'Artists still love airplay': Atlantic promo king Damian Christian on the radio-streaming battle

Damian Christian

They don’t make execs like Damian Christian any more.

The Atlantic UK director of promotions and Warner Music UK SVP of promotional strategy stars on the cover of the current Music Week in celebration of his 20 years at Atlantic. And his no-filter interview has been the talk of the biz all week, as well as drawing congratulatory comments on social media from everyone from George Ergatoudis and MistaJam to Jamie Theakston and Abbey Clancy.

But beneath all the great stories about drinking contests with Marilyn Manson and wild nights out with Black Grape (which you’ll have to read the full interview for) Christian is a unique executive for business reasons as well.

He and his team have won 10 of the last 11 Music Week Awards Promotions Team gongs, and he has a phenomenal track record in breaking artists across radio and TV, including Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Anne-Marie and Portugal The Man (Stormzy and Sheeran can both be found bigging up Christian’s skills in the cover story).

And while in the interview he admits to being “old school” (“I take that as a compliment… I am old school – with a new school element in there too”) he has also built key relationships across the DSPs. So Christian is well-placed to talk about whether radio is really being replaced by streaming services.

“I’ve been doing it so long, I remember in the late ‘80s and ‘90s when they were saying they don’t want pluggers anymore, everyone’s going to pick their own records,” he told Music Week. “But that went away. Radio has always been there with acts and new artists and I think it will always be. I can’t see it dying – unless I’m really being delusional. Of course streaming is very important but it’s balanced itself out now. It’s a big pie and everyone’s got a slice of it.”

And Christian noted that the announcement of new radio playlists remains as hotly-anticipated as ever across the business.

“Everybody will be waiting for that news at 5pm,” he said. “It’s been like that for over 30 years. The whole record industry comes to a standstill.

“Some people would say [radio] is not as big [as it used to be], but for us at Atlantic we take it as seriously as ever,” he added. “It’s everything for us. The artists still love airplay because you can hear it, you can feel it, so I still get a massive buzz out of hearing our records on the radio. It’s a drug, it’s addictive, the more you get, the more you want.”

But Christian also noted the importance of streaming playlists, and said they also benefitted from having human curation, rather than being solely algorithm-based.

"Sitting down in front of people, having regular dialogue and taking people to gigs if they’re not sure about an act and going, ‘Give it another go’… That’s important," he said. "But the streaming dudes do that as well."

* To read the full, exclusive Damian Christian cover story, see this week’s print edition of Music Week, available now, or click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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