The highlights: Industry leaders reflect on 2021 Pt.2

The highlights: Industry leaders reflect on 2021 Pt.2

EMI president Rebecca Allen heads up the second part of our series of industry reflections on 2021.

Here, joined by BBC Radio 1Xtra's Faron McKenzie, RCA's David Dollimore, Warner Chappell's Shani Gonzales and more, she shares her thoughts on the biggest stories of last year. Find Part 1 here, and look out for more later this week on


What was your favourite thing about life at EMI in 2021?
“Meeting the EMI team and artists properly for the first time! It was really so special being back in the building with them all, and finally getting to meet my incredible artist family, and to see some of them back out playing live – the best feeling ever!”

What's the biggest way in which the industry has changed this year?
“Connectivity on a global scale. I have never felt more connected to my colleagues, artists and audiences from around the world. We can react quicker, adapt quicker and reach new audiences without having to kill the planet.”


Name 1Xtra's biggest contribution to the music industry in 2021?
“Expanding the breadth of music and cultures we reflect and support. We launched the UK Touch Down Tour in partnership with BBC Music Introducing, DJ Target showcased 192 new artist records from 16 cities across the UK that were uploaded to BBC Music Introducing. Our brand new on demand music program Africa 360 With celebrated talent from across Africa, launching with non-other than Afrobeats superstar Wizkid. We dedicated our weekend playlist to African music meaning 100% of the music played on 1Xtra across that weekend was from the continent of Africa covering North, South, East, West and Central and also included a stunning Live Lounge performance from Afrobeats legend Davido. We also launched a new mix series Amapiano To Afrohouse – with some of the pioneers of the genre from DBN Gogo, Sef Kombo, Major League DJz to name a few. We also launched the first-ever weekly Official UK Afrobeats Chart Show with legendary host Eddie Kadi – the definitive Afrobeats Chart with a weekly rundown of the Top 20 biggest tracks, as compiled by the Official Charts Company based on sales and streams across the UK. Another show we launched was 1Xtra R&B Show – the raft of R&B artists from the UK and around the globe deserves its very own show and who else to be at the helm of the next gen of artists but our very own DJ Ace. These shows and others provided much needed escape and entertainment for our audience.”

What's your message to the artists you support?
"Your art kept your fans and our audience entertained in unprecedented times and you proved how resilient, passionate and creative you are. We will continue to support you and your teams as we enter 2022 – remember you have a home at 1Xtra."


What was the biggest breakthrough your company made last year?
“Proving we can chart and break albums and singles in multiple genres: drill, hip-hop, grime, pop, dance, rock, K-pop, indie, alternative… thinking back on it now, it’s been one hell of a year! And all done with a brand-new name.”

What's your message for the industry as 2022 begins?
“Since the murder of George Floyd we’ve made progress as an industry, but we are not done yet – let’s keep pushing. We don’t rest until true inclusion is a reality.”


Since the murder of George Floyd the industry has made progress, but we are not done yet

Vanessa Bosåen, Virgin Music UK



Your best moment of 2021?
“The return of live music and the first show seeing Mr. Kid Laroi in London.”

And the most challenging?
“Being told to come on stage by The Kid Laroi and asked to stage-dive into a crowd who had just returned from Boardmasters Festival?!”


How will artists benefit from MPs’ scrutiny of the streaming economy?
“Nothing is ever immediate in politics. But, in the short term, hopefully the scrutiny will help artists renegotiate old deals – especially those on extremely low pre-digital royalty rates. In the medium term, we would like this to lead to a progressive code of practice, addressing not only transparency but also contractual fairness. If that doesn’t happen, there will need to be the back-stop of legislation to tackle this.”

Did Brexit end up being as damaging as you anticipated?
“Worse, I think. We constantly flagged the potential issues of a no-deal for music but were told this was ‘Project Fear’. In the end, most of ‘Project Fear’ ended up coming true, with carnets being required and cabotage restrictions on concert haulage decimating the UK industry. We have had some better news recently on Spanish visas and splitter vans, which is progress to be welcomed, but the increased overall cost will hurt developing to mid-level UK artists and even huge artists will experience issues with truck availability for 2022.”


