Record companies:
Powering the music ecosystem

In today’s dynamic global music ecosystem, the role of the record label as the leading investor in music and partner and collaborator with artists has never been more important.


of revenues invested back into music annually


annual investment into A&R and marketing


invested in marketing annually


invested in A&R annually

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Record labels provide artists
unique, unmatched support



Record labels can provide artists with:

Resources and people: to bolster a growing team where needed
Investment: to realise their artistic vision
Expertise: to engage with marketplaces worldwide
Relationships: to connect them to other talented artists and creators
Support: with creating and recording their music
Global coordination: helping to reach fans worldwide


Promotion teams help the artist’s music reach fans worldwide

Playlisting | Radio Plugging | Photo shoots | Trip Scheduling

Data Insights

Data Insights teams use metrics such as streams and global reach to help the artist make choices about their career

Data Analytics | Campaign reach


Catalogue teams secure opportunities for music more than 18-24 months post-release

Non-Record Income

Non-Record Income teams help to create and then sell artist merchandise either at gigs or via the artist’s website

Direct to Consumer | Artist Merchandise


Artists & Repertoire (A&R) sign an artist to a record label, which provides creative and commercial expertise, as well as financial support, to support the artist’s music creation

Discovering | Recording | Remixing | Artist Development |
Track Development | Repertoire | Studio Liaison

Business Affairs & Legal

Business Affairs & Legal work with all partners in the artist’s career

Contracts | Partnerships

Commercial Services

Commercial teams are responsible for an artist’s sales across physical and digital

Physical Sales | Digital Sales & Streaming | Sales Reporting |
Chart & Data Analysis


Marketing teams facilitate multimedia campaigns that grow the artist’s presence online and offline

Advertising (billboards, TV ads) | Sales Monitoring | Launch Campaigns

Sync / Brand

Sync and Brand teams work with the artist to agree partnerships with like-minded brands that reflect their image and connect with fans

Brand Partnerships | Creative Partnerships | Sync Opportunities

Video Production

In-house video production specialists collaborate with the artist on everything from video concepts to partnering with a director

Concept | Music Videos | Social Media Content

Creative Services

Creative teams help the artist develop their visual identity and collaborate on things like album artwork and music videos

Visual Production | Album Artwork | Packaging


Publicity teams grow the artist’s profile across a variety of media

TV | Media Appearances | Website | Social Media

This deep network of creative men and women is responsible for helping an artist develop at every step of their musical journey.

Acting as a partner to help artists achieve both commercial and creative success, a record company provides a broad network of supportive, creative people that nurture and develop artists, helping them cut through and connect with fans in more ways than ever before, at every step of their musical journey.

How an artist works with a record company/label

New models and ways of working mean artists have more flexibility and choice in how they create their music than ever before.

Here is just one example of an artist’s collaboration with their record label.


A&R signs an artist to a record label, which provides creative and commercial expertise, as well as financial support, to support the artist’s music creation.

Marketing & Digital

Marketing and digital teams facilitate multimedia campaigns that grow the artist’s presence online and offline.

Sync & Partnership

Sync and partnership teams work with the artist to agree partnerships with like-minded brands that reflect their image and connect with fans.

Global Distribution

Global Distribution teams deliver, manage and track the distribution of the artist’s music both physical and digital.

Creative Teams

Creative teams help the artist develop their visual identity and collaborate on things like album artwork and music videos.

Press & Publicity

Press and publicity teams secure media coverage, radio and TV appearances.

Global Reach

International teams help accelerate the artist’s profile by bringing the artist’s music to new territories, growing their global fanbase.


Artist Case Studies

Further Reading

Rebooting the Record Label

Prof. Larry Miller

New report illustrates how modern record labels remade themselves in the streaming era.

Read more >

The Value of a Label

IFPI Global Music Report 2019

Record companies are both the spark and the engine, igniting and driving music...

Read more >

Record companies:

Powering the music ecosystem

Download the poster

Download >

Li Nong

Case study

Chen Li Nong is taking China by storm. And that’s just the beginning of his journey. He’s also creating his own unique sounds, shaping his career and reaching for global success – all in partnership with his record company, UMG.

Universal Music China first identified Chen Li Nong as a potential breakout star when he appeared as a competitor on television’s Idol Producer, and later signed him as a solo artist in November 2019. His first UMG single, Features of Happiness, was released on New Year’s Day 2020 and rapidly broke the 10 million streams barrier.

Building on that success, Unbelonging (his debut UMG album) was released in June 2020 and garnered seven sales records on the QQ Music platform, including going Diamond in just one minute – a breath-taking accomplishment. Winning a raft of awards and attention, Chen Li Nong’s social media reach has exploded, with a combined total of nearly 19 million followers across all platforms – with more than 17 million on Weibo alone.

Garand Wu, Managing Director of Universal Music China, says: “It’s a partnership. To succeed, labels and artists must share a vision. That’s why we are confident of success together: we believe in him and his many abilities, his aspirations align with what we see in him, and we believe in our team’s experience and ideas from an A&R perspective.”

