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THE BRITISH BREAKOUTS

How U.K. A&R Has Powered Some of the Biggest New Acts in the U.S. Marketplace
It’s no secret that several of the biggest acts to break out this year were initially U.K. signings. The success of the diverse group noted below is a tribute to aggressive A&R with a distinctly global perspective.

Two of these breakouts belong to Capitol on both sides of the pond but were inked on the British side first. Top-selling Grammy favorite Sam Smith and Aussie pop lads 5 Seconds of Summer both signed with U.K. label head Nick Raphael and his A&R head, Jo Charrington. Raphael’s tight relationship with U.S. ruler Steve Barnett contributed to a particularly seamless international assault for both acts.



Another Aussie, Iggy Azalea, landed her British deal before securing a U.S. label with the still-conjoined Island Def Jam (as you know, she’s now part of Steve BartelsDef Jam). When she committed to Mercury Records in early 2013, it was headed by Jason Iley—who went on to assume the leadership of Sony U.K. and further ratchet up the competition on the British A&R pitch.

The Hozier story is an interesting variation on the U.K./U.S. label angle—the acclaimed Irish singer/songwriter is the year’s only breakout signed to a Sony label in the U.S. (Rob Stringer’s Columbia) and a Universal label in Britain, where he was inked by Island U.K. chief Darcus Beese.

Hozier has sold 130k+ of his self-titled debut album; single "Take Me to Church" has moved around 830k (it’s currently Top 10 at iTunes). The song is #2 at Alternative radio, Top 25 at Pop and Top 3 at Shazam.

         

SYCO overlord Simon Cowell has long been a dominant force in British A&R, with his X Factor, among other properties, serving as a prime feeder of pop-friendly talent. The show brought singer Ella Henderson to his attention, and she became a chart phenom in Great Britain. Henderson appears to be the next U.K. discovery to blow up stateside, where she’s on SYCO/Columbia.

Rock duo Royal Blood inked with Max Lousada’s Warner Bros. U.K. and had debuted at #1 on the British album chart by the time their signing with Cameron Strang’s WBR U.S. was announced.

Latium/RCA's Magic! were inked by Sony International's Edgar Berger through Sony U.K.; the record was released in Australia and Canada prior to its U.S. bow, which resulted in the explosion of single "Rude"; the track has sold nearly 3 million domestically. 

Swedish chanteuse Tove Lo, whose "Habits (Stay High)" has blown up on both sides of the ocean, was signed to Ferdy Unger-Hamilton’s Polydor U.K. and David Massey’s Island in the U.S.

These recent successes, of course, follow a wave of British-bred acts that have dominated the U.S. landscape over the last few years, notably SYCO’s One Direction, XL’s Adele, Parlophone’s Coldplay and Asylum’s Ed Sheeran; though she’s a U.S. artist, Polydor’s Lana Del Rey was also first a U.K. signing.

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