26.06.10 Music Week 3
Syco shifts focus away from reality TV shows in search for new artist signings
Syco branches out with Labrinth
Labels By Paul Williams
SYCO HAS DECLARED ITSELF “open for business” to bring in more artists outside the world of reality TV after signing rising UK urban artist, songwriter and producer Labrinth.
The co-writer and producer of Tinie Tempah’s hit singles Pass Out and Frisky last week became the first artist in six years to sign to Simon Cowell’s Sony label without a connection to one of its TV platforms.
The deal is now likely to lead to Syco signing more acts outside The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, not least because Labrinth has been given his own label imprint within the company to bring in artists himself.
Syco managing director Sonny Takhar acknowledges that “because our business has been focused on TV shows”, some artists and their managers might not have thought about signing to the company, but he believes this deal with Labrinth “sends out a clear message to artists, lawyers and the management community that we are open for business”.
“We want to have a more-round-
ed label,” he says. “We’ve got a very robust company, which is very different to other music companies out there. We’re in the TV business and we’re very successful in that business; we’re in 40 markets. It’s a very broad church of artists: on one side we’ve got Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke and on the other side the likes of Susan Boyle, so I’m always looking for the right type of artists that have the philosophy of Syco. That is artists who are stars, that write great songs and have global ambitions.”
According to Takhar, Labrinth perfectly fits that description, although he acknowledges that when his new signing first approached him about writing and producing for
Syco artists he did not know he was also an artist in his own right.
“He came in to see me six weeks ago in the guise of being a producer of our artists. I didn’t have any idea he was an artist himself until the course of the conversation we were having,” says Takhar.
“He played me three or four songs he had written for himself and it became very apparent this guy had all the attributes of what we want when we sign an artist. First and foremost he has the swagger and presence of a star. He’s clearly a prolific songwriter and producer and thirdly he’s someone who is engrained in a scene that is now enjoying huge commercial success.”
Takhar believes, out of all the current successful UK urban artists, Labrinth is the one with the most international potential, while he is also encouraged by his songwriting ambitions. “The first thing he wants to do is go to Nashville. To me this says he has got an approach which is completely refreshing because he understands and respects songwriting,” he says.
Labrinth will be launched as a solo artist with his self-penned and produced single Let The Sunshine in the first week of September, while the plan is to “take our time” with his first album, which will not appear until next summer.
But Syco will also look to Labrinth to bring in artists himself through the newly-formed Odd Child/Syco imprint, run by himself and his manager Mark Williams. Takhar says, “For me it is a huge opportunity to attract other artists through his standing within that [urban] genre. Giving him the label imprint was a very easy decision as he is an artist who can attract other artists.”
The artist launch of Labrinth will come in another very busy closing period of the year for Syco, which in 2009 had the year’s topselling album through Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream with sales of 1.6m by year’s end.
Its Q4 schedule this year will include the second Boyle album, produced as the first by Steve Mac, new albums by Il Divo, Westlife and Shayne Ward, a repackaging of Alexandra Burke’s album Overcome and the debut album by 2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry. email@example.com
Figures fly in the face of music’s football fatigue myth
THE ENTERTAINMENT RETAILERS ASSOCIATION has released figures which could finally debunk one of the oldest myths in music industry lore – namely that the World Cup is anathema for music sales.
As the tournament continues in South Africa this week, Eminem’s Recovery (left) and Miley Cyrus’ Can’t Be Tamed are both released today (Monday). These are followed next Monday by Scissor Sisters’ Night Work and Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite on July 5.
These, however, are the exceptions. Labels generally shy away from releasing big new albums during the World Cup as it is thought that consumers are less interested in buying music – or, indeed, anything other than TVs, beer and barbeque – during this period.
To attempt to settle this debate once and for all, ERA asked chart compiler Millward Brown to come up with statistics showing album sales during World Cup weeks as a percentage of total sales that year. It then compared these stats to sales activity during non-World Cup years.
In 2002, a World Cup year, 11.9m albums were sold in the UK during the five World Cup weeks – or 8.0% of total sales that year (see table above).
What World Cup effect? Eight years of albums sales
2002 (World Cup) 149,179
2006 (World Cup) 154,099
World Cup five weeks
Sales (000s) % of year’s sales
Source: Millward Brown
The following year, in the five equivalent weeks, 12.5m albums were sold – or just 7.9% of the year’s total sales.
In 2004, 12.4m albums were sold during the five equivalent weeks – 7.6% of the year’s total. In 2005, the equivalent percentage was 9.0%.
In 2006, when the World Cup was staged in Germany, 12.6m albums were sold in the five World Cup weeks, or 8.2% of total album sales that year.
The figures, of course, do not prove anything comprehensively – Music Week recently reported that June 2006 accounted for 7.9% of total music sales that year, while the average for June over the past five years is 8.2% – and there are a number of variables, such as release schedules, the weather and even the performance of the British and Irish teams.
But ERA director general Kim Bayley says the statistics do reflect the ingenuity of retailers faced with the World Cup. “Accepted wisdom is that footfall is less during the World Cup – you don’t get as many people wandering through the stores,” she says. “Retailers have to work doubly hard to generate sales. Retailers go out there and think of ways to get people back in to their stores, being creative about marketing products.”
