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U.K. SPOTLIGHT: ANGLO-AMERICAN RELATIONS

If the music business is now global in scale, as everyone seems to agree, the vast majority of globally released music continues to emanate from the U.S. and the U.K. What’s more, American companies and their British counterparts have never been more in sync than they are now. Indeed, Paul McCartney’s classic refrain, “Hands across the water,” is now a transatlantic mantra.

With several British execs running companies based in the U.S., starting with Lucian Grainge, this unification was as inevitable as it was necessary. And, as Jason Iley—who’s worked on both sides of the pond—points out  in our U.K. Big Three story, Britain has spawned a staggering amount of universally appealing talent for more than a half century. That phenomenon is as dramatically apparent in 2015 as it was in 1965, and any American exec who doesn’t spend a good portion of his time looking eastward is not long for the gig.

We tossed some questions about the crisscrossing activities between U.S. and U.K. companies to a bunch of British label heads; here’s what they had to say on the subject.  

At what point in the development of new acts in the U.S. are you entering the process?
Island’s Darcus Beese: It really depends, but increasingly we are in there right from the very beginning with our U.S. partners.

Columbia’s Mark Terry: We look at every artist on a case-by-case basis. There are obviously situations where it makes most sense to wait for a strong story to emerge in the U.S., but equally we can also find ourselves leading or running in tandem in the U.K. We’ve recently had great success with the likes of Leon Bridges, Raury and LunchMoney Lewis—and none of these campaigns relied on a story from the U.S.

Atlantic’s Ben Cook: We work with U.S. acts from the get-go to make sure we’re landing the best possible opportunities. It’s a constant dialogue between the teams 
on both sides of the Atlantic. We’re very well integrated.

What signs do you look for in making U.K. acts compelling enough to translate to the U.S.?
Capitol’s Nick Raphael: We sign every artist on the same criteria: likeability, ambition and talent. If they have all those assets combined with great material, then I truly believe they can sell on a global basis—including America.

Columbia’s Alison Donald: Great songs and a world-class voice, delivered by a compelling artist. A good work ethic is essential. These are the principles behind most of our signings.

Black Butter’s Joe Gossa: I personally don’t sign acts on that basis. We sign unique, talented artists, and we’re very ambitious. I’d be confident that these are key components to break the U.S. Besides, if I love an act, I believe everyone else will too.

Parlophone/Warner Bros.’ Miles Leonard: I always believe that the artists who tend to make it in the U.S. have something incredibly unique to offer. The U.S. recognizes absolute talent in every way—great songs, great performers, ambition and hardworking attitude. The best in class. Something half-baked or fad-based won’t work. 

Changes at Radio 1 have seen fewer new and developing U.S. bands getting any real airplay before they break in the U.S. This seems like a positive for U.K. bands, but how much heat are you getting from your sister U.S. labels?
Mark Terry: There is a general issue with breaking bands in the U.K., whether domestic or not, but the old rules still apply—if they attract widespread specialist support, it’s an easier route to daytime.

Ben Cook: We haven’t experienced less support for developing U.S. and U.S.-signed acts at Radio 1. Look at Charlie Puth, who had back-to-back airplay #1s within seven weeks, or Galantis, who have enjoyed two huge hits in the U.K. this year.

What genres do you see as new areas of growth for the U.K. market? Could contemporary country, for instance, attract a substantial audience?
ADA/East West/Rhino’s Dan Chalmers: I’m excited about the recent growth of country in the U.K., and the likes of BBC Radio 2 have been vocal with their support. We’re working with Hunter Hayes in collaboration with our U.S. Nashville office to help develop his career over here.

Mark Terry: I don’t think we’re really that concerned about genres. The only thing that matters is finding and supporting great artists with great records, whatever genre they’re in.

We’re very excited about the new Carrie Underwood album. She’s an incredible talent and this is a great record—everything else builds from there. 

