Alice Beal & Alastair Kinross on breaking acts, A&R and why Insanity's a different kind of label

Alice Beal & Alastair Kinross on breaking acts, A&R and why Insanity's a different kind of label

Insanity Records has been making its mark on the charts this year.

The Sony Music JV had a No.1 album with Tom Grennan’s Evering Road last month, and the campaign continues with streaming success on the singles chart. Not only has Grennan secured his first hits this year, he currently has two singles in the Top 10 – Little Bit Of Love at No.7 (220,059 sales to date) and Ella Henderson collaboration Let’s Go Home Together at No.10 (165,925 sales).

In the latest issue of Music Week, label president and Insanity Group CEO/founder Andy Varley shares the story of his company’s rise across management, live and the label, including success with Craig David, Tom Grennan and Joy Crookes

Here, Insanity Group general manager, music & records, Alice Beal and Insanity Records’ head of A&R Alastair Kinross discuss their ambitions for the label, breaking acts and synergies across the company’s roster of artists, broadcasters and influencers…

Insanity is like an indie within a major – what's the A&R strategy for the label?

Alastair Kinross: “Our main focus has been to double down on the identity of Insanity Records and what we do well. I believe this is identifying and fostering exciting career artist propositions, and investing the time to really get them right. Alongside this, a big personal focus has been developing our A&R philosophy within the team incorporating modern data techniques together with traditional artist development. This has enabled us to really understand how our records are going to react in the marketplace, and whilst not leading our decision-making it definitely empowers it.”   

Taking the time and really standing behind our artists is what makes Insanity a special culture to be part of

Alastair Kinross

How did you work with Sony on securing a No.1 album for Tom Grennan?

Alice Beal: “Our sales team within Sony have always been so invested in Tom, and he has always wanted to do whatever is asked of him to build successful relationships with our partners. Fundamentally, lockdown provided us with time – time to set this record up in the way we wanted to with retailers. Having Tom personally explain to them how important a record it was for him, I think was vital in the support we received. Coming off the back of what was a challenging year for him as a musician who thrives on playing live, people wanted to back him even more. We utilised that on album week – his fans have always been so engaged with in-stores, shows and our D2C offerings and those things are how we got the result we did.”   

Following success with Tom Grennan, what are your hopes for new talent on Insanity?

AK: “Watching Little Bit Of Love continue to build internationally, my goal for all our artists is to find that sweet spot for their music that culturally resonates in the UK, and can also cross borders and achieve global success. We’re proud to have a roster of artists who have the potential to deliver critically acclaimed music and foster the highest level of ambition.”

How does the label work alongside the wider company on a day-to day-basis, what are the natural synergies?

AB: “With a roster that is entirely focused on artist development, we lean on our Sony colleagues in 4th Floor Creative and also Sales on a daily basis. Not only for support on an artist-by-artist level, but also for learnings across other campaigns in the business. It’s easy in a small label to over-analyse every detail – we need our Sony colleagues to help provide us with context and expertise to support our thinking! In terms of the wider Insanity business, the opportunities from a brands perspective and the relationships in broadcast are so vital for us in the label, combined with the way we are able to galvanise out digital talent collaboratively with our artists means we can really add value in an unconventional way.”

Our thinking is broader than that of a traditional record label

Alice Beal

What does Insanity offer artists that's different to other labels?

AK: “In my view, taking the time and really standing behind our artists is what makes Insanity a special culture to be part of. The daily and honest communication at all levels of the company, and directly with our artists, is also unique compared to any other company I’ve been part of. It’s a real family energy.”

AB: “I personally think the relationships we have with our artists and managers, combined with the level of service we can provide, is difficult to find in other labels. Our approach is just to focus, and fundamentally the time spent on each artist is so much greater when you work that way. Our thinking is broader than that of a traditional record label, and that is a direct result of being part of the wider Insanity business. We’ve always just rolled our sleeves up and wanted to get involved in everything, and it seems to work for us that way!”

After No.1 success, what are your ambitions in terms of growing the label further?

AK: “Our collective ambition is to deliver continued success on a global scale across our roster, whilst also never losing sight of what makes Insanity feel unique; that ‘us against the world’ feeling of a boutique company, while continuing to offer the best elements of the global force of Sony Music. Next up, Joy Crookes, Dan D’Lion and Aida Lae!” 

AB: “Our ambition for the label has always been to break the artists we work with, in our own way, and no matter how long it takes. I personally feel even more passionate about that based on the journey we’ve been on with Tom. With the quality of the music we have lined up from Joy Crookes, Dan D’Lion and Aida Lae, we’re excited about them following that same path. “

Subscribers can click here to read The Music Week Interview with Andy Varley.

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