“From the get-go, we worked closely with him and his management on a vision to propel him from China, throughout Asia and to the world. There is J-Pop, there is K-Pop, and there will be C-Pop. And Chen Li Nong will be among the vanguard.”

Yvonne Yuen, SVP, Marketing, Greater China, Universal Music, adds: “With Chen Li Nong, the key is his creative input. We recognise his unique talents and we are working to nurture that talent. Our A&R team hunts for the best songwriters to partner with him both as an artist, and as a writer himself. This is an investment, from him and from us, to put that time in as a writer and an artist, and let the music take care of itself.”

One step towards international recognition was the single Masterpiece, released in late 2020 featuring US actress and singer Hailee Steinfeld. Yuen says: “They connected through music. We worked with Hailee’s A&R team to find the right song and she had her input into the English lyrics. The whole thing was a very close partnership between the two artists and with UMG’s Republic Records team.

“These collaborations have to be authentic and they have to be organic; those are the qualities on which Chen Li Nong’s career will be built, and how he will become known and respected inside and outside China and around the world – by staying true to who he is.”

Case study first published in 2021.



Case study

Hit-making artist, producer, and songwriter Travis Scott is renowned for pushing the boundaries of creativity and tapping into the Zeitgeist.

However, with the world locked down due to the pandemic, the visionary artist wanted to help his fans – if only just for a small moment – escape the strains born by a global pandemic by giving them a freeing and unforgettable experience in the virtual world.

So, he and his record label, Epic Records, part of Sony Music Entertainment and the wider Sony family, worked on bringing his vision to life.

“At Epic we’re guided by the creators who influence and drive cultural moments and that includes leaders in technology, film, fashion, gaming, art, and content development, like Travis Scott,” says Sylvia Rhone, Chairwoman and CEO, Epic Records. “We have the benefit of plugging into the broader Sony system and giving our artists endless opportunities, so they can create for any audience they want to reach.

“When Travis came to us with a vision of constructing a virtual concert, unbound by the rules of physics and science, where he could give fans a truly immersive experience, we knew we could help him make it happen. Despite being a global star he is still reaching new milestones. He is a creative genius and also a huge gamer, so it was very authentic and natural for him to be partnered with Epic Games to hold his concert on Fortnite.”

On the evening of 23rd April 2020, the combined creative effort of Travis Scott, Epic Records and Fortnite’s developers – titled Astronomical – was revealed to the world.

“It was an intense and ethereal experience for virtual concertgoers”, says Rhone, “and shows just how in tune Travis Scott and the developers were from the offset, which led to its huge success.

“When Travis and the developers were collaborating, he could speak their language and respect their artistic process that went into each aspect of his creation. Everyone involved understood that making a connection between Travis’s die-hard fans and Fortnite gamers presented a unique opportunity.”

The concert was record setting, drawing 12.3 million concurrent players at its peak and a total 28 million unique players from around the globe who joined across five airings of Astronomical. Including repeat viewers, fans showed up for the event a total of 46 million times and of the five tracks performed within the concert game only one was new. Overall streams after the game were 372 million globally.

“Only a third of Fortnite gamers before the partnership said they were Travis Scott fans. However, it was all amplified and scaled by the fact we were in the midst of a pandemic and so much of the world was stuck at home. The launch of this activation became a family experience. I had parents calling me about the game because they had never heard of Fortnite before, so I do think this has now opened the door more permanently to new opportunities in the virtual world.”

The effect outside of Fortnite on Travis Scott’s popularity and entire catalogue was huge. Sicko Mode engagement increased 195% worldwide and the Astroworld album went back into the top ten. Goosebumps from Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, an album that is four years old, increased 228% and his social buzz and engagement rose dramatically, too.

“We definitely exposed him to new audiences, and these are fans that will now stick with him forever. This was truly global and fueled a massive global following for him, in just three days. Astronomical illustrates the power of a true brand partnership that is an extension of both the game makers and the artist. That unique intersection was really the true success of the activation. But the only reason it worked was because it was authentic for him to do. He has clearly emerged as one of the leaders in this space as he keeps music in the centre of everything he does, effortlessly integrating his brand into any corner of culture he desires.”

Case study first published in 2021.



Case study

Ironically, reflects Joe Kentish, Head of A&R at Warner Records UK, Dua Lipa’s second album, Future Nostalgia, was conceived and made around a single, simple concept: that it should work live in front of a crowd going absolutely wild.

Released in late March 2020, circumstances conspired to prevent that live experience from happening, but it proved to be a record that, whilst still to be played to a field full of fans, shifted Dua’s career, global profile, and critical standing through several gears (at the time of writing, global sales stand at over 3.3 million album equivalent sales).

Kentish, who signed Dua when she was just 18, describes Future Nostalgia as “the absolute apex of what we try to do as a label, which is combine commercial success with creative excellence”.

It was, he says, the result of a strong, close and trusting partnership between label, artist and manager. “I’m lucky, because Dua always wants to be engaged. We never stopped talking about music and about what the second record would be like.

