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Alistair Norbury

BMG U.K.'S DOING A-OK

Iconic British artist Rick Astley will score his highest-charting record since 1988 on Friday, with 50 just 14 sales behind the current #1, Columbia's Tom Odell. For Astley’s label BMG, it will be the second record to have hit the upper echelons of the U.K. albums chart over the last few months—and they assure us it’s a sign of things to come.

In March, BMG—an eight-year-young firm that's been heavy on acquisitions in recent years—hired former James co-manager Alistair Norbury to sign iconic acts as EVP International Artists. Success with James’ Girl at the End of the World that same month, which hit #2 on the U.K. Official Albums Chart, and now Astley, is a prime example of the firm’s increasingly competitive recorded music business, he told us.

Astley is signed to an artist services deal, and, alongside the strength of the record, it’s the collaboration between his team and BMG’s that’s helped drive sales, said Norbury. “It’s also about the lead time, and the fact that Rick has disappeared from the public eye for a few years. We live in a business where the cycle of music has become very quick, I think if you take some time away, and when you come back deliver something really strong, the media sits up and pays attention.”

Thanks to radio man Rich Perry, Astley has had two A-listed singles at BBC Radio 2, and 50 was the station’s Album of the Week this week. Press has been helmed by Neil Bhatt at DDA; predominantly a film and TV publicity company that has secured a number of daytime TV slots including The National Lottery Live, Loose Women and Big Breakfast. Astley is managed by Lene Bausager and his live agent, Simon Moran atSJM, was the one to point Norbury in the direction of his new record.

Norbury is expecting BMG to have its third U.K. Top 5 album of 2016 in Blink 182’s California, released on 7/1. He’s also got a number of artist signings set to be completed in due course. Elsewhere at the company, the U.K. recordings business run by Korda Marshall has records from punk band White Lies and singer/songwriter Katie Melua this year, with developing acts including DMAs, Drenge and Dead! (who all go through the Infectious imprint).

Said Norbury: "Acquisition gives you two things: catalogue and a good team of people. That's our bedrock, and we're now starting to sign artists directly who see BMG as an attractive option, but we want to be the best.

"The recording side of the business is growing very rapidly. We have the ambition and A&R appetite to sign a lot of artists and give them exactly the same service and results that we have with Rick."

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