Over the last few years, Sony Music U.K. has significantly increased its artist-development might after securing joint-venture deals with some of the hottest labels and executives in the country, which have now grown to represent 30% of the company’s streaming output.

Across Black Butter, Insanity Records, Since ’93 and Relentless (which has been part of Sony since 2012), the labels have delivered 16 platinum and multiplatinum records, as well as 13 Top 10 albums and 19 Top 10 singles, which have racked up more than 18 million sales between them.

As well as diversifying Sony’s offering to artists, Jason Iley, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music U.K. & Ireland, says the labels have brought fresh energy into the building, whilst hinting at more deals to come. “There’s no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to creativity,” he explains. “Each label has a strong culture and ethos, so no matter what an artist requires, there is a team here for them.”

“We have partnered with some of the most entrepreneurial and exceptional executives in the business, and they have brought an incredible energy into our company,” Iley continues. “Joint-venture label deals continue to be a vital part of expanding our business and bringing talented creators into the company.”

Key success stories over the last year at Relentless include a #1 debut album from BRITs British Breakthrough Act Tom Walker, who has sold 1m albums, 7m singles and 1.5 billion streams globally. Acclaimed rapper Headie One has now sold 2m tracks in the U.K. and reached #5 with his Music x Road EP in September, following the Dave collaboration “18Hunna,” which reached #6.

Relentless MD Shabs Jobanputra points to an “incredible” year that exemplifies a long-running belief in quality over quantity, and the backing of Sony’s international team. “Tom Walker is one of the few breakthrough artists the U.K. has seen, and Headie One is making his mark in the U.K urban scene,” he says. “Having the support of Sony Music is invaluable, and the energy within the company feels better than ever at the moment. We do our own thing at Relentless, but utilising the teams across Sony has really helped amplify our artists. Tom Walker is a perfect example; he benefited hugely from the work Mark Collen’s team did to build his profile in Europe.” Names to look out for under Relentless next year include pop singer/songwriter Sody and alternative R&B newcomer Shango SK.

Since ’93’s Glyn Aikins and Riki Bleau flanked by Iley and RCA U.K.’s David Dollimore

Since joining Sony in 2014, Black Butter has scored five Top 10 albums from DJ Khaled, Zara Larsson and Mercury- and BRIT-nominated British rapper J Hus, whose debut album is approaching platinum in the U.K. and has sold 600k globally. The label’s six Top 5 singles include two #1s from DJ Khaled and tracks by Larsson and French Montana, whose hit “Unforgettable” is now triple-platinum. Khaled was also the first artist to have two U.K. #1 singles from the same album since Justin Bieber in 2015.

Black Butter President Joe Gossa enthuses about the support the label he co-founded in 2010 has had under its new parent. “We knew, in coming to Sony, that Jason would give us space to carry on what we started, elevate us to the next level and help us achieve what we set out to do,” he says. “It’s helped us to grow and connect with partners in the U.S. and on a global level, whilst not changing anything about our brand. We have a small team, and our roster speaks volumes about our brand; it has to fit in with what we’re all about—otherwise, it doesn’t work for us or the artist.”

Acts that hold promise of delivering for Black Butter next year include J Hus, who will release his second album; rising rapper Octavian; producer Jae5, who will be releasing his solo project; Nottingham duo Young T & Bugsey, whose Top 10 single ‘Strike a Pose’ is quickly approaching platinum; and rapper Swarmz. There are also some “big singles” coming from U.S. super-producers Take a Daytrip, while eclectic London artist Bakar has been selling out shows in the U.K. and U.S.

Since ’93 is the newest addition to the Sony family, launching as an RCA-affiliated imprint in 2018, with respected A&R and manager duo Glyn Aikins and Riki Bleau at the helm. The label has had a #5 mixtape and #5 album with Fredo, and hit #3 on the U.K. albums chart with the debut EP from Manchester rapper Aitch in September. The two acts have also delivered four Top 5 singles and guested on two #1s (Fredo on Dave’s “Funky Friday” and Aitch on the Sir Spyro remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Take Me Back to London”).

Tom Walker and team (l-r): Relentless’ Mike McNamee, Jamie Croz and Shabs Jobanputra; co-manager Simon King;
the label’s Hannah Colson and Anja Gmuer; co-manager Jake Tasker; and Relentless’ GM, Ben Coates

Since ’93 President Aikins is naturally satisfied with the performance so far. “Considering we started from scratch, setting up a new label/brand and signing a small roster of artists early on in their development, to be in the position of having released successful albums with Fredo, Aitch and DJ Spoony, plus multiple hit singles, with Aitch in particular, is about the best way you could hope to start a label,” he says.

“Partnering with Sony was the result of several conversations with Jason Iley, who understood the vision immediately,” Aikins continues. “Since being here, the support he has given has been fantastic, with plenty of positive energy and freedom to go out there and be the best.”

Projects and names to look out for from Since ’93 going forward include a Fredo album, new music from British/Somalian R&B artist Amun, north London singer/songwriter Rhett Nicoll and a new project from latest signing, east London rapper Morrison.

Founded as a JV in 2015 after 18 years as a management company, Insanity Records has focused on developing two key album artists, Tom Grennan and Craig David, the latter of whom has hit 1b streams. Grennan reached #5 with his 2018 debut album, which has sold 250k worldwide, while David reached #1 with his comeback record in 2016, #2 with the follow-up last year and has had two platinum singles.

Discussing the time working under Sony so far, Insanity President Andy Varley says, “Once I signed the JV deal, Jason gave me and the team full autonomy to be able to sign the artists that we believed in. We hired an exceptional GM in former Virgin EMI exec Alice Beal, and between us we decided to keep the roster lean. We knew that if we had success with [Craig David and Tom Grennan], we would attract others, and we did. Looking back, hitting a billion streams with Craig gave us the confidence that we could compete with any other major record company.

“At Insanity Records, we think slightly differently,” Varley continues. “Our relationships with our artists stem from our background as a successful management business; our involvement in their journeys is unlike any other label, and that’s something we are proud of. We are unique in that we have the luxury of major-label resource whilst remaining fiercely independent and uncomplicated in our working mentality.”

In 2020, Varley points to the arrival of Grennan’s sophomore album and the develop-ment of 20-year-old South London singer/songwriter Joy Crookes. After hiring publishing veteran Alastair Kinross as Head of A&R earlier this year, the goal is to “continue to grow and build the roster on a global level,” Varley asserts.

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