“The best artists come with all the raw materials in place, so you end up listening to what someone like Dua wants to do and then using your experience and relationships to create the environment where she can achieve that. You’re facilitating someone else’s ambition, basically, maybe even expanding it, believing in them, and doing whatever they need to create what they want and get where they want to go.”

There were nearly three years between albums one and two, and Kentish concedes all involved were aware of the clock ticking. “There’s a natural pressure for artists to get back out there and there’s a natural pressure on us as a record company to put out music from big artists.

“But there was understanding on both sides that we needed to stick to our guns, that she had a vision and that we had to wait for the songs to do that vision justice.”

As a result, Kentish explains, a side benefit of the success of a record like Future Nostalgia is a ratcheting up of confidence for everyone involved, starting with the artist. “The relief is palpable, because they think, I’ve made difficult decisions, I’ve stuck to my guns, and it’s worked. Same for us. And then next time, when you’re feeling a bit nervous about a project, maybe you’ll back yourself a bit more.”

Everyone, he admits, would have been even more nervous if they had known that Future Nostalgia’s release would coincide perfectly with the onset of a global lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – and that this was to be no short-term situation.

“We still thought we’d be playing Glastonbury! As the reality dawned, the temptation to put it back was massive. The single was doing really well, so why take a chance?

“I think the first cue came from Dua. She just said, ‘If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. Let’s put it out and have faith in the record we made.’ I felt the same – we knew we had a great record and it felt wrong to sit on it.”

As for the record’s raison d’etre, to be played and enjoyed live, the closest alternative was November’s Studio 2054 livestream show, which pulled in over 5 million views, including over 1.9 million unique logins from China and 95,000 from India.

Warner Records adapted and, as Kentish says, “that became our world tour, and we did massive amounts of promotion in every significant territory based around that event – it was different, but it was also sort of the same.”

He adds: “I watched it again the other day and I’d almost forgotten the whole point of this record, - it is basically a party. And I have to admit, I thought, ‘This would have been so good at Glastonbury’.”

Case study first published in 2021.



Case study

Billie Eilish is one of the most important and interesting pop stars of her generation. She is the Winner of the ‘big four’ Grammys (the first time the quadruple has been achieved in nearly 40 years). She is the artist who wrote and recorded a zeitgeist defining, multi-Platinum album in her bedroom - with her brother, Finneas O’Connell.

John Janick, chairman and CEO of Universal’s Interscope Geffen A&M Records, remembers the very start of Eilish’s extraordinary journey. “It probably sounds crazy, but honestly, from the moment we met her, we knew she was special. Her music came to us via an A&R person here, but it also got to Justin Lubliner, who runs Darkroom Records, who we have a JV with. It happens very rarely, but sometimes, an artist comes in, and you just know.

“Nevertheless, everyone involved took their time, because she was only 13 when we first met her, and we wanted Billie, her mother and father, to be completely comfortable. All our conversations were about putting no pressure on her and no one being in a rush. This was going to happen at some point. You could see it growing almost week by week and that allowed us to plot 12-18 months out, confident about where her and Finneas’ talent would take us.”

One example of this considered approach was the decision to hold Billie back from the Grammys in 2019. Janick continues, “We knew we’d have WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE D0 WE GO?, which was going to blow people away and properly announce this incredible new talent.

“With such an important body of work and after years of artist development we crafted a meticulous plan laying out the next 12 months. Billie had shown us that; she gave us confidence. We had our targets and implemented the plan which included a global arena tour, the Vogue cover, we knew we’d have announced the Bond song, and the Oscars performance. All of which we had in place prior to Grammys 2020.”

All of these touch points were part of a global strategy to realise Billie’s potential, explains Steve Berman, vice-chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records: “From the outset, everything was about Billie as a global artist. She had these incredibly rich, beautiful pieces of art, crafted with her brother at home, and we knew this was music that could touch the world.”

“We like to call it a four-year overnight sensation because when Billie emerged, it felt like she moved into pop culture very quickly but there were a lot of pieces that had come together over a longer period of time.”

An important element to this were the high-profile brand partnerships forged by Interscope, in collaboration with Darkroom. Berman describes how each of these helped contribute elements to Billie as an artist: “We thought, let’s be very flexible, but let’s not for one second compromise the integrity of her as an artist for any opportunity.”

“For example, Billie’s collaboration with Netflix on the film Roma was such a critical and important piece of the journey as it showed her music in totally different light.”

One essential element to this success story is the global marketing approach that utilised Universal Music’ global network. Frank Briegmann, CEO & President, Universal Music Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon, explains how this was managed in Europe: “The first aim was to introduce Billie to the local taste maker press and music business stakeholders, and we did this by organising her first-ever showcase in Germany.”

“Fan engagement was another key to the success of the campaign. We constantly tried to embrace Billie’s close connection with her fans in various fun ways. We created playlist-maker tools and a pop-up store in Berlin, to which Billie came to for a surprise visit. It created a hype amongst the communities, resulting in a fantastic fan happening.”

