'The heart of the label': Tributes to EMI A&R coordinator Ashley Forbes

'The heart of the label': Tributes to EMI A&R coordinator Ashley Forbes

Universal Music UK chairman and CEO David Joseph has led the tributes to Ashley Forbes, who has died after a long illness.

A hugely popular figure at the company, Ashley Forbes was head of A&R admin and worked at the major for 32 years, first at Virgin, then Virgin EMI and EMI following the acquisition and restructure.

The A&R executive from Ayrshire had a close relationship with acts including the Spice Girls, Chemical Brothers, Queen, Emeli Sande and Bastille. 

Generosity and creativity were what made her such a wonderful, unforgettable person

David Joseph

“In all her time at the heart of the A&R team at Virgin and EMI – head of A&R admin doesn’t fully reflect the magnitude of her importance – Ashley always saw her role as making things happen for other people. It was never, ever about her. It was always about the music,” said David Joseph.

“Ashley was genuinely the heart of the label and always there for anyone who needed her – countless artists but for so many colleagues also. Generosity and creativity were what made her such a wonderful, unforgettable person.” 

“We are all so incredibly sad that our wonderful colleague & friend, Ashley Forbes is no longer with us,” said EMI president Rebecca Allen. “Ashley was the heart of the label for over 32 years, and during this time she touched so many lives, both professionally and personally. Speaking to the team today, it has been incredible to hear their heartfelt stories, their love for Ashley was beyond that of a work colleague. She was a friend to so many of the team, always leaning in with her kindness, always putting others first, she was simply remarkable.

“Our label family will feel empty without Ashley in it, our hearts will be heavier, but as a label will strive to continue to achieve the excellence that she stood for. Her dedication to this label, to our artists, to the teams around her was exemplary. Our deepest thoughts go to her family and to her friends. She has gone too soon and we will miss her so much.”

Her dedication to this label, to our artists, to the teams around her was exemplary

Rebecca Allen

“Ashley was unassuming, selfless and authentically funny,” said A&R consultant Chris Briggs. “A proper grown-up, sensitive and kind. She came from a place where people cared about doing things the right way; had everyone’s respect, will be impossible to replace. A one-off, never to be repeated, super bright, unique individual. She had incredible attention to detail and read the meeting room brilliantly. Knew exactly how much you had spent recording and how likely you were to miss your deadlines. Where every tape and hard drive was located. She just wanted the music to be as good as it could be, without any desire to take credit for anything.

“She was also one of my best friends in the music industry. She would not welcome all this attention. I still wonder – did I thank her enough? It was a privilege to work with her through the EMI dramas at Wright’s Lane. Cannot believe we will never meet for dinner ever again.”

Tributes have also poured in from artists who recalled the support and encouragement they received from Ashley Forbes.

The Chemical Brothers and their management issued the following tribute: “One of a kind… Part of the fabric of Virgin Records, there for us ever since we walked through the door at Kensal Dock all those years ago. We will miss you Ash.” - Love, Robert, Nick, Tom & Ed.

“The news about Ash is absolutely devastating,” said Bastille’s Dan Smith. “She was such a bloody wonderful person, so kind and funny, and a real constant for a lot of people in an ever changing industry. I always loved getting to see her to have a massive hug and a catch up in the office. Ash worked across every bit of music we released since signing and we will all miss her terribly. I wish there could have been an opportunity for us all to have let her know how much we loved her and how brilliant she was.”

Emeli Sandé said: “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ashley Forbes. She was such a special person. Always full of joy, genuine care and encouragement. I enjoyed working with her so much, I will miss her dearly. There is no doubt that her legend will live on in the hearts of everyone lucky enough to have known her and to have been touched by her kindness and sincerity.” 

“She was a beacon of honesty and humour in a business often known for the exact opposite,” added Everything But The Girl’s Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn.

“Ashley was there at the start for Massive along with Ray [Cooper] and Ashley [Newton] and was such a big hearted soul who always had our backs. Thank you Forbsie – Rest In Power,” said Massive Attack and manager Marc Picken.

Forbes was honoured at the Music Business Worldwide A&R Awards in 2016.

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