'I'm very excited about the future': Atlantic's Ben Cook on ambitions beyond Ed Sheeran

'I'm very excited about the future': Atlantic's Ben Cook on ambitions beyond Ed Sheeran

Atlantic Records president Ben Cook has spoken exclusively to Music Week about the label’s “special artists” and ambitions to break new talent in 2018.

While the Warner Music UK label has a tough act to follow with last year’s Ed Sheeran blockbuster ÷, Cook is confident that Atlantic has the breadth of talent to build on its success. The label recently won the hotly-contested title for Record Company Of The Year at the Music Week Awards.

Sheeran has just passed 3 million sales for the album, he is currently on a major UK stadium tour and was a double winner at last week’s Ivor Novello Awards.

“I’m very excited about the future,” said Cook. “We’ve obviously got a huge artist in Ed, but also huge artists outside of that. I think that’s what keeps us really excited and thrilled, this brilliant, broad array of talents and special artists. That’s really the buzz for us, seeing our artists start in an embryonic place and being there every step of the way with them until we’re where we are with Ed, Clean Bandit, Rita Ora or Jess Glynne.”

Following her appearance on fellow Atlantic act Rudimental’s former No.1 These Days, Glynne is now looking like a strong contender for her own chart-topper with comeback single I’ll Be There. The track has surged to the radio airplay summit and moved 6-5 on the singles chart with a 23% week-on-week sales increase. Glynne’s sophomore album, due in the autumn, is the follow-up to triple-platinum 2015 debut I Cry When I Laugh. 

“We’re in a totally new world – she was really born [as an artist] in the pre-streaming format shift,” said Cook. “We are all really excited about the music, where she is as an artist and where she is as a person. She is in fine form, I’m really looking forward to another great journey with her.” 

Glynne may end up battling for No.1 with Atlantic label mate Anne-Marie, whose Sheeran co-write 2002 moved up 4-3 and has sales to date of 282,302 (OCC). Anne-Marie’s album Speak Your Mind has so far moved 48,395 copies and, after five consecutive weeks inside the Top 10, will be in the running for the biggest UK debut album of 2018 after a lack of new stars emerged in Q1.

“We’ve got every faith in Anne-Marie, she’s an incredible artist and magnetic personality and a great writer and performer,” said Cook. “We’ve got massive ambition for Anne-Marie.” 

Anything Stormzy does is a huge cultural moment and those are the kind of things we love being involved in

Ben Cook

Stormzy, now signed to Atlantic as part of a partnership with his independent label and management firm #Merky, won at the Ivors for his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer. Speaking at the ceremony, he promised “some incredible music” for the follow-up.

Cook said the partnership with the grime star was thanks to co-head of A&R Alec Boateng’s relationship with the rapper.

“There was a lot of trust and belief and faith that was built up in that relationship,” said Cook. “We were very patient and respectful and always believed that we were the best partners. [Stormzy] came to a place where he really wanted to [sign] with us and with #Merky for the next record.” 

“Obviously anything Stormzy does is a huge cultural moment and those are the kind of things we love being involved in, so we’re excited about what’s to come.” 

Cook’s roster of new UK artists includes Mahalia, who signed to Atlantic when she was barely in her teens. The R&B/pop singer has just confirmed her first US tour and dropped the video for new single I Wish I Missed My Ex.

Charli XCX has also just returned with new track 5 In The Morning and will be supporting Taylor Swift at Wembley Stadium on June 22-23.

Atlantic is doing its bit for the guitar revival with Brighton band Yonaka, who were one of the most-tipped acts of 2018. They released new single FWTB last month.

“We’ve never signed anything from the point of view of what the market’s doing,” said Cook. “If you look at all our success, it’s been derived largely from us just being passionate about talent and backing that talent. I’m really excited about working with an alternative band of this nature and one that can play so well live and are getting so many props. The market’s skewed in one direction in terms of what’s producing the biggest number of streams. But there’s still a vibrant breadth to the market and we want to be playing in all those areas.”

Atlantic’s massive sales success with The Greatest Showman OST will help the label in its effort to maintain its sales performance in a year without a new Sheeran release. The soundtrack album held off a strong challenge from Snow Patrol for the No.1 and has sales to date of 806,468, according to the Official Charts Company.

“We’ll be just as satisfied if we break new acts and if we continue these special journeys with our acts,” said Cook of following the success of Sheeran. “It’s not always about having the biggest [act], it’s about being there in partnership with those acts for a career and that’s really what we’re about.”

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