Engaging Billie’s fanbase was a key strategy in the UK, too, as Tom March, co-President of London-based Polydor Records explains. “Billie’s always been so connected with her fans and she has put the work in to feel connected to the UK from her early trips, to her first headline show, through to the Brits.

“So, throughout the campaign, we ensured that content generated, and as much promo as possible, allowed for fan interaction. For example, we launched UK exclusive products direct to Billie’s superfans – such as an UK exclusive Picture Disc vinyl release of her debut album launched via Spotify Fan First.”

Ultimately though, says Janick, it is Billie’s singular, creative vision driving her, and the teams involved: “Everything comes from Billie; no one is telling her what to do. There is a team of people living and breathing this every day, giving her the resources and support to execute her vision. She is CEO of brand Billie Eilish, we all work for her and we’re very clear what our job is: to do whatever we can to help her execute her vision, because Billie and Finneas are geniuses.”

Case study first published in May 2020.



Case study

Tia Ray is an artist who encapsulates not only the ambition and potential of China as a region, but also the drive and determination of a new generation of homegrown artists to achieve worldwide success in partnership with global record companies.

Andy Ma, CEO, Warner Music, Greater China, describes her as “not traditional pop, but more soul and R&B” and believes that her ongoing ascent is partly down to a broadening of taste amongst Chinese music fans.

He says: “They are catching up with other markets and becoming more interested in international artists and a wider variety of genres. It’s a more dynamic market today than ever, especially for urban music, EDM and R&B.”

Warner Music’s relationship with Tia began when the company purchased the Gold Typhoon label, to which she was signed, in 2014. At the time she was known for having been a contestant on TV talent show, The Voice of China.

Ma says there was a sense straight away that here was an artist who could appeal to a global audience. “There was something in her voice and her performance that we felt could travel – and we also spent time getting to know her as a person and understanding her ambitions.

“I told her we didn’t want to put out an album, see how it performs, put out another album, see how that performs… We wanted to help her achieve her dreams, we wanted to share a vision with her. And she told us that she wanted to help soul and R&B become mainstream in China. So that’s what we’ve been doing, while also making sure that this is a global story.”

A major breakthrough came with Tia’s 2018 single, Be Apart, which was the seventh biggest selling track in the world that year, with a total converted track equivalent of 10.9 million units – and over four billion streams worldwide at the time of publication. Its success was aided by Warner securing a sync in the hit movie, The Ex-Files 3: Return of the Exes.

Ma explains that the success of the track accelerated her trajectory considerably, “for example, her followers on [Chinese social media platform] Weibo went from four million to 11 million.”

He continues: “Tia represents a new spirit in China, she is part of a generation of artists that thinks outside the box. And she is brave, she wants to conquer the US and the rest of the world, she is not afraid of stepping outside of safe territories and genres.

“So, we connected her with producers from LA and the UK, and then last year we released some big collaborations, with Kehlani (Just My Luck), Gallant (Trust Myself) and Jason Derulo (Champion, which was the official song of the FIBA Basketball World Cup).

“We are making the right connections for her, and that is part of the dual process of helping her make the music she wants while also increasing her international appeal. But apart from the collaborations and the syncs and the producers, all of which are very important, I think what Tia appreciates most about working with Warner is how much we share her vision and her passion.

“We have grown together and our team, which is her team, really care about taking this as far as we can and helping make her dream come true.”

Case study first published in May 2020.



Case study

Rosalía is a Spanish artist with her roots and heart in the folkloric culture of flamenco and who is fusing that tradition with other genres to take her own unique sound and style to the world.

She studied flamenco throughout her childhood and began performing as a teenager. As recently as six years ago she was teaching flamenco, championing music that is ingrained in Spanish culture classroom by classroom.

Now, in partnership with Sony Music, she is spreading the word rather more rapidly, and much more spectacularly, popularising and modernising flamenco all over the world, country by country.

Her first album, Los Angeles, was released in 2017, attracting some attention and critical praise. It was her second album, El Mal Querer, however, that was the real breakthrough, garnering global acclaim and topping the Latin Pop Album charts in the US. At the Grammy Awards 2020 (where Rosalía performed) it won Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album – the latest landmark in an ongoing journey.

Influential music media brand Pitchfork made El Mal Querer one of its top 10 albums of 2018 and perceptively described Rosalía as “less an ambassador for flamenco than the innovator of her own fascinating hybrid”.

Jen Mallory, EVP and General Manager, Columbia Records, calls Rosalía “a unique artist in a league of her own, completely redefining pop music” affirming that “this type of music has literally never been done before” and admitting that “we [Columbia] were captivated by her from the very beginning!”

She continues: “José María Barbat and Afo Verde signed her out of Sony Spain and then we up-streamed her to Columbia US after the El Mal Querer album cycle. “Rosalía was a huge star in Spain when we signed her, and she was already developing around the world. Our primary focus at first was building her US footprint, both through press and US Latin radio. Through a series of small underplays in key markets we generated extraordinary buzz amongst key tastemakers and industry leaders. We were able to help her garner major opportunities and visibility in the United States quickly.

