Parlophone co-presidents on the unstoppable ascent of BRITs nominee Sam Ryder

Parlophone co-presidents on the unstoppable ascent of BRITs nominee Sam Ryder

 WORDS: James Hanley PHOTO: Simon Emmett

Sam Ryder is up for Best New Artist at the BRITs on Saturday (February 11), following the release of his chart-topping debut album.

Here, Parlophone co-presidents Nick Burgess and Mark Mitchell reveal how A&R and hard work sent Sam Ryder stratospheric…

Nick Burgess: “Our A&R philosophy is that we want every artist to be unique and unconventional. Sam was huge on TikTok and had some of the biggest artists in the world following him, so we saw his ability to connect. But he wasn’t the obvious TikTok artist, he was singing classics with world class vocals and a unique take on those songs. We spotted that he had star quality, then it was all about how good his writing was – and that matched up to the level we needed as well. Space Man was the first song we heard from him so I knew he was a brilliant songwriter. I didn’t want to sign a TikTok artist that didn’t have the ability to write their own music, but as soon as we knew he was a great writer, it was a simple decision.”

Mark Mitchell: “We had a long term-plan for Sam and when we got the Eurovision opportunity, there weren’t many artists we would have taken that chance with. But we were so confident in Sam’s ability to perform and connect that we saw it as an amazing promo opportunity. It’s not often you get a chance to play in front of 180 million people, what artist wouldn’t want to do that? So we went into it very positively and Sam attacked it like an athlete. He is a big Eurovision fan and I think that came across during his interviews – it was clear that he didn’t have a cynical bone in his body about it and nor did we.”

NB: “When we made the decision to say yes, there was definitely a concern that it could backfire and damage his career. But I think that narrative is now gone and people can see Eurovision as an opportunity as opposed to a potential pitfall. I think the Tap Music team will have a much bigger pool of people to choose from next year, but Sam will be a hard act to follow. We woke up the day after Eurovision and he was a household name.”

MM: “I’m incredibly proud of Space Man and it’s become a defining moment for Sam, but our plan was always to put new music out as soon as we could. He did a collaboration with Sigala and David Guetta [Living Without You] as well. His Eurovision success hasn’t changed that much. Obviously Space Man had a longer life, but he will be about more than one song.”

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NB: “Just because he’d had a hit, we were conscious that didn’t mean that he was a shoo-in for the rest of his career, we had to keep developing him. The follow-up singles were always going to be Somebody and All The Way Over. The album [There’s Nothing But Space, Man, out now] has come out pretty quickly for a debut artist, but because of the trajectory, we’ve put it out to give the audience what they want and we’re hopefully going to grow it into one of the biggest albums of 2023. This year is all about more great music and global growth.”

MM: “We’ve gone from trying to break an artist in the UK and then export him, to Sam being a European artist almost overnight. Suddenly, the promo schedule gets a lot busier.”

NB: “What we’ve learned about Sam is that the bigger the pressure, the better he performs. The ‘Space Ma’am’ moment [Ryder adapted the last line of Space Man to honour the Queen on stage at the Platinum Party At The Palace], again, showed just how sprightly his brain is. He thought of it as he was going on the stage and it was a lovely recognition of the Queen’s involvement.”

MM: “He’s had some incredible moments. It’s a really interesting campaign because his celebrity status is a lot bigger than if he was a typical new artist starting to break through. He did two shows at Outernet in November, which was almost 5,000 tickets, and he’s playing at Eventim Apollo in March as part of a full UK tour. Then it’s about festivals in the summer and probably another tour later in the year. But we’re having to deal with a developing global picture every single day, it’s not just the UK. In our eyes, he is a fully rounded artist.”


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