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U.K. SPECIAL ISSUE: UMPG'S DARYL WATTS

UMPG U.K. has had new leadership in Mike McCormack as MD for just over a year, during which time the company has signed hitmaker of the moment Steve Mac, as well as rising stars Harry Styles, Dua Lipa and Jonas Blue and writer Ed Drewett. McCormack credits his A&R team for the impressive roster, notably including Creative Director Darryl Watts, who’s been with the pubco for 17 years. Significant signings during his tenure include Johnny Marr’s share of The Smiths’ catalog, Joy Division’s catalog, New Order, Bastille, Years & Years and pop writer/production trio TMS. He also looks after the day-to-day of Mac, who co-wrote Sheeran’s huge hit “Shape of You” as well as Top 10 songs for Clean Bandit, Rita Ora, P!nk and Liam Payne, and was named Songwriter and Producer of the Year at the A&R Awards in November. Projects Watts is looking forward to launching over the next year include Rex Orange County, Dermot Kennedy and Frances, who has been writing with Meghan Trainor, Jess Glynne and SG Lewis. Mac, meanwhile, has been in sessions with Kodaline, Years & Years, Bastille, CHVRCHES and Jonas Blue.


What do you look for in new signings?
Even though the way in which people consume music has changed radically in the last few years, it’s still about voices and songs that resonate with the public. Add on to that charisma, work ethic and a decent manager and you’ve got a meaningful shot at a career.

What is the role of a publishing A&R in 2017?
As a publisher now, there are so many opportunities out there, whether that’s writers, artists or catalogs. The bar is that much higher song-wise than it was, because more than ever we’re competing with the rest of the world. So it’s harder to cut through, but the rewards are that much greater when you do.

Aside from increasing globalization, are there any other trends or developments in the U.K. music business you’ve noticed over the last year?
A lot of pure songwriters are now getting record deals. If people are looking at having global hits, then plainly they are going to go for people who can write global hits. We’ve got an artist called Grace Barker, who co-wrote Jonas Blue’s “By Your Side” and has recently signed a record deal with Polydor. It takes a special sort of writer to be able to do both, so to have someone like Grace is fantastic. 

Are you optimistic for the future of the U.K. music business?
By nature, you have to be an optimist to be an A&R person.

Stay in the loop of what's up and coming in the U.K. with our Spotlight playlist below.

 

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With a gigantic check. Soon.
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