“Her first US media cover was The Fader magazine – by design. We wanted it to be a very cool, credible first cover before we went more mainstream. They were one of the early adopters covering her Los Angeles project, gave her significant space online, before she even released [lead single] Malamente. The media coverage expanded as she was picked up by Pitchfork, New York Times, Billboard and Elle.”

She stresses that Rosalía sets the tone when it comes to her campaign and the agenda when it comes to her career – with Columbia her partner in making things happen. “Rosalía has a very specific vision for her creative, from fonts to choreography, and we have worked in sync with her to continue curating her artistry.

“She is one of the rare artists who is able to seamlessly balance her offline presence with her digital one. She takes what she does at her shows and her daily life and makes it easily palatable. Our digital team has been able to work with all of our partners (YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) to invest in her success early on, because she and her team are collaborative when it comes to using the platforms, but without ever compromising her artistic vision.

“We secured support with ‘YouTube Premieres’ for her videos, on playlisting, and social support – these results are apparent when you look the performance of Con Altura (featuring J Balvin), which currently has over one billion views – as well as clocking up 2.6 million sales worldwide.”

Last year Rosalía played at festivals including Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, Coachella and Primavera and followed up Con Altura with three more singles, including Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi, a collaboration with another Sony-signed artist, Puerto Rican reggaeton star, Ozuna.

Looking to the future, Mallory says: “Rosalía will continue to innovate and find new ways to fuse genres and work with new collaborators. There are lots of exciting opportunities coming her way as she continues to find partners and supporters that will help spread her artistic vision.”

Case study first published in May 2020.



Case study

French rap finding its global voice

One example of an artist blowing up in her home territory, while also starting her international journey, is Warner France-signed Aya Nakamura.

Born in Mali, Nakamura moved to a suburb of Paris as a baby and grew up immersed in - and influenced by - both cultures. She started making music as French urban music was finding its voice and moving into the mainstream.

Thierry Chassagne, President, Warner Music France, says: “The popularity of French rap was driven in part by streaming, but also by demographics. We have strong Caribbean and African communities here that have been the driving force behind much rap music.

“At the beginning of the [Aya Nakamura] project, especially on the digital aspects, we focused on these communities, before expanding into the wider market.

“It was important to have this community, her community, behind her. She is a very empowered woman, and the idea that somehow the record company could lead the way without tapping into her roots and her fanbase, that she’d built herself, would have been wrong – and would not have worked.”

Nakamura’s first album, Journal intime, was released in 2017, reaching number six in the French charts and achieving Gold certification.

Things moved up a gear for her second, self-titled album, Nakamura – and especially its lead single, Djadja.

Chassagne explains: “It was the perfect situation of the set-up being created by the first album, and then the second album being preceded by such a big hit. Djadja went to number one here in its first week and is the most audio-streamed track by a woman in France so far in 2019.”

Nakamura’s appeal was such that Warner Music drew on its global network and began to look for opportunities for the artist outside of her home country.

Alain Veille, Managing Director of Digital, Warner Music France, explains how Warner was quick to see the wider appeal of her music: “It resonated outside of France very quickly. Our colleagues in neighbouring countries were asking us about her story; they could feel there was something happening.”

Veille describes how his team had early discussions with surrounding territories, helping them kick-start their own campaigns: “The spread of awareness dovetailed with our strategy of establishing a core fanbase in Aya’s community, taking her mainstream throughout France, and then, working with offices on the ground, targeting territories where the buzz was building.”

Recognising each market’s inherent differences, campaigns were tailored to build on Nakamura’s already strong roots, whilst adding a local flavour. Veille describes one example: “In Germany, we recorded a version of Djadja with a female hip-hop artist called Loredana, who shares similar values, and is a strong, independent woman. That version got accepted by the streaming platforms and was added to influential German rap playlists.”

The work paid off. German radio picked up the track, eventually choosing to play the original over the newer, German version.

Djadja has now achieved over 190 million audio streams and 315 million video streams worldwide, and in three territories – Netherlands, Germany and Belgium – the numbers are matching what’s been achieved in France.

Ultimately, Nakamura’s music and ability to connect with her fans, coupled with the support and backing from her label, is allowing her to reach an increasing number of people around the world, as Chassagne explains: “It’s a true collaboration within a global structure. We know the artist very well, so we can contribute that insight and understanding, we bring the artist’s story. And, of course, our colleagues know their territories – their tastemakers, their media, they can recommend collaborations and so the project is amplified globally.”

Case study first published in April 2019.



Case study

Authentic UK talent making global waves

George Ezra is undoubtedly one of the biggest breakout UK artists of the last five years. With his distinctive baritone voice and varied musical influences, together with his authentic, honest approach to sharing his music, the Columbia-signed artist has won fans around the world.

Columbia’s Head of Marketing, Alex Eden-Smith, explains how, when first working with Ezra, his musical talent and authenticity formed a key strand of the label’s initial strategy: “It was very important that he wasn’t seen as just another singer-songwriter. He’s an incredibly talented guy with a really distinctive voice; the sole aim had to be to bring that out.”