How was your Mercury Awards experience with Arlo Parks?
“It was a beautiful night. We generally don’t have fierce expectations at Transgressive, just wild hope, so it’s fair to say that our team attended with a sense of gratitude for the nomination, and that whatever was to happen would have felt good to us. The fact that Arlo’s Collapsed In Sunbeams actually won was a brilliant feeling for everyone involved. We felt the love in the room, too, so having that support by peers and contemporaries that we all respect so much made for a really uplifting, dizzying moment. We put on a party at The Standard afterwards and Arlo was in joyous, reflective spirits throughout – her enjoyment and appreciation of it all was the best part. The bar bill at the end of that night, meanwhile, reminded me of the end scene of Home Alone 2 when Kevin McCallister’s dad sees the room service total. I’m still tempted to get it framed.”

What reaction did you get from the industry when Transgressive signed Damon Albarn?
“It was really exciting sharing that news. Again, the good will from friends and further afield was phenomenal. I think a lot of people were stoked for us – I’ve certainly never made any secrets about my utter admiration for him and his work – he is one of popular culture’s most important, enduring and authentic auteurs. Damon has experimented with numerous projects that have intersected with the independent world, but hadn’t chosen to directly sign his music to an independent label since 1990 when Blur signed to Food Records, so it’s an honour to partner with him over 30 years into his career, at a juncture where he’s still writing his best work. The Cormorant, Royal Morning Blue, The Tower of Montevideo, Darkness To Light, Polaris, Particles – so many songs from the new album are amongst his strongest, with his most beautiful vocal performances. He’ll never cease to amaze us, and so to be his custodian is an utter joy. Apparently he didn’t talk to any other labels during the process. It’s one of the greatest honours I’ve ever felt. Working with him is dynamic, fun and constantly creative.”


Did the music industry take the issues surrouding racism and discrimination seriously enough in 2021?
“'Judge a man by his actions, and the truth will make itself known to you'. I was at a UK Music event and found out that people such as Keith Harris and Les Spain have been working tirelessly for 40 years in the hope that the music industry would tackle racism and become more diverse, and where are we at with it in 2021? Still just talking. Paulette Long OBE said at the same event: “I'm not seeing change, but I am seeing movement,” and I am inclined to agree. Black Lives In Music held a series of roundtables where we met with over 60 music organisations to discuss the Black Lives In Music report and its recommendations. We had the MD/CEO’s from every major music organisation contribute to the conversation of how to address racism in the industry and it was fantastic, innovative and deeply encouraging. Black Lives In Music exists to keep the momentum for change going. When we see our conversations transition into decisive action, the very definition of those actions will encourage us to take the music industry’s commitment to anti-racism and discrimination more seriously.”

Many people do great work in the fight against inequality, is there anyone in particular you'd like to shout out?“Paulette Long has been an integral advisor to us and to the music industry as a whole. Music psychologist Natasha Hendry, Hakeem Stevens, Ammo Talwar, James Ainscough, John Shortell, Kwame Kwaten, Sebastian Smith, Leigh Morgan, Amanda Parker, Victor Redwood-Sawyerr, Ben Wynter, Yaw Owusu, Joe Frankland, Faryal Khan-Thompson... There are people who are unseen in this space doing major work to build a better future for all of us.”

There are people who are unseen doing major work to build a better future for all of us

Charisse Beaumont, Black Lives In Music



What was your Q4 highlight in terms of an album that delivered a boost to digital services and retailers?
“For me, the real Q4 highlight is that we’ve been able to have a proper Q4 at all. Although, despite it all, 2021 has had plenty of highlights – not least digital services and retailers working together for National Album Day – for a long time there was a real drought of the kind of albums which really move the dial. And then suddenly with Coldplay and Ed Sheeran and ABBA and Adele, all hell broke loose. It’s a reminder of the thrill that genuine blockbusters can bring and of the fact that for the right product, there’s still a big physical market out there.”

How has the sector evolved in response to Covid?
“What digital services and retailers have in common is a mission to bring fans together with the music they love. During Covid, in many ways digital services have had it easier than their high street peers, but retail stores have shown their ability to adapt quickly on the one hand ramping up their online offer and on the other, particularly the indies, grasping the opportunities of developments like Tim’s Listening Party and The Record Club.”


