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2019 TOP 50 ALBUMS
It's that time of year. (12/11a)
2019 TOP 50 STREAMS
What comes after X? (12/11a)
2019 MARKETSHARE:
SHOCK OF THE NEW
They got a name for the winners in the world. (12/10a)
NEAR TRUTHS: YEAR-END WRAP-UP, PART 1
Guess who's on top of the heap...again. (12/10a)
MERCK'S MID-YEAR NUMBERS
The buying spree sees results. (12/11a)
EGGNOG!
Ours is mostly bourbon.
MISTLETOE!
Delicious in salads.
CHESTNUTS!
Ours are roasting, but it could be these slim-fit jeans.
WEED!
An entire Christmas tree made of it. Is what we want. for Christmas.
Blighty Beat
EMERGING ARTISTS: UNIVERSAL
11/25/19

David Joseph’s UMG U.K. has had another stellar year in terms of breaking new talent, as the #1 music group’s marketshare has risen to what’s believed to be an unprecedented high of nearly 37% YTD. Global success Lewis Capaldi is only part of that story, which has been furthered by Mabel enjoying high streaming stats, Sam Fender reaching arena level and Dermot Kennedy topping the albums chart with his debut.



LEWIS CAPALDI

Lewis Capaldi has been without doubt the runaway British success story of 2019. Before Ed Sheeran came along, he had the year’s fastest-selling album in the U.K. for his #1 debut, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, which has now reached 1m sales worldwide, and claims 2019’s best-selling single to date with the heartfelt smash “Someone You Loved.” Oh, and did we mention that the 23-year-old sold out an arena tour, including two 12.5k-cap. Wembley dates, before releasing his debut?

Capaldi was signed to Universal in March 2017 by Daniel Lieberberg in Germany, and the reins were passed over to Frank Briegmann when Lieberberg left for Sony later that year. He found a U.K. home at Virgin EMI. London-based manager Ryan Walter started working with Capaldi after discovering him on SoundCloud a year prior, and the duo have been A&Ring themselves. Songs started to be released throughout 2017, and Capaldi performed at multiple venues in his home city of Glasgow for multiple press publications, radio stations and local TV stations throughout that year. His self-deprecating sense of humour and Walter’s background in digital marketing created a perfect storm online, where Capaldi has carved out a strong and hilarious online personality with 3.9m Instagram followers—a number that’s growing by 24k daily.

He also undertook key tours with Rag’n’Bone Man in the autumn of 2017, Niall Horan in March 2018 and Sam Smith in May 2018, ahead of the Bastille tour in February 2019. To date, he’s shifted over 250k tickets for headline shows in the U.K. and Europe. According to Agent Ryan Penty at Paradigm, the key to Capaldi’s live success is a combination of maintaining demand and picking the right support slots. He explains: “We always try to sell out every headline show to keep the ticket buying public wanting more, and put him in the right world with support slots.” On the recorded side, Virgin EMI President Ted Cockle tells us that the BBC have been particularly instrumental, establishing Capaldi on their BBC Introducing and Brits List campaigns ever since they invited him to Maida Vale studios to perform in 2017 (thanks in part to Virgin Radio Manager Michael Pickard).

So, after smashing his way through the U.K., what’s next? “I have no doubt that he has the songs to really connect with audiences the world over,” Cockle answers. “However, his hilarious conversations and Instagram stories about the issues and problems of his body parts and his below-par lovemaking routine we thought might be a bit much for U.S. audiences to take… But I had the pleasure of being at Irving Plaza in New York for a key show for Lewis, and it became clear that such stories are welcomed on the Eastern Seaboard with similar enthusiasm as they are here. Steve Barnett and Greg Marella in particular at the Tower have shown total focus in launching the project, ensuring that every key personality across their media landscape has either met or been shown Lewis’ full potential, and I believe we’re now at a particularly exciting point where Lewis is poised to be a breakout artist in the U.S. for 2019.”


MABEL

Over the last two years, burgeoning pop star Mabel has made real inroads in the U.K. with three top 10 singles and her debut album, High Expectations, which reached #3 in August.

Signed by label co-President Ben Mortimer and A&R Keir Fullerton, she’s been under development at Polydor since 2015. Mortimer describes her as “focused, ambitious, tons of fun and, most importantly, passionate about her songwriting,” which is baked into her DNA—her mum is Neneh Cherry and her dad is producer Cameron McVey.

Mortimer’s co-pilot, Tom March, tells us that the first step in Polydor’s four-year development plan for Mabel was connecting her to culture and building her audience in the U.K.. That came via a string of domestic hits, which grew out of the urban space, a mixtape that went gold and appearances in culturally relevant places, such as Skepta’s video for “Shutdown.” Repeat visits across Europe, including a support tour with Harry Styles, started to widen her audience there.

That set the scene for this year, when Polydor took her sound and imagery into the global space with two huge pop hits, “Don’t Call Me Up” and “Mad Love,” which hit #3 and #8 on the U.K. charts, respectively. She has been around the globe twice already in 2019, including a recent two-week trip to Asia supporting Lany for their stadium shows, and has just visited the 2019 Teen Choice Awards while on a sold-out U.S. tour. Next up is a U.K. and European run as the main support to Khalid, and March promises a “massive feature” with Tiesto that will be added to her album, alongside another new single that’s on the way. A 23-date headline U.K. tour will see her play to 10k+ people in London early next year.