Ezra’s first single, Budapest, reached No. 3 in the UK charts, and made the Top 40 in the US. The single was followed by Ezra’s first album, Wanted On Voyage, which topped the charts in the UK, broke the Top 20 in the US and went Top 10 in multiple countries. Global sales stood at just over two million in March 2019.

With one album under his belt, and a steadily growing fanbase, Columbia, together with Ezra, began to plan for the follow-up. Staying At Tamara’s, was released in March 2018. It reached No. 1 in the UK where it was also the biggest-selling artist album of 2018.

Eden-Smith describes the approach to the second campaign: “We continued to highlight his personality, his natural wit and irreverence, something that comes across effortlessly in his relationship with his fans.”

It was this desire to allow Ezra’s personality to shine through that led to the idea of developing content that went beyond his music.

“George is a big podcast fan and came up with the idea of producing a series of podcasts where he holds conversations with a range of different musicians (guests included Elton John, Nile Rogers and Ed Sheeran). We were really keen to support him and made it a centrepiece of the campaign. It allowed him to not only get his personality across but also to bring in the fans of other artists and bring them back to his music. It's an engagement loop, if you like.”

Podcasts are just one of the tools in a kit that has had to expand exponentially to meet the demands of a new kind of audience, explains Eden-Smith: “You have to constantly think about the brand-new George Ezra fan who heard their first song yesterday; what’s their experience going to be? For them it’s a discovery, and you have to give them ways of finding out who George is.

“Ultimately, the most important thing for us was to trust George’s instincts — to enable him to create the music he wants to, whilst finding the tools to help him reach a bigger audience. The conversation was never about making him something he’s not, but about celebrating and promoting all the best sides of George.”

Case study first published in April 2019.



Case study

Pioneering Latin Music

Trailblazing, Medellín-born, Colombian artist J Balvin has pioneered Latin music’s explosion onto the global stage.

Working in partnership with his record label and manager, Balvin has captured a global audience with his unique sound, both through his solo releases and a string of high-profile collaborations with artists such as Cardi B, Beyoncé and Justin Bieber – all whilst staying true to his Latin roots.

Angel Kaminsky, Executive Vice President, Latin America & Iberian Peninsula, Universal Music, explains how the relationship began: “I first met J Balvin in 2012. I travelled to Bogotá to meet this artist who was big in Colombia and was also starting to create a big buzz in the rest of the region.

“I was immediately struck by his creativity, his artistic ability and his impeccable work ethic. He’s such a genuine person and this translates to his music and even to the vibes he passes on to other artists and, of course, to his fans.”

Working closely as co-managers in partnership with Balvin’s manager, Rebeca León, Kaminsky describes the strategic process behind Balvin’s shift from local favourite to global star: “At first, there was a focus on breaking him in Latin America, Iberia and the US Latin market. We accomplished this with his hit singles Ay Vamos and 6 AM in 2014 and 2015.

“The next step was to push the project on a global scale. This started with lead single Ginza [from Balvin’s fourth album, Energía, released in 2016], and materialized with Mi Gente [released in 2017 and appearing on 2018 album Vibras].”

It was an approach that proved massively successful, pushing Balvin to new heights and huge international success. In June 2018, Balvin became the most listened to artist globally on Spotify, and in September he became the first Latin artist to reach one billion streams on Apple Music. This accolade was followed two months later by a Latin GRAMMY in the Best Urban Album category for Vibras.

Kaminsky points to Balvin’s work ethic and strong sense of self as an artist as key factors in his success: “He sets his own rules, he knows what he wants. He always says, ‘Believe me. I know where I’m going.’ and I say, ‘Okay, we'll follow you.’

“He leads with artistic and creative direction and we help him to realise both his short term and long-term objectives; we provide him with an array of information from data and analytics to collaboration opportunities, but at the end of the day it’s his vision and his instincts that drive us.”

This attitude is reflected in Balvin’s decision to fly the flag for his mother-tongue by continuing to sing in Spanish, despite offers of high-profile English language-based collaborations.

“There’s so much that makes J Balvin special”, says Kaminsky. “He really has a vision to take the genre global without the need to sing in English. He’s committed to being a global artist while staying close to his roots. I believe he has accomplished this and much, much more.”

Case study first published in April 2019.



Case study

A Game-Changing Hit From Latin America to the World

Despacito by Luis Fonsi was the song of 2017. Sometimes these things are subjective. In this instance, there can be no argument.

By April 2018, the original and the Justin Bieber-featuring remix had been streamed 7.5 billion times between them, including 1.9 billion times on Spotify and 5.6 billion views on YouTube.

A Spanish language urban-pop track from a Puerto Rican artist who was relatively unknown outside Spain and Latin America topped the charts in 47 countries worldwide.

Universal’s involvement with Fonsi, however, is not a story of overnight success. The company has worked with the artist for over 15 years and has played an important role in building a career that has delivered several number one albums in Latin American territories and on Billboard’s Latin chart in the US.

