'His ear for melody was extraordinary': Positiva's Jason Ellis pays tribute to Avicii

'His ear for melody was extraordinary': Positiva's Jason Ellis pays tribute to Avicii

The dance music industry is heading to Ibiza for the International Music Summit, where UK dance label Positiva will mark its 25th anniversary on Friday (May 25) with execs past and present in conversation with IMS co-founder Pete Tong.

Inevitably, the celebrations have been overshadowed by the loss of one of its biggest stars, Avicii, who died in Oman last month. His family said yesterday that there will be a private funeral for the DJ, whose real name was Tim Bergling.

Here, Positiva/Virgin EMI A&R director Jason Ellis shares his memories of working with Avicii in the UK…

What was Positiva’s relationship with Avicii?

We started working together in 2012 as Positiva and Virgin joined Universal. It was an incredibly exciting time for us and the electronic music world in general. Avicii, his management and the Universal Sweden team were very much at the centre of that.

How significant an artist was Avicii for dance music and the EDM boom?

Incredibly significant. He had shown signs of brilliance in his early career, but Levels [2011] was a global game changer. The run of hits that followed really pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved within the genre. 

How did Positiva build on that early success in the UK?

Levels had been a Top 5 hit before we got involved, but the singles in 2013 (l Could Be The One, Wake Me Up and Hey Brother) really established him as a bonafide superstar. Alice Beal [now Insanity Records label manager] played a huge part with her great marketing campaigns, but ultimately the timing was right for those songs and Tim’s productions to connect with the UK audience.

Tim’s rise to festival headliner was so rapid – he rarely played in the UK actually. The [2013] iTunes Festival show at the Roundhouse was significant, as was the following year’s run of arena shows including Earls Court. But I would say the biggest impact came from the three or four appearances he made at Creamfields.

He was known for collaborating with other artists outside of dance music. Do you think he had particular gifts as a producer/writer who could step outside the genre?

Very much so. Nile Rodgers and Chris Martin have both gone on record saying he was one of the most talented writers, arrangers and producers they have ever worked with. His ear for melody was extraordinary.

Have you been heartened to see people listening to and discovering the music following his death?

Yes, we can all take some small comfort in the fact that Tim leaves behind so much great music for the world to enjoy for generations to come. On behalf of the whole Positiva/Virgin EMI team, we’d like to send our love and support to Tim’s family and friends and our colleagues at Universal Sweden at such a sad time

To read the full history of Positiva, pick up the latest copy of Music Week. To subscribe and never miss a big industry story, click here.

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