Raye has broken BRITs records with seven nominations for the 2024 ceremony. It was all the more remarkable in that she is not signed to a label for her debut album.
The star's campaign for the My 21st Century Blues album and hit single Escapism marked her return under a new distribution partnership with LA-based Human Re Sources, which is part of Sony Music’s artist & label services operation The Orchard.
Here, The Orchard's UK president Ian Dutt (speaking ahead of the nominations announcement) reflects on Raye's incredible year including a million-selling smash...
Interview: James Hanley Photo: Callum Walker Hutchinson
"A lot has been written about Raye over the last year, but one of the things that hasn’t been written about is her work ethic. It was quite phenomenal to watch. There was no task or ask that was ever too small for her. Whether it was signing records while sat in my office, or approving test pressings, Raye was involved in every single aspect. She put her heart and soul into the campaign.
“In terms of strategy, it was all about showcasing the breadth and the strength of the album, My 21st Century Blues [63,164 sales – Official Charts Company]. Hard Out Here and Black Mascara were both amazing pieces of music and we wanted to get as much music into the market as possible, also recognising that Raye hadn’t really been allowed to build her audience or fanbase up to that point. So right from the start, it was about building an audience, community and showcasing as much of her brilliance as possible.
“When we got to Escapism [1,417,304 sales – Official Charts Company], we already felt we were on the right path – it’s rare that you get TikTok moments like that during a cycle – and it became a perfect storm. Then it was about trying to control and move things along at the right speed. With pretty much every decision we made, she was involved. Her voice was the dominant voice in the directions we took.
“The music has been phenomenal and amazingly received. Her message in terms of what she wanted her audience to empathise with has been accepted globally. The success around Escapism is undeniable and that has obviously been a key driver, but everything culminating in the Royal Albert Hall show was just a beautiful thing to watch.
“With a breakthrough, there has to be an element of chart, sales and streaming success. But, more importantly, it is also about being able to form a foundation that you can build upon.
“Success doesn’t happen in the same timeframe that it has for the music industry over the past 30 or 40 years. It now takes a long time to build. You can break through in any market in the world and the timeframes are not the timeframes that have traditionally dictated what breakthrough means.
Everything that has happened this year has vindicated Raye as a solo artist, and as one of the greatest British artists of her generation
“No.1s are always amazing, but I think the fact that Escapism reached No.1 placated any disappointment in the album not being No.1. It’s always great to be No.1, but it was never our goal to start with, and there will be more No.1s for Raye later down the line.
“I think the lesson is that art always comes first; that if you believe in yourself and your art, you will always find a home and an audience. Everything that has happened this year has vindicated Raye as a solo artist, and as one of the greatest British artists of her generation. I’m super proud of what we’ve achieved in the UK, and also that we’ve gone platinum in 14 other territories around the world.
“We’re delighted for Raye, for Paul and Sarah [Keen], her parents, her sisters and for Human Re Sources. The reality has fast surpassed what we had envisaged as success for Raye.
“The most important thing was to build something she was proud of: that showcased her art and her music. We never set ourselves targets for success, so it has all been a bonus.
“Will it make major labels think again about how they A&R new acts? I don’t know, that’s for them to answer. All I can do is build teams around artists to deliver the visions that they have.
“The services sector has been proving itself for a number of years now. I was very much involved in the birth of it back in the early 2000s, and it was seen as, if you couldn’t get a big record deal, then maybe a services deal was the next best alternative. I think we are at level pegging now.
“There is still a huge amount of work to come. I don’t think there is a ceiling; the world’s her oyster now.”