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 POLYDOR'S RECIPE
FOR SUCCESS

If there’s one label that has shone brighter than the rest in the U.K. over the last year, it’s undoubtedly Polydor. The UMG imprint has the most #1 albums during that period with seven (Atlantic takes second place with three), from a diverse mix of homegrown stars including Sam Fender and multi-BRIT Award winners The 1975, established names Elbow, Lana Del Rey and Take That, U.S. breakout smash Billie Eilish and the A Star Is Born ST. Under the joint reign of Tom March and Ben Mortimer, who took the helm of the label in 2016, Polydor’s AES all-albums marketshare has risen nearly 3% and moved up three places to #2 on the leaderboard, behind only longtime champ Virgin EMI (which claims the biggest breakthrough artist of the year in Lewis Capaldi).

As UMG U.K. chief David Joseph notes, “All our labels have had a great year, but Polydor’s renaissance has been a standout. Tom and Ben have created a culture of confidence, energy, communication and, above all, ambition. If they have one distinction, it’s the value they bring to artists, and their acknowledgment of the immense responsibility that comes with it. It’s undoubtedly an ethos which has rubbed off on the whole of their team.”

With Eilish and BRITs Critics Choice winner Fender, both of whom will play arenas next year, Polydor has two of the three biggest debuts of 2019, with 48k and 41k combined first-week sales, respectively. Mabel isn’t far behind after hitting Top 3 with her debut and having a global streaming hit with #3 track “Don’t Call Me Up,” which has reached nearly a billion streams worldwide, while “Mad Love” peaked at #8 on the U.K. Official Singles Chart.

In addition, Yungblud reached #6 on the U.K’s Official Albums Chart with his latest EP at the end of October and has sold out the 5k-capacity Brixton Academy, and soulful singer/songwriter Celeste is fast becoming a key name to look out for in 2020.

Alongside Eilish, who has sold out four 20k-capacity O2 Arena shows for July, Polydor has lent a hand to another breaking act from the U.S. in Summer Walker, who peaked at #7 in the U.K. with her debut in October. After a particularly quiet period for breaking British acts (there were no #1 debut albums last year), Polydor has helped revitalise the market.

The run of success, according to March, is partly due to his label staff. “We’re a young creative team who have been growing together over the past three years, all hustling and fighting for each other and our artists,” he tells us. “We’re quick to jump on new ways of breaking and exposing our artists’ music. The label is able to deliver a wide variety of campaigns. I love working and having success with our established roster and delivering spectacular campaigns, but I’ve been really loving breaking a load of new artists this year. We’ve had a great year for that.”

Mortimer points to the quality of output, which also included a gold-selling album from dance act Jax Jones, who has racked up 3.5b total global streams, a #2 house smash with “Piece of Your Heart” from Meduza f/Goodboys (signed via UMG Germany), and James Blake, who achieved his highest chart position yet at #6 with the critically acclaimed Assume Form. Jonas Brothers also had a career best in Blighty, as their comeback album peaked at #2. And with Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey (jointly signed with Interscope) had her fourth U.K. #1 and sold over 700k adjusted albums globally, with 3.3b total streams.

“The main factor behind our great year is that we’ve put out some bloody great music,” Mortimer says. “Whether that’s from patient artist development with Mabel and Sam Fender, some precise streaming-focused A&R with Jax Jones and Meduza or long-term investment in our brilliant roster of artists, seeing the likes of James Blake, Elbow and Lana Del Rey continue their success. And some wonderful albums from our partner labels, so much so that it’s hard to single them out, although Billie Eilish, Jonas Brothers and Summer Walker have all been great artists to be involved with.”

Polydor has also released two of the biggest-selling soundtrack albums with the domestically signed Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which was #1 for five weeks last year, and A Star Is Born, which was the first soundtrack to top both the albums and singles chart in the U.K. The Cats ST will arrive before the end of the year.

So who should we be looking out for next year? Alongside Celeste, new signings with albums coming in 2020 will include Canadian singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez, dance duo Prospa and rock bands Sea Girls and Inhaler (whose frontman, Elijah Hewson, is the son of Bono).

Clearly not one to rest on his laurels, March points toward an even bigger 2020, concluding: “It’s been a decent year, but there’s still so much more to do. I’m much more excited about what we’re going to do over the next 12 months. We have some brilliant plans for the label and what we can offer to our artists and managers. I feel confident we can take things up another gear from where we are now.”

THE BIZ SALUTES
JOE SMITH
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REVENUE CHART:
MALONE IS MONEY
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YOUR TOP 20 IS BOTH ICY AND POST-TOASTY
Actually, we'd prefer a bowl of oatmeal. (12/5a)
THE HAPPY WARRIOR OF THE RECORD BUSINESS
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Those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it. (12/5a)
EGGNOG!
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MISTLETOE!
Delicious in salads.
CHESTNUTS!
Ours are roasting, but it could be these slim-fit jeans.
WEED!
An entire Christmas tree made of it. Is what we want for Christmas.
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