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U.K. SPOTLIGHT:
THE MANAGERS

Sarah Stennett, whose management clients include Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea and Zayn Malik, notes that a breakthrough in the U.K. is still just a starting point for an artist.

“The return in the level of success and recognition for an artist globally is very much reflective on their success in the U.S.,” she says, answering questions days before announcing that her Turn First management company would be absorbed in a new joint-venture with Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, First Access Entertainment.

HITS polled several leading U.K. managers for their takes on radio, streaming, strategy and licensing music for commercials. In nearly every instance, they spoke of working with and trusting teams, whether they be label partners, song pluggers or the artists, themselves.

“My approach is to try to create an environment for my artists within which they can make the music that’s in their hearts and to express themselves without the filter of outside opinion,” says Adam Tudhope, manager of Mumford & Sons and owner of Everybody’s, whose management clients include Keane and Laura Marling. “Once an album is delivered, I am very reliant on our most-trusted partners at record labels to give us a view on where the record fits into a market that they know much more fully than I or my artists do. One big part of that advice is, what’s the right first statement to launch the album?”

That’s a crucial point—especially the first volley fired stateside. For some artists, that first single sets the tone for a career that continues to explode—think One Direction, Sam Smith, 5 Seconds of Summer—and others land in a no man’s land from which they never recover.

“I still wish the U.S. would have some national formats such as the U.K.’s Radio 1, Radio 2 and 6 Music—NPR is perhaps as close as it gets,” says Maverick’s Scott Rodger, founder of Quest Management with clients such as Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire, Lily Allen and Lykke Li. “Spending as much time in the U.S. as I do, you get to know the formats and what is working, or what the current flavor happens to be at a specific time, so you do have a better gauge as to what may and what may not have a chance to work in the U.S.”

Richard Griffiths, co-founder of Modest! Management, has had a good handle on what can cross the pond in the pop marketplace. His clients One Direction and Little Mix have proven TV singing competitions can still produce stars, and that a seal of approval from a pop band can deliver an audience for a rock band, as was the case with client 5 Seconds of Summer.

His artists all want stardom in the U.S., but he realizes, “It needs a huge commitment to working in the U.S. market, and learning that it’s not about New York and L.A.—it’s everything that goes on in-between.”

Back in the U.K., he has a unique situation for his acts as almost all are booked by Mike Greek at CAA, while promoter Simon Moran handles most of his acts’ tours.

Moran is also a favorite of Rodger’s— “I’ve grown up in the business with him and see how his company has grown from one small office to the company it is today,” he says—but spreading out among agencies is crucial for success. “Even in the festival-heavy market we live in,” he says, “working with the right agent is crucial for every artist.”

Tudhope concurs, giving props to Lucy Dickins at ITB and Matt Wooliscroft at SJM for handling Laura Marling and the first-ever tour of cathedrals in the U.K., and Adam Voith at The Billions Corp. for booking the train tour Mumford & Sons did with Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

“We’re always trying to do one-off stuff, and without flexible, imaginative agents who aren’t necessarily just motivated by money, it wouldn’t be possible,” Tudhope says. “Promoting as a business has had to up its game in the U.K., with all the competition out there, so it’s generally being done really well across the board.”

While managers have their say in approaches to touring, record releases and radio, one area they have considerable control is the brand of an artist. Stennett and Rodger have their doubts about how streaming plays into developing an artist’s brand, but licensing music is an area that they all feel strongly about.

“We’re always looking for new ways to develop our artists’ brands,” says Rodger. “But we all tend to follow current trends, not always a good thing, such as ensuring that our artists’ music is on every relevant playlist. There has to be a better way to do this!”

“Streaming platforms themselves have to effectively communicate their brand before they can be part of the ‘development’ conversation,” Stennett says, contrasting that with commercial opportunities. “If you choose the right partnerships, it can be massively successful. We’ve been one of the leading management companies in terms of brand association for many years and have developed our relationships across the board; we understand how to navigate opportunities, and we are strategic in our approach—always mindful that we create an authentic collaboration which resonates and reinforces an artist’s brand to their fans.”

Rodger points out that sync and licensing deals allow artists to go into profit from recorded music, but notes “there is not a one-size-fits-all rule here.” Rodger’s client Lily Allen, for example, covered a song from Tudhope’s client Keane, for a holiday season ad for the department store chain John Lewis. The song, “Somewhere Only We Know,” topped the U.K. Official Singles Chart in late 2013 and sold more than 600k copies.

“When it comes to commercials, I think there are some underlying concerns that anyone would have about the product they are part of advertising,” says Tudhope. “When it comes to how the music is perceived in the world in relation to that commercial, I think the most crucial thing to know and have approval of is the visual creative. Is the music alongside something really special/moving/interesting/visually brilliant? If it is, then the association can be a good one, and a perfectly decent way of exposing your music to a new audience. If the commercial is badly made, and for a product you hate, don’t do it.”


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