Rebecca Allen & team EMI toast second Music Week Awards win in a row

Rebecca Allen & team EMI toast second Music Week Awards win in a row

Rebecca Allen & Jo Charrington are presiding over a “magical” time for EMI, with the major celebrating its second consecutive Record Company win at the Music Week Awards.

EMI also won the Promotions Team category at last week’s sold out showpiece, which took place at the JW Marriott Grosvener House London, Park Lane, W1 and featured a star turn from Girls Aloud and Strat winner Peter Loraine.

Speaking to Music Week after an emotional moment on stage, EMI co-president Rebeecca Allen was joined by managing director Lucy Dann and Rich Castillo, SVP, A&R.

“This is so cool, honestly, I’m gobsmacked,” said Allen. “We’re quite giddy.”

Even though the award came hot on the heels of the major retaining its No.1 position in the Q1 market shares (thanks to being in top spot on the crucial All Music – All Albums rankings with a 10.8% share), Allen said she was shocked to be celebrating taking home the biggest prize on the night once again.

We roll our sleeves up for our artists constantly, no matter if it’s their first album, their third, their fifth or their 20th

Rebecca Allen

“I promise you we did not see that coming, we did not expect it and never take these things for granted,” she said. “Winning it one year was incredible, and I’d never won it before, but then to follow up for a second year, it just proves that we’re doing something right. We’ve got the right people in the label and the right chemistry going on between everyone.” 

Visibly moved, Allen added: “I can’t tell you how much this means. And I know Jo [Charrington] will be sitting at home in tears as well. She’s poorly, so she’ll be so gutted she missed this, but will be as proud as I am of everyone.”

With that we sat down with Allen, Dann and Castillo to pick apart the last 12 months at EMI and talk A&R, TikTok and why old school methods are making a comeback…

Congratulations once again. Can you put your finger on just why things are going so well at EMI right now? 

Rebecca Alen: “I don’t know!”

Lucy Dann: “Good question. We’re in a good flow with all the artists. We’ve got an amazing roster of developing acts and established artists and I think we try to serve everyone the same, that’s really important.”

RA: “We believe in artist development, no matter what stage of the journey. Be it a Caity Baser, Mae Stephens or Olivia Dean, Loyle Carner, Jessie Ware, Elton John, Sam SmithChase & Status… These are artists that we just roll up our sleeves for constantly, no matter if it’s their first album, their third, their fifth or their 20th. It’s day one every time we sit down with them.”

LD: “We’re playing a long game with every artist.”

What was the year like for A&R at EMI?

Rich Castillo: “We’ve had a few challenges with the TikTok situation but it’s been amazing. It has made us all dig in and refocus on the artist proposition. The A&R team has really pulled together and collectively pooled our talent to try and serve our roster as best we could. It’s been amazing. Being led by Jo with all her years of experience on everything she has done has been a godsend and a gift, everyone on the team has learned so much just from being around that. We’re really grateful for the artists we have, we’re committed to delivering for them and Jo has led from the front.”

Is the approach the same for brand new artists and established acts?

RC: “Definitely. A lot of the time the established artists get overlooked and people think, ‘Oh they know what they’re doing,’ but this is the first time in my career where the established artists have been really open to digging in again and resetting, and not just when it comes to A&R, but the approach to content and marketing, they’ve been really good. Lucy and her team have been really good at re-educating them on the importance of that and how to exist [as artists] in 2024. That has been a game changer.”

What happened with TikTok forced us all to really think about how we present artists

Rich Castillo

Are there any particular campaigns that you’re proud of?

LD: “Olivia Dean has been a really great one for us because it has taken time and persistence and it shows the effect of real world activity, hence why Suzy’s [Walby, director of media] team also won promotions team for EMI tonight. We spent a few years doing everything online because of Covid and we’re coming out the other side of that and realising that it’s about a combination of the artist’s vision, with creativity at its core, and the strengths of a digital footprint and really strong content. That will always win, and Olivia just has had loads of good stuff happening, from the Mercury to a BRITs nomination and three sold-out Hammersmith Apollo shows, it’s really starting to show that it’s moving in a more traditional way, so you’re applying to the old school principles and getting exposure, to new school ways of gaining audiences online. I think we’re back to a hybrid of the best bits of driving records and projects forward, whereas we had a few years that were a little bit one dimensional and quite difficult.”

Why was that?

LD: “There was a huge onus on TikTok, too much so, honestly. We’ve got to go back to the product being the best it can be, the best entertainment - because we do still work in entertainment - and that maybe got lost when everyone was fighting for virality, which isn’t a controllable thing. Now, we’re going back to the things we can control and believing in the output musically first, which Jo, Rich and the A&R team are really focusing on. Olivia’s was one of the best albums of the year, which also helps! But there is a [broad range] of projects... Caity Baser is real pop and it has been very much about putting her on the map at the beginning of her career, but she still had a Top 10 mixtape straight into a sold out tour. Chase & Status and Bastille are great examples of artists that have been on EMI for a long time but they felt invigorated and fresh and were really successful. It doesn’t feel stale at all, it’s really exciting. That goes to show that it’s not always about the new, which I think is a refreshing stance.”

The onus on creative is greater than ever. Did we lose that for a while? Maybe...

Lucy Dann

Did it feel like you had more eyes on you after winning last year? Whether that’s within Universal or outside?

RA: “The only pressure Jo and I ever feel is from ourselves. We’re our own biggest critics and we have this [thing] of constantly critiquing ourselves, which is a blessing and a curse. We want to do good by our artists and lead by example for our team. Jo and I have always agreed that if we can help inspire a new generation of music execs to come through, that’s the biggest thing we can do right now. The pressure comes from ourselves rather than anyone else, we don’t need anyone else to put pressure on us, we are competitive, very competitive. [Laughs].”

This year is already going well, Taylor Swift is at No.1 as we speak. How are you feeling about the future?

RA: “Shout out to Taylor Swift! We’re looking forward to her arriving in the UK and to working with her and her fantastic team. We’ve had some amazing moments recently, Pearl Jam, The Libertines, Mark Knopfler, artists that have been around a long time but we’re delivering such successes that they’re feeling rejuvenated. We’ve got some incredible new albums coming this year. We’re really clear what our focuses are, what our priorities are. Caity Baser and Olivia Dean, Elton, Chase & Status, Bastille. We’re thrilled with the roster.”

LD: “The priority in terms of strategy is going back to music and creative vision first and making sure that is watertight and that everyone on the team, and most crucially the artists themselves ,really owns that, enjoys it and loves what they’re putting out into the world. It’s finding the right audiences for the right artists and growing from there. There’s a lot of data in the world and it can serve us very well if we can use it in the right way. One of the advantages now is that we can really pinpoint where an artist can start a fire and grow from there. It has been a bit of a refresh really. The onus on creative is greater than ever. Did we lose that for a while? Maybe.”

RC: “I think we got a bit relaxed during the TikTok period. Given what happened, it forced us all to really think about how we present [artists] and what the proposition is and it’s been a blessing in that process.”

RA: “Also, it’s a really young, dynamic team.”

LD: “It’s also a new team, we all want to impress each other. I’ve always wanted to work for Becky and Jo, that’s two women that I never would have dreamt of getting the opportunity to work for.”

RC: “We feel like we’re part of something really new. There’s something happening at EMI that is really magical and it’s a privilege to be a part of it. We’re definitely in the eye of a time that is great for the label, so it feels wonderful.”

LD: “We’re giving it a good shot!”

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