interviews

Inside Dua Lipa's Studio 2054 livestream

It was the ground-breaking livestream event of 2020. Now, Dua Lipa and Pete Abbott, director of production company Ceremony tell us how they made it happen... For an artform that only really began nine months ago and originally featured musicians ...

Phoebe Bridgers' Saddest Factory label to back artists on 'creative goals'

Phoebe Bridgers has spoken to Music Week about her ambitions to sign “awesome” artists to her new label. Saddest Factory is a joint venture with Secretly Group’s Dead Oceans, which releases Bridgers’ own recordings as a solo artist. “It’s bespoke, depending on what an artist wants,” said LA-based Bridgers. “Like any A&R, I can be involved or not as involved [in the process]. The only difference is that, being an artist myself, some people would find it annoying for me to be in every press release, and some people would find it rad.” Bridgers made a global impact this year with sophomore album Punisher, released in June. The LP peaked at No.6 in the UK and has sales to date of 19,066 (48% from streams), according to the Official Charts Company. As a label boss, she will focus on A&R and creative marketing, while Secretly provides the record company infrastructure alongside third-party partners globally. “We’ve set the bar very high goal-wise for Saddest Factory and are laser-focused on it,” said Chris Swanson, co-founder of Secretly Group. “Our conversation about starting a label with Phoebe began with the premise that she had a real desire to work more closely with artists on achieving their creative goals, while affording them the same marketing opportunities that she has enjoyed within the Secretly Group system to achieve their commercial goals.” Saddest Factory’s first release will be Claud’s debut album Super Monster on February 12. Further signings to the imprint are yet to be announced. “My nightmare is for it to feel like a vanity label,” said Bridgers. “The way to avoid that is to only sign shit that I truly think is awesome, and put my whole weight behind it and the weight of Secretly.” While Saddest Factory will embrace streaming opportunities, the label will be dedicated to vinyl. “I would rather have physical match with streaming [release dates],” she said. “I try to do what I can to help physical media, because that’s helping small business. “So I’m ready for [vinyl] to grow and change. My absolute fantasy is to have a record store with a [label] office in the back of it, like Rough Trade [when it first launched].” Bridgers acknowledged the support of Secretly Group in the campaign for Punisher, which has earned her four Grammy nods, including Best Alternative Album. “Secretly put so much thought into every artist,” she told Music Week. “It’s been inspiring to watch the public recognise Phoebe first as a timeless recording artist and then live performer, to embrace her as someone who uses her acerbic wit and cultural voice to influence the world all around us,” said Swanson. Bridgers recently collaborated with Phoebe Waller-Bridge on a video for Saviour Complex starring Normal People actor Paul Mescal. She will continue to promote the album in 2021, alongside her plans to develop the imprint. “I want to keep [Saddest Factory] small in the beginning, and I can hire people down the line,” said Bridgers. “I want to make sure that it doesn’t get beyond my capabilities. “Everybody with a dream of starting a record label wants to sign all their friends immediately – and I definitely plan on doing that eventually! I just want it to grow naturally, and for everybody to be as stoked on every artist as I am.”

Calling for change: The Black Music Coalition reflects on 2020 and looks ahead

Formed in the wake of Black Out Tuesday with a mission to end  discrimination in the UK music business, the Black Music Coalition  became an industry force in 2020. As the year ends, its executive committee issues a joint statement in Music Week to talk progress and look ahead to 2021… It seems almost unbelievable to us that the Black Music Coalition (BMC) has only been in existence for about six months. Two of the major things achieved since our formation are the UK industry having to have a long, hard look at itself, and longstanding racial inequality being talked about loudly and unequivocally. This hasn’t been brought about by us alone, but it is a major shift in energy. This year has been exceptionally hard work, the BMC was created in June when black people everywhere were dealing with the very real emotional trauma of the horrific spectacle of George Floyd’s killing in the US.  It was with that backdrop, as well as being in the throes of a worldwide pandemic and the resulting UK lockdown that we formed and, honestly, it’s the fact that all our members are so passionate about the BMC and our cause that has kept us powered up.  We’ve all been balancing busy full-time jobs, even our amazingly talented intern Yasmine Dankwah is a full-time student, but we’re proud of the fact that we’re making it happen.  The reaction to the BMC from the wider industry has been positive and hugely supportive. Some of the best reactions are in those messages we’ve received from individuals who have told us that they personally feel more empowered by our existence, messages from non-music industry companies who have pledged their support, and organisations reaching out from as far afield as Australia who are aligned with us, our goals and whowe are. It’s led to some incredible new relationships.  Essentially, we want organisations to continue to listen to the experiences and concerns of all under-represented people within their businesses and to meet and address them, not as part of any ‘movement’ or ‘phase’, but with the actual intention of redressing inequality.       We really want people in the industry to get into the habit of calling out racism, microaggressions and marginalisation Black Music Coalition   The industry is definitely a different place. The conversations around diversity and inclusion are now amplifying the voices of people who have been historically marginalised in the industry, so the conversations feel more real. Also, people are now talking with specificity about anti-black racism in the music industry, which had been largely unrecognised (at least publicly) by non-black people in the business, or has been hidden as an issue in amongst general ‘diversity’ issues.  We’re now at the stage where we are calling it what it is: anti-black racism. To be able to talk to organisations about the way black executives, in particular, have been treated and have fared adversely in the industry is a shift.  One thing that we’ve said to ourselves as an organisation is that we are not going to be blinded or do cartwheels for the small shifts that have been made, so while we’re happy with the steps being taken by organisations, we are acutely aware that these are early days, so it will be for the history books to record whether change is truly effected.  We’ve seen a new level of collaboration and solidarity among black professionals in the industry in the aftermath of the year’s events. For us, this signals the promise of the black music industry and culture in the UK continuing to thrive and becoming a safer and more inclusive place for all black execs and, in turn, black artists. We want companies who say they are committed to diversity to do real work to achieve it, not through a mere numbers exercise with more hires, but by really understanding what it is, for example, that forced black executives to have to create their own companies and successes away from major labels. We want them to understand the attrition of black staff from companies, and why there is such a dearth of senior black executives. The answers to these questions are not rocket science, but companies have to want to have honest conversations and then move intentionally to change the culture that allowed this state to be normalised.  One of the things we really want is for people who are in the industry to get into the habit of calling out racism, microaggressions and marginalisation. Often, the emotional heavy lifting of dealing with race-based work issues such as reporting and dealing with racism, right through to navigating the lack of progression, support and opportunity for black staff, falls on the shoulders of the black staff. The emotional and physical toll of this is immense; if you want to be an ally then be a vocal one, follow through with support and action. Passive observation really isn’t cutting it anymore.    As a collective, we feel confident that the racial issues affecting the industry and the need for change are now fully recognised. We know that in respect of the changes required, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We accept that some changes may take time, but we are also not about to let the industry use this as a get-out clause, so with 2021 fast approaching, the proof will definitely be in the pudding. 

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