When you’re signing new bands, how much discretion do you and they have in deciding which U.S. label they’ll be on?
Nick Raphael: My preferred option is Steve—I advise all my artists to work with Capitol U.S.—Steve’s team of Greg, Michelle, Scott and the many unsung heroes who have over-delivered on both Sam and 5SOS.

Alison Donald: We are lucky to have the choice of fantastic labels within Sony U.S. The decision tends to be made by both artist management and label, dependent on passion shown for the act in question.

Joe Gossa: Total discretion.


What big U.S. act on your roster will be the next to break in Blighty?
Sony’s Nicola Tuer: Sia is about to explode. We laid really solid foundations on the last record—1000 Forms of Fear—translating her singles success to album sales for the first time and got to 250k album sales and 410k album equivalents. The lead single from her new album—“Alive”—is the most commercial of her career and we are targeting double platinum and beyond. Going into 2016, we think Travis Scott and Elle King both have a really strong chance of breaking in the U.K.

Mark Terry: Leon Bridges has just finished wowing audiences in the U.K., with a run of sold-out shows, culminating in two nights at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, where he received standing ovations on both nights. His debut album has received critical acclaim from U.K. media and is now starting to attract really meaningful airplay. It feels like we’re just getting started. We’re also incredibly excited about Elle King, who’s currently having a hit in the U.S. with her single “Ex’s and Oh’s.” We fell in love with Elle some time ago, and it’s great to see her finally receiving the acclaim she deserves. She’s also been in the U.K. supporting James Bay, and it feels like she could be taking the U.K. by storm over the coming months.

PIAS’ Peter Thompson: The U.S. act I desperately want to break in the U.K. is Lucius. Jess and Holly are two of the best songwriters around, and their sound and look are unique.

Darcus Beese: Nick Jonas has a big chance of breaking in the U.K.

Ben Cook: I think two acts are on the cusp. Twenty One Pilots are primed to be huge—they have a base of 35,000 album sales of Blurryface with minimal mainstream exposure, and it’s very clear to me there’s major room to develop. Charlie Puth is looking very strong, too, and we believe he’s another artist who’ll be a significant presence in the U.K. market over the next year. It’s great to have such great U.S. propositions alongside our home-grown stars, who currently sit at #1, 2 and 3 in the U.K. album charts—Rudimental, Ed and Jess Glynne, as Jamie Lawson is also about to break through.


Which big U.K. act will be the next to break in the U.S.?
B-unique’s Mark Lewis: We are so excited by a band called The Mispers; they are the best live band we have ever had on the label, and now they have the huge songs to match their joyous live show. They are licensed from B-unique to Harvest/Capitol, who are a great team and instantly got the band after hearing one song and seeing a live video. The record will be coming out next year, and we are going to do everything we can to get people as excited as we are about them. We have so much respect for the U.S. market and know just how hard it is to break, but we really feel that The Mispers have a great shot.

Nicola Tuer: Bring Me the Horizon have had a fantastic start to the That’s the Spirit campaign and are breaking out worldwide. They debuted at #2 in the U.K. and U.S., #1 in Canada and Australia and were Top 10 in 16 countries. We are confident that by the end of the campaign, they will have become a major stadium act.

Peter Thompson: Of our U.K. artists, I sincerely hope Twin Wild may well have a good shot. Their brand of anthemic rock songs is so radio-friendly that they stand every chance of getting radio support in the States.

Mark Terry: We’re very optimistic about the potential of the new Snakehips record breaking on both sides of the Atlantic and hope to see artists such as Rag & Bone Man, Samm Henshaw and Raleigh Ritchie heading there in 2016.

With the many Brits now running U.S. labels,could you, perhaps, be one of them?
Nick Raphael: I am an ambitious person—so is my partner in crime, Jo—if the right offer came along at the right time, I’d love the opportunity/challenge. But for the foreseeable future, I am committed to Capitol U.K.—our wonderful artists, my amazing team and David, who has backed us every step of the way.

Alison Donald: It is not part of my current plans!

Joe Gossa: Why, what have you heard?! 

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