Measuring Progress and Eyeing the Future with Warner Music U.K. Head Max Lousada

There’s been talk this year about the lack of breakthrough U.K. acts and stagnancy of the charts. What’s your response to that, and how do we measure success going forward?
Streaming is an entirely new paradigm, and as an industry we need to adapt—and I’m not just talking about the recorded-music business but the wider media ecosystem. Music and fans simply won’t be confined by traditional cycles any more. Rather than see that as a source of frustration, I believe it’s an incredible opportunity for us to engage in a constant dialogue with audiences, where we’re part of a feedback loop that allows us to be more nimble and dynamic than ever before. For example, the fact we could feel—and show—new talent like Anne-Marie and Dua Lipa getting traction in the U.S. straightaway caught the attention of influencers here, and helped us inject new momentum into their campaigns. The result has been two genuine artist-development success stories where the streaming and tour metrics proved to be a more accurate gauge of their potential than chart positions alone. Of course, the charts remain an influential indicator and every act is different, but fans are talking to us through a lot of channels; if we want to be truly responsive, we need to listen to all of them.

This year you’ve been implementing your vision of transforming Warner into a family of frontline labels, not dissimilar to the setup of Sony and Universal, whose marketshare you’ve been edging ever-closer to. How does that vision affect your success, and what are the unique elements of Warner that will ensure you see continued success in 2017?
Warner was really the blueprint for the “family of labels” style of music company. Ever since Warner Bros. Records, Elektra and Atlantic came together, we’ve always been most successful when we’ve had a collective of strong, independently minded, artist-centric labels with their own creative identities. With that in mind, our current approach of returning Parlophone and Warner Bros. to having dedicated leadership and continuing to invest in Atlantic and East West feels more like DNA than strategy. But just as important as the differences between our labels are the values that unite us all. Irrespective of where someone works in the organization, we’re all here to help deliver music and experiences that make people feel, that inspire them to engage, react and connect, and everyone is empowered to play as big a part in that as they can. That’s what’s unique about Warner: We’ve created a real culture, a shared sense of purpose, an appetite for change and a collective sense of responsibility for our success that makes the whole company so much more than just the sum of its parts.

How positive do you feel about the future of the British music business and why?
It feels like we’re entering a really important era for British music. It’s always been one of our greatest exports and now that streaming has broken down geographic borders, the opportunity for us and for our artists is unprecedented. The idea of “local versus global” is increasingly anachronistic. Today, every campaign is a global campaign from day one.