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Blighty Beat

Co-Managing Directors, Island U.K.

Island Records U.K. began a new era earlier in 2018 after Louis Bloom was promoted to President, while Natasha Mann and Liv Nunn were named Co-Managing Directors. Since joining the label in 2009 after working in PR, marketing exec Mann has overseen chart-topping album campaigns for Mumford & Sons, Catfish & the Bottlemen, Disclosure, John Newman, PJ Harvey and Hozier. Nunn began her career at Island in 2006 working in TV promotions before rising swiftly through the marketing ranks. She has driven campaigns for BBC Sound of winner Sigrid, and Sean Paul, Jessie Ware and Annie Lennox, whilst managing U.K. campaigns for superstar U.S. acts Drake, The Weeknd and Ariana Grande. The two tell us to expect returning records from Mumford & Sons and Hozier soon, while new acts coming in 2019 include Dermot Kennedy, Ritual, Easy Life and Miraa May. Here they talk to us about the status quo at Island under its new leadership and share a few thoughts on the music business at large.

The leadership at Island Records has had a revamp this year—how is the label’s culture and direction changing under Louis Bloom?
Natasha: We all operate in a fast-changing, much more fluid landscape, and with that we can’t let people’s job titles hold anyone back. If any member of the team has an idea for an act that will make a difference, we want to hear it and action it.

The blueprint for an Island act remains artists who are individuals, artists who bring as many challenges as obvious strengths, artists who don’t fit in a box or follow traditional paths. Artists we believe deserve and need to be heard and have a uniqueness that we can help amplify.

In the new role, I have a much wider remit and responsibility to the team and the artists. It is my job, along with [those of] Louis and Liv, to make sure we are doing the best by the great acts and the great people at Island. It’s a real privilege to be given the opportunity to shape this label’s strategy and help ensure that Island Records continues to be the home of creativity and culture.

Liv: I would say that the essence of lsland’s culture stands firm and hopefully always will. Island celebrates and has always celebrated uniqueness. We bring the left through to the mainstream and champion those doing things differently.

We want what Island stands for to be understood loud and clear at every level, and that’s a huge shift in my new role. I’m now responsible for representing the label as a whole and with its artists, and ensuring the whole team stays positive and motivated. I couldn’t be prouder to be in the position to do so after almost 13 years.

What are the biggest challenges in today’s music business?
Natasha: There are a few [laughs]. The sheer volume of content you are competing against, not just within music, but from entertainment as a whole. The need for patience and confidence is crucial as things can take longer. It takes real strength and belief to maintain that confidence, waiting for momentum to kick in with a campaign, but keeping everyone focused on the end goal is so much easier when you are working with acts and songs you truly believe in.

Liv: The amount of music that is being released, the democratisation of technology, the inability of people’s attention to be held for more than a few seconds, consumers’ growing reliance on and/or desire for curation over manual selection. How difficult it is to align campaigns globally or create material for campaigns that makes noise globally—I could go on. But despite these challenges, it’s the most exciting time for the business; everything is changing, there’s everything to play for and you can be truly experimental.

What is key to the continued success of the British music industry in that world?
Natasha: Great songs, great artist propositions, champions for diversity in streaming platforms. In my opinion, globalisation of music doesn’t mean everything should sound the same. It’s vital that the people programming powerful playlists are brave in their curation and leave enough room for the consumers to have their say.

Liv: Artists need to keep making incredible music; labels, the media and retail platforms need to keep working together to champion and surface those artists. Collaboration helps between British and international artists—Drake and Dave/Giggs are a case in point. And British musicians should continue to be themselves, be brave and push boundaries.

What is the most exciting thing about British music right now?
Natasha: We are competing in a truly global market, which pushes us and our artists to be the best they can be. Yes, there are still gatekeepers and music will still be localised in some instances, but there is also a massive opportunity for British artists to grow their audiences globally in real terms. The world is listening; you just have to make sure that what you’re saying is relatable and powerful.

Liv: The fact that it is so eclectic, that there is such a breadth of British talent succeeding across all genres. And that the album still rules; shapes of albums may be changing, but there is still massive demand from the British public.