BM: Mabel and Stefflon Don have made massive strides in the last six months, but there’s so much more to come. They remain absolute priorities. The new Raye music is phenomenal and Becky Hill is such a brilliant songwriter and her vocal is so recognisable. Jessie Reyez, who we signed in a JV with Island U.S., is such a real artist, and just so damn good I can’t not see great things happening for her. I’m also really excited by the Roger Daltrey solo album that he’s been working on.

TM: Jax Jones has had a breakout year  this year and has some huge singles to come next year. Mura Masa will continue to grow and be one of the most exciting new acts in the world. Plus we are hopeful of new music from Years & Years, Ellie Goulding, Haim, Lana Del Rey, The 1975 and James Blake

What are your personal ambitions career-wise, and for Polydor as a label?
BM: For the label, it’s to keep on growing, and keep signing and breaking the most exciting artists out there. For me, I’d just like to be known for running a truly great record label. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Nothing more than that!

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