Jesús López, Chairman/CEO of Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, says: “We worked on Despacito for a year before it was released: we chose the producer, we knocked on Daddy Yankee’s door, we shot the video and we made sure that it was the first Latin single released in 2017.

“We played a key role in the entire A&R process and execution of the marketing campaign. After release, we were able to help bring about Justin Bieber’s involvement, which pushed it to another level globally.” López adds that being reactive enough to rapidly incorporate the Bieber-featuring remix into the ongoing campaign was crucial: “Justin jumped on the record in a key moment during the campaign. The Justin Bieber remix was recorded on a Tuesday and released that Sunday.

“The democratisation of consumption and the instantaneous transparency that streaming provides allowed us to detect and track the performance of the song and to position Despacito in each market according to its needs and timings.”

López sees the amazing success as a true team effort: “All of Universal Music worked to make this happen and our partnership with Republic Records was strategically key to this release.”

Fonsi followed Despacito with Echame La Culpa, a duet with Demi Lovato. It went to number one in 14 markets. In early 2018 he finished an 81-date world tour and has a number of global sponsorship deals.

One big hit makes a very big difference. That has always been true, of course, but now, more than ever before, that hit can come from anywhere and go everywhere.

Case study first published in April 2018.



Case study

A Perfect Storm

Cuban-American singer songwriter, Camila Cabello, achieved enormous success as a member of pop group Fifth Harmony before relaunching her career as a solo artist in 2016. She worked with her label, Epic Records, to take on the challenge of establishing herself as an artist in her own right.

In collaboration with Camila, a comprehensive, global marketing campaign was devised, tying together multiple strands of live TV performances, radio, the creation of unique online content and brand partnerships. Together, these elements would create opportunities for fans to engage with Camila across multiple platforms and discover her new music in a variety of exciting and different ways.

The first stage of the campaign centred on a ‘two-track single’ approach, beginning with the simultaneous release of both Crying in the Club and I Have Questions in May 2017. Jenifer Mallory, EVP, International, Sony Music Entertainment, notes that it was the followup two tracks that really cut through to a global audience: “We put out Havana and OMG at the same time and we let the fans speak.” Havana, and the subsequent remix version with Spanish lyrics from Daddy Yankee, rocketed Camila to global solo success, reaching No. 1 in 95 countries.

Whilst a carefully planned campaign was critical, Mallory describes the need to maintain flexibility and know when to take a reactive approach, such as the decision to bring forward the release of Camila’s self-titled album, to provide the fans with new, fresh music as Havana still soared in the charts. It was a beneficial move and Camila became the first woman in three years to debut at No. 1 with a full-length album on the Billboard 200 chart.

From the moment her music was launched, the team around Camila continued to create ‘moments’ to encourage fans’ constant engagement with her music, like original and tailored content for radio, TV and social media channels. “When you have a new solo artist, I think it’s all about the continuous flow of content,” explains Mallory. “It’s been a really important part of solidifying her solo career and giving her a voice that sets her apart and that allows fans to relate to her.”

Partnerships with major brands were also an important layer in Camila’s campaign, helping to amplify her profile globally throughout her solo breakthrough. Camila starred in an advert for L’Oréal Paris Elvive, to promote a new haircare product, with the strapline: “Everyone loves a comeback.”

Mallory is keen to note that, despite the global nature of the campaign, a one-size-fits-all approach to every market does not work: “We put tremendous effort into making these campaigns feel local and it’s important to do that. Fans in every country want to feel like they discovered her themselves.” This was achieved by engaging with local ‘influencers’, prominent bloggers or personalities in specific countries, as well as tailored campaigns for radio and streaming services.

Ultimately, Mallory believes that it was a number of moving parts coming together harmoniously that helped Camila to become the successful solo artist she is now: “I think it’s never just one thing, right? It’s always a perfect storm of many things,” she says. However, at its core, Camila’s talent and ability to connect with her fans was the epicentre of her solo debut: “The music is great and if the music is great we can do our job and roll it out around the world, but it absolutely starts with the music.”

Case study first published in April 2018.



Case study

A new generation of Nashville music star

Morgan Evans is not your typical Nashville music star. For a start, he was born in Newcastle, Australia. For another, his music style, harnessing the power of a loop pedal, has drawn more comparisons to Ed Sheeran than Kenny Rogers.

None of this has stopped Evans from becoming a fast-rising star of the Nashville music scene. He signed to Warner Music Nashville in 2017 and released his single, Kiss Somebody, later that year. It has generated more than 21 million on demand streams in the US alone and Evans was named by Amazon Music, Billboard, Google Play and Pandora among others on their 2018 ‘Artists to Watch’ lists.

John Esposito, Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Nashville, says: “I knew Morgan was a special talent from the first time I heard him play. He was signed to our Australian company, but harboured the ambition to come and build his career in the U.S. We were only too delighted to take him on and support him as he builds his career here.”

Evans began his music career in high school, playing in a local rock band. In 2007, he won a competition called the Road to Tamworth and, for his prize, flew to Nashville and recorded a single. Subsequently signed to Sony BMG in Australia, he released his debut EP, Big Skies, which received airplay on Australian country music stations.

