Warner Music UK has announced a leadership transition at Warner Records UK that will see Joe Kentish promoted to president, effective from June 1.
Phil Christie has made the decision to step down from the label.
Kentish has been with the label since 2014, during which time he’s discovered and signed the likes of Dua Lipa and Griff, as well as overseen an expansion of the roster, including the signing of acts such as Mist, Nines and Pa Salieu.
He will report to WMUK CEO Tony Harlow. Kentish also joins the WMUK leadership team, where he will have a say in the strategic direction of the broader UK company.
Warner Records UK is enjoying a strong start to 2021 with a 4% market share of AES All Albums for the year-to-date, according to Official Charts Company data. Dua Lipa’s second album, Future Nostalgia, has been a global hit, winning this year’s Best Pop Album Grammy and earning her Female Solo Artist and Mastercard Album of the Year at the BRIT Awards. Dua Lipa is currently Spotify’s most-streamed female artist and the third most-streamed artist in the world.
Pa Salieu topped this year’s BBC Sound of 2021, and singer-songwriter Griff won the BRITs Rising Star award – making Warner Records UK the first label ever to win both in the same year with different artists. Kentish, who has been upped from head of A&R, has been instrumental in this success.
In his new position, Kentish will be responsible for overseeing the creative and strategic direction of the label, as well as the development and campaigns for its roster of artists, including domestic acts Biffy Clyro, Dua Lipa, Foals, Ghetts, Liam Gallagher, Mist, Muse, Nines and Royal Blood, as well as up-and-coming acts Griff, JC Stewart and Pa Salieu, and all incoming international acts and releases. Kentish will continue to work closely with the rest of the Warner Records UK senior management team including Jane Arthy, VP, radio & playlisting, SVP Jen Ivory and general manager Sukhraj Johal.
Kentish started his music industry career as one of the founders of UK garage label Middle Row Records. He then worked as an A&R scout for two years at EMI before moving to Mercury Records (later Virgin/EMI), where he signed and A&R’d the likes of The Vamps, Just Jack and Pixie Lott before joining Warner Records UK as senior A&R Manager in 2014.
Delivering brilliant music in remarkable ways is what this label is about
Ben Mawson, co-founder of Tap Music and Dua Lipa’s manager, said: “Joe’s been instrumental in Dua’s success, and we consider him a true friend and collaborator. He’s a genuine music man whose artist-first, hands-on approach has made him a pleasure to work with. We wish him every success in this new role and have complete confidence in his ability to help us continue our ambitious journey with Dua. We’ll miss Phil, who is a great friend and has really transformed Warner Records since he was promoted, but we know he’s leaving Warner Records in safe hands.”
Tony Harlow, CEO, Warner Music UK, said: “Joe truly is one of the most talented and instinctively brilliant execs out there, and his track record speaks for itself. Not only is he an incredibly talented A&R, but he’s someone with a comprehensive understanding of what great artist development takes. He can spot distinctive British talent in its infancy and nurture it into a successful career that resonates in the UK and on the global stage; his unique creative relationship with Dua is a testament to that. I couldn’t be more pleased to see him take the reins of Warner Records and to watch him continue to do what he does best; create great music and bring out the best in people.”
Joe Kentish said: “Warner Records is home to an electrifying array of established and developing creative talent, and I couldn’t be prouder to take the role at this particular time in its history. In an increasingly competitive environment, we have strived to keep true artist development at the heart of what we do whilst fully embracing the newest opportunities to introduce those artists to the world. Delivering brilliant music in remarkable ways is what this label is about, and I’m passionate about continuing that work with the wonderful mix of artists and managers we work with. I want to thank Tony for this opportunity and Phil for his ongoing support and guidance; we’ve had an unbelievable journey together; I feel very lucky to have worked with such an incredible boss and true friend.”
Kentish replaces Phil Christie, who has chosen to leave the label toward the end of 2021, after five years in the role.
Phil Christie said: “I’ve enjoyed my time at Warner Records hugely, and I’m incredibly proud of everything we have achieved together. The label is unrecognisable from the one I walked into in 2014. Now the time has come for me to look ahead and move on, and I couldn’t be happier for Joe, who deserves every accolade. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family before thinking about the next step. I want to thank Tony and Max for their support in this decision, our remarkable artists for all the amazing music and the team for their dedication and belief over the years.”
Tony Harlow said: “I can’t thank Phil enough for his amazing contribution in running Warner Records. His hands-on approach to artist development sometimes gets overlooked in the intensity of the day-to-day running of a big label, but his expertise and guidance are always felt. While we wish him every luck for the future, we do not doubt that he’ll stay a close friend of the label.”