HMV’s approach during the World Cup has been to create a twopronged campaign that appeals to both lovers of the beautiful game and football haters.
But the company’s head of music Melanie Armstrong says sales trends during this World Cup have been hard to judge.
“Overall it is difficult to comment on sales trends as we have Father’s Day shopping this week, which is creating a spike, and should result in a pretty busy Friday and Saturday.
“Our current bestsellers are very much Father’s Day- and World Cup-driven right now – Oasis’ Time Flies really is f lying and the timing of its release couldn’t be more perfect for us, and various Dads compilations are also doing well.”
The news comes as this week’s singles chart is again packed full of football-related songs, including Dizzee Rascal and James Corden’s Shout, K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag, the evergreen Three Lions and Terry Venables’ If I Can Dream.
THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC www.musicweek.com
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FEATURES MUSIC AND SPORT It is a mutually beneficial association as music and sport draw ever closer
Roger Faxon brings EMI’s publishing and recorded music under one umbrella for the first time
Faxon forms united front at EMI
Executives By Charlotte Otter
ROGER FAXON SAYS HE HOPES HIS PROMOTION to EMI Group CEO, overseeing the major’s publishing and recorded music divisions, will dispel any rumour that the company is looking to sell its publishing arm.
His promotion means that for the first time in the music group’s history the recorded music and publishing arms will directly report to the same man and comes as EMI repositions itself as a “comprehensive rights management company”. Faxon will be based in New York – the first time that EMI’s chief executive will be located outside of the UK.
The shock announcement came after months of speculation that EMI could be forced to sell off its lucrative publishing arm to help owner Terra Firma settle some of its debts with Citigroup. Those fears were eased somewhat earlier this month with the news that Terra Firma had secured a £105m bailout from investors.
Now Faxon underlines that he is not in the mood for selling. “Anyone who knows me knows that I have an aversion to the sale of any copyright,”
he says. “We are in a business to grow and to develop and to bring together great musical works – not only compositions but recordings as well. We are not sellers, we are developers and acquirers of rights and that needs to be remembered.”
Faxon, who has been chairman and CEO of EMI Publishing since 2007, says publishing and records “working in concert with one another as a global rights management business, can and will deliver for the artists and songwriters that we are privileged to work with now and in the future”.
Already he has identified a number of key areas in which EMI
New York-based Faxon (left) will be the first EMI chief executive based outside the UK
Music could learn from the success of the publishing division, naming the publisher’s “singular focus” on the development of its songwriters as one model which can be applied to the record company.
In an internal email to staff sent out the morning of his appointment last Friday, Faxon explains, “We must cultivate a culture of co-operation that will enable us to work better and more effectively across different geographies, functions and divisions. In other words, we need to be a team.”
Faxon tells Music Week that it is essential for the major to start focusing on building value for its artists and songwriters, something he believes EMI has failed to do in the past.
“In this changing marketplace, there is an increasing need to look at all the ways music can be found and enjoyed by consumers,” Faxon explains. “Music does not just reach consumers through sales or records; it gets there through radio, internet, toys etcetera.
“Here at EMI Publishing I don’t think that we have been looking at the world in entirely that way. We are closer to that vision than the recording side, but overall we need to understand that we have a broader and potentially more complex set of opportunities to find markets for our music and we need to step back and look at this strategically.”
He notes this approach is simply a reaction to “the reality of the marketplace” and continues, “I don’t want to measure the success of our company through how many units or records are sold, as this is not necessarily the best indicator of success. But obviously there has to be an economic model in place that allows creators of that music to receive the compensation that they do and this will continue to be part of our job.”
Alongside Faxon’s appointment Charles Allen, who was appointed executive chairman of EMI in March following the departure of Elio Leoni-Sceti, becomes an adviser to EMI and its owner Terra Firma, while former Terra Firma MD Stephen Alexander will become chairman of EMI holding company Maltby Capital. Lord Birt, formerly chairman of Maltby, will move on to other Terra Firma assignments.
Commenting on the changes, Faxon says, “I think that Stephen is a hugely experienced executive who understands EMI from both the recorded music and publishing side. As a result he is an extremely good choice to be the chairman of our parent company and the board that surround him will be equally distinguished.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Colin Lester has global goal for Universal’s artist management plans
COLIN LESTER, THE NEWLYINSTALLED CEO of Universal’s management business Twenty First Artists, says the major wants to become a global force in artist management, with plans to establish both a New York office and a producer management becoming a major player in management – I wouldn’t have agreed to the deal otherwise,” Lester says of the move. “I’ve got my own ideas about how to achieve that, so it’s a great challenge and one I’m already enjoying.”
Lester’s CLM operation includes restructuring Twenty First Artists, but it’s too early to talk about any of that at the moment because it is a complex organisation with lots of deals in place both here and internationally,” says Lester.
But he has definite ideas about the direction he wants to take the and managers,” he continues.
“Unless we move forward with investment it will become increasingly difficult for managers to succeed so I will be looking to offer investment to artists through buying a percentage of their business – excluding publishing,
As for his own office, he says he will remain in his existing location in the former Virgin Records building at Portobello Dock and Twenty First Artists staff will relocate there following the conclusion of his review.
Whether those employees will
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