By 2012, Evans had signed a deal with Warner Music Australasia. He released his eponymous debut album, which became a Top 20 hit in the mainstream Australian album chart. He also became a huge celebrity on the Australian country music scene, opening tours for the likes of Taylor Swift.

The next logical step for Evans was to relocate full-time to Nashville, which he did in 2017. He also moved labels from Warner Music Australasia to Warner Music Nashville.

Evans says: “Moving to Nashville was a big deal. It felt daunting at times, but I’ve always loved Nashville music and I wanted to dive right in. You’re surrounded by the best songwriters and musicians in the world and you pretty soon need to make a choice to be intimidated or inspired.”

2017 was a standout year for other reasons as well. In December, he married American singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini. He wrote the song I Do about their wedding and it went on to become a Top 10 hit in Australia. He started 2018 on a high too, touring with the likes of Cole Swindell and James Blunt, while working in-studio with producer and songwriter Chris DeStefano on his forthcoming second album.

Evans is one of a new generation of Warner Music Nashville international priority acts. Streaming is gaining traction among traditional Nashville music fans, which is helping propel artists into the global charts and introducing their music to a wider international audience.

Esposito explains: “In the same way that the adoption of streaming in Latin America helped propel Latin music into the global charts, the transition to streaming by Nashville music fans offers us an unprecedented opportunity. In the past we’ve only occasionally seen traditional country stars crossover to the mainstream, but now Nashville music is much more a part of the mainstream in the US and overseas.”

In 2018, Evans spearheaded his international campaign with performances at the UK’s Country2Country (C2C) music festival in London and Glasgow. Now in its sixth year, C2C has become a major global platform for Nashville acts.

Esposito says: “It’s amazing. The audience sang along to every word of our artists’ sets. This is music that isn’t getting played on British radio yet. People are discovering it elsewhere and streaming is obviously a massive door opener for us. Our UK labels are putting their hands up to work with Nashville artists because they sense there’s a real opportunity here.”

Evans concludes: “I was stoked to be asked to play London and Glasgow for C2C. I think that Nashville music can travel around the world and has a home wherever fans value great storytelling and amazing tunes.”

Since the publication of this case study in April 2018, Evans has had continued success. His album Things That We Drink Too went to #5 in the Australian charts and #1 in the Australian Country charts (October 2018) and reached the Top 10 in the US Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Evans’ single Kiss Somebody went to #1 on the US Country Airplay charts and was certified Gold by RIAA. His single Day Drunk topped the TMN Hot 100 Australia Airplay Chart and was #1 on the Australian Country Airplay chart for 25 weeks.

Case study first published in April 2018.



Case study

The Power of Perseverance

The story of New Orleans seven-piece rock outfit The Revivalists is one of endurance rewarded and of how the backing of a record company can take a track from live fan favourite to mainstream radio hit.

The band formed in 2007 and, through the acquisition of Wind-Up Records, became part of Concord Music in 2015, soon after releasing their sec- ond album, Men Against Mountains.

Concord’s SVP – Promotion Marketing, Jill Weindorf, takes up the story: “I’d seen them live a few times over the years and I always thought they were special, but what we didn’t know was whether or not they could get traction in my medium, which is radio.”

At the time the band was struggling to make any significant impact with the album’s first single, Keep Going. Ironically, it was the next release that would deliver the perfect lesson in perseverance.

“There was this other song, Wish I Knew You, that we felt really had something going on. Whenever they played it live it got such a great response from the crowd and we thought, you know what, this is the one. So, we started to get ready to take that out in early January 2016.”

The Concord promotions team, in part- nership with the band, then worked the song at radio for weeks. And then months. And then just kept working it – fuelled and sustained by a passion for the track and a commitment to the artist.

“In the end it took 44 weeks to go to number one on Billboard Triple-A (adult alternative), but then it hung around for almost the same amount of time and still, to this day, is getting a tremendous amount of airplay there.

“From there, it took us 22 weeks to get it to number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart – but, again, when it did, it set a record for the most single week spins in the history of the format and went on to become the number two most played Alternative song of the year.”

Wish I Knew You went on to hit the Top 20 in the Adult chart, Top 5 in the Rock chart and even broke into the Billboard Hot 100 at 84.

Weindorf is keen to stress that the breakthrough and subsequent sustained success was very much the product of collaboration: “The band ran alongside us every step of the way. They felt the same level of connection with us as a label that we did with them as artists. They said: ‘We’re in’, and they showed up, every time. Nine in the morning to play live on radio; past midnight shaking every hand; they showed up.”

She also points out the difference that one track, and one incredibly dogged campaign, can make to a career. “The success of Wish I Knew You is measured in sales, in consumption, in ticket sales and in the fact that people now know who The Revivalists are.

“But the greatest success, I think, is what it enables us and them to do next. They’re in the studio now working on a new album, and from what I’ve heard already I know that there are at least three more big singles there. Ultimately, though, they will become album artists, they will become career artists, because that’s what we create at Concord.”

Case study first published in April 2018.