How did the world of publishing change in 2021?
“2021 brought a heavy focus on songs… As the influence of social media continues to rise, songs became the centrepiece of many conversations. TikTok moments breathed new life into old songs and social media challenges increasingly played a huge role in breaking songs.”

What was your personal highlight of last year?
“I moved to London, survived five months of lockdown – most of it with very little furniture, two bouts of Covid, my first cold grey English winter, followed by a cold English summer. Personally – I think I deserve a medal.”


What excited you most in the industry last year?
“I was really excited to see live music events returning, going to festivals and gigs made things feel like they were going back to normal and the energy at the events was on another level. It’s also great for the live music sector too which was affected so badly by the pandemic.”


What was your best work moment of 2021?
“Launching Motown Records UK was a very proud moment. And returning back to the office.”

Was there a campaign at another label that you really admired?
“Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Everything from the music, the artwork, the visuals, the performances and the incredible global recognition she deserves. Such a joy to watch.”


What's your message to the industry at the start of 2022?
“This year, I’d love to see a more even playing field for artists and genres across all aspects of the media – the ecosystems for certain genres are more fertile and supportive than for others. I think the consumer and the artists deserve a more balanced support structure, which in turn would create a more interesting offering for the public to choose from and a better and more eclectic UK music industry.”

Did you notice a return to 'normality' this year after what happened in 2020?
“If normality means every day being completely unpredictable and the cost of record deals skyrocketing... then yes, normal service seems to have been resumed!”

The DCMS streaming inquiry further highlighted how competitive the music industry is

Peter Leathem, PPL


Was there a highlight from Secretly artists’ return to live performances?
“It was incredible to see Shame headline at Wide Awake Festival in Brixton on the Windmill stage. It was the perfect sunny summer’s evening just a stone’s throw from where they played some of their first gigs.”

What was your 2021 industry highlight?
“Being involved in the evolution of IMPALA’s carbon calculator has strengthened my faith in the power of music and independent business owners to become accountable and create a better future for us all. I hope we will inspire the majors and other parts of the music industry to come with us.”


What did you learn from your involvement in the DCMS streaming inquiry?
“The inquiry further highlighted how competitive the music industry is and how hard it can be for performers and songwriters to make a living from a career in music. For PPL, this reinforced the importance of our work in getting performers and recording rightsholders paid and providing a significant and regular revenue stream to over 100,000 performers and record companies – especially during Covid-19 as other income sources declined or completely stopped.”

How important has radio been for music in this pandemic period?
“The latest RAJAR figures show that, while the pandemic changed listening habits, radio still forms an important part of our daily lives. Where, before the pandemic, some listeners may have tuned in to their favourite stations during their daily commute or while at their workplace, they now listen at home, still valuing what radio brings to their day. Indeed, the total combined audience for all radio is at its highest ever recorded level – 49.5 million UK adults. The UK radio industry has adapted well to these changing habits and recorded music remains a key part of this success, with PPL continuing to work hard to ensure our members are paid when their recordings are broadcast.”


What successes are you most proud of this year?
“To see so many of our artists and songwriters acknowledged at the Ivor Novello awards this year was one of the highlights. It felt extra special to see Willow Kayne win the Rising Star Award – it feels like she's at the start of an amazing career.”

How did artist development change in 2021?
“The rise of TikTok and its influence during the pandemic has made the industry move on from traditional artist development. We’re seeing a lot of unique and interesting ways a song or artist can blow up now.”


What deals were you most proud of in 2021?
“Tre Jean-Marie, Amaarae, Wesley Joseph and Imanbek.”

What was the industry reaction after your Music Week Awards win?
“It was fantastic! The whole team was inundated with congratulations and well-deserved messages. It is wonderful to hear this from your peers.”


What single thing impressed you most in the publishing sector this year?
“The DCMS led by Julian Knight and Kevin Brennan recommending that the Competition and Markets Authority investigate the dominance of the major recorded music companies and how that affects how the songwriter and artist are paid and the CMA agreeing to do so.”

And what's the best-kept secret in the world of publishing?
“That songs are the currency of the music industry and that despite the songwriter delivering the most important component of success they are the lowest paid people in our business!”

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