Management is Radha Medar at Metallic, who was a friend of Mabel’s before she started working with her. “I could see from the first time I met Mabel she was super-talented, but she just needed someone who could help her articulate the direction she wanted to go in—and with my A&R skillset and previous management skills I was able to do that,” she says. “The main factors that have gone into her success firstly are her determination and talent. Another huge factor is teamwork. Polydor Records have been so incredible to work with, and I really feel the difference knowing I have their trust and support.”


SAM FENDER

BRITs Critics Choice winner Sam Fender hit the top of the U.K’s Official Albums Chart in

September with Hypersonic Missiles on 40k sales, awarding him the third-fastest-selling debut of the year behind Lewis Capaldi and Billie Eilish. Fender has carved out a prominent space for himself in the crowed British male-solo circle, thanks in part to the social and political messages in his lyrics. That statement started with “Dead Boys,” written about the prevalence of male suicide and lack of attention it gets in the U.K., before releasing songs that branched out into the wider state of the world, Brexit and mistreatment of the working class.

Managed by Owain Davies, Fender was signed to Polydor in 2018 by A&Rs Richard O’Donovan and Craig Shardlow, by which time he’d been touring for two years and had already released several tracks. O’Donovan says it was his “once-in-a-generation voice” and personality that made them want to get involved. He continues: “Throughout the signing process, Sam grew as a live performer, and the songs just kept on getting better and better.” Polydor co-President Tom March adds: “When we came onboard after a long courtship, he had momentum, and it was our job to supercharge it.”

The first release under Universal was “Dead Boys,” followed by “Leave Fast”—a song about Fender’s tough upbringing in his hometown—both of which connected massively with U.K. media, leading to his BRITs Critics’ Choice win. March says: “I think the key factors that have contributed to his success so far are the quality and depth of his lyrics. If you talk to Sam’s fans, they feel he speaks for them. His live show is next-level, and his voice is exceptional. It floors you the first time you hear it.”

During the past two years, Fender has done multiple tours of Europe and has recently sold out two 5k-cap. Brixton Academy shows in London. On his next tour, he’ll play arenas, which, similar to Capaldi, were booked before the arrival of his debut album. He’s recently toured Australia, the U.S. and Asia.


DERMOT KENNEDY

It was a unique blend of classic songwriting and a deep love of hip-hop that led Island Records U.K. to first get involved with Irish solo artist Dermot Kennedy, who over the last two years has emerged as a key priority act for the label. Signed in 2017 by Island U.K. President Louis Bloom (who was then Head of A&R), Kennedy has since been writing and recording his album, Without Fear, and has sold over 88k tickets for 70 dates globally during the past 12 months alone. Thanks to an early self-released album and a number of singles, including standout tracks “Power Over Me” and “Outnumbered,” his global audio-stream count stands at over 500m. His managers are Ed Millett and Nathan Standlee at TAP Management.

Bloom was hooked after hearing “A Closeness,” which was penned by Kennedy and British writer and musician Carey Willetts. He explains: “It begins as a tender acoustic song, then suddenly about halfway through, this wicked beat kicks in and the track hits hard and turns into something altogether different. That’s what makes Dermot so special. He does the unexpected and constantly takes creative risks. He is a true original and a completely authentic artist.” Which is an educated opinion—having worked with Hozier and Ben Howard, Bloom’s benchmark for songwriters is high. And after seeing him play live in London, he needed no further convincing. “After that show I knew I had to work with him,” Bloom says. ”The man is a poet. He looks like a rugby player but underneath the tough exterior lies a sensitive, beautiful soul with such a raw and emotional voice. It’s been a joy working with him and his amazing management team at TAP Management, who really are a great force.”

The rollout plan has been slow and steady, helped along by Island VP of marketing Guillermo Ramos, label partners at Interscope in the U.S., and the patience of radio and streaming teams. “They’ve all bided their time, allowing Dermot’s profile to grow in an unforced, natural way,” Bloom explains. “We’ve always played the long game, confident that in Dermot, we have a true career artist. Having said all that, make no mistake, Dermot has been a massive priority since day one, and we have been very bullish with all our media partners throughout.”

Without Fear, produced by hip-hop specialist Mike Dean, hit #1 on the U.K. charts in October. The collection of songs spans personal stories and universal themes, tied together by Kennedy’s strong and emotive vocals, widescreen melodies and a unique rhythmic delivery. Bloom believes that Kennedy is set to become a “signature Island artist” and has hopes of delivering commercial success, huge sales, streaming numbers and the profile to match. “Our ambitions are limitless. Dermot’s fans are among the most passionate and loyal fans I have ever come across, and we expect that base to really grow.” Going into next year, expect new singles, which may or may not be drawn from the album, and far bigger venues to be announced. “Quite simply, we want his success to match his exceptional talent,” says Bloom.