Sony Music's Carina Grace talks exports and innovation following Music Week Awards win

Sony Music's Carina Grace talks exports and innovation following Music Week Awards win

Sony Music triumphed in our brand new category at the Music Week Awards – International Marketing Team Of The Year. The award recognises the success of UK labels in growing the profile of acts in global territories. 

The category made its bow this year with a heavyweight contest between BMG UK, Partisan, PIAS, Sony Music Entertainment UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK.

Music Week has added the award to our annual industry celebration at a time when there’s an increasing focus on the need to export UK talent, in order to compete with repertoire from other territories where labels have seized opportunities in the global streaming market. There’s also pressure to develop a new generation of UK superstars.

With the reach of social media and TikTok, there are multiple routes to reach consumers. But UK artists are often relying on building bridges with successful domestic acts via affiliate labels in other markets, often as featured artists, in order to gain traction in new territories.

Sony Music UK has been working on developing international marketing campaigns for its rap roster, including Headie One. The major has focused on making the Relentless-signed, chart-topping star a key figure in the expansion of drill across Europe.

Headie One ended up collaborating with 11 artists from France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and Belgium on the No Borders compilation in November 2022, which was followed by a 12-date European tour in February. Alongside a Deezer session, the project was launched with Headie One and several of the European rappers recording a No Borders Fire In The Booth session in Paris. 

As well as pairing up with collaborators on promo, the UK star built buzz for the project last summer by appearing during Luciano’s headline Splash! Festival set in Gräfenhainichen, Germany and Frenna’s main stage Woo Hah! X Rolling Loud festival performance in Tilburg, Netherlands.

Sony Music’s international marketing triumph was also based on the company’s global success with breakthrough star Cat Burns. The campaign to take Go global amid TikTok momentum was heavily influenced by data and audience analysis, alongside an influencer campaign to drive discovery.

Carina Grace, Sony Music’s vice president, international marketing, collected the trophy at the Music Week Awards. She oversees the day-to-day running of the international marketing department, responsible for running global campaigns for artists signed to Columbia, RCA, Since ’93, Black Butter, Insanity, Ministry Of Sound and Relentless. 

Here, Carina Grace (pictured with awards host Vick Hope) opens up about how the major is taking artists to the global level…

How does it feel to win this brand new Music Week Award for international marketing?

“I think that’s pretty special, it's quite exciting that there was an award in this category this year. So it feels great that we won it the first time.”

Would you say the role of international marketing is increasingly important when it comes to labels exporting UK talent?

“Yeah, and increasingly challenging in a way, we are aligning with [international] artists who are innovative and will connect and collaborate with us. One of the campaigns that we put forward as part of this was for Headie One, which was very much driven by him really collaborating with artists in other markets, getting involved, bringing them together and doing a lot of great stuff. It was quite groundbreaking, in particular for an artist of that genre, which is really challenging internationally. But I think it’s more and more important for UK record companies – it’s not getting any easier, but it’s a real focus for Sony Music.”

Headie One’s campaign was very much driven by him collaborating with artists in other markets

Carina Grace

What have you got coming up in terms of international marketing campaigns?

“We have a new Bring Me The Horizon album coming, also a new Nothing But Thieves album. There’s more music coming from Calvin Harris, he’s a really key focus artist for us. Tom Walker, Joy Crookes, Tom Grennan… There are a lot of really exciting developing artists coming through that our markets around the world are very excited about. There’s also more music from Cat Burns, who is obviously at the early stages [of a music career] but hugely exciting.” 

Cat Burns had a huge breakthrough in the UK last year, how did that reach expand internationally?

“It was global. I guess TikTok drove a lot of that, but we had a lot of great airplay and streaming also across the US, Australia and Europe in particular. Cat has also been out touring, she supported Sam Smith recently across Europe, she’s been in Europe with Ed Sheeran in the last year and she’s going to the US [with Sheeran] this summer, and there are also some headline shows planned. So it feels like we’re at the beginning of something very exciting with Cat.”

Are there particularly strong markets you’re looking at when exporting UK artists to other territories?

“We work closely all the time with our European labels, that’s easier because they’re the closest. We now look a lot more to Asia and Latin America, and we’ve seen a lot of increased success in India and Indonesia. For example, with Libianca recently, Indonesia is a big market for her, and also for Bring Me The Horizon and Nothing But Thieves. So across genres, those are markets that are really worth looking at. The noise that comes out of there from the social or streaming perspective can then also be really meaningful in other markets.”

Click here for this year's Music Week Awards winners.


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