"They can win over any crowd": Music For Nations' Julie Weir on new signings The Raven Age

Music For Nations label head Julie Weir has told Music Week about her long-term plans for developing rising British metal stars The Raven Age. 

In December, 2022, the Sony label revealed details of signing the Phantom Management steered group to a new worldwide deal. Today (February 14) the band have finally confirmed details of their third album Blood Omen, which is set to arrive on July 7. The news came coupled with the release of new single Parasite. 

Since forming, The Raven Age have achieved millions of streams, and a Top 30 US Radio single. They have also played with a host of the biggest names in rock and metal, including Alter Bridge, Killswitch Engage, Mastodon, Iron Maiden, Volbeat, Tremonti and Godsmack. They have also made mainstage appearances at at Download Festival and Mystic Festival. 

The pairing with the Sony imprint makes a lot of sense: Music For Nations have, of course, presided over some of the most notable rock and metal success in recent years, including Tool’s Fear Inoculum (on sales of 40,832 according to Official Chart Company data) and Porcupine Tree’s 2022 No.2 album Closure/Continuation (19,990 sales).

Here, Julie Weir takes us further inside the campaign, and shares her thoughts on where the contemporary rock/metal scene is in 2023…

In terms of how the deal with The Raven Age came about, what was the appeal of signing them to Music For Nations? And where do they fit into your vision of the label? 

“There were some conversations being had about the band as we have common interests in British folklore and legend. We sat down and spoke to [manager] Dan Wright about their goals, ideas and had a very refreshing and constructively fun conversation. We were all very much on the same page so we furthered conversations to contract. The appeal of signing them was their adaptability, work ethic, aesthetic focus and collaborative attitude across the board. They've put so much work into their profile already on both an image and storytelling element, as well as their rabid live following, not to mention their ability to play to any crowd and win them over. As for where they fit – for MFN, our aim is to continue to sign a roster of artists that exist in their own realms, and don’t compete for each others' space, which we are currently managing very well. We have a stable of creative bands and artists that each occupy their own space. The Raven Age add a melodic rock element to the roster – and we can’t wait to see where we can take them in their new chapter, with the access to the teams we have in the building as well as internationally.”

You've said how you want to take them to the next level – what does the next level actually look like for The Raven Age? 

“As a band that have thrived mainly under their own volition so far, our approach is to build on foundations they've established. Our aim is to assist the agents in obtaining more supports for them, as well as expanding their streaming and physical audience, though they are ahead of the curve here already, as catalogue continues to garner playlisting at DSPs. We want to expand their reach by implementing non-traditional ways of broadening their audience and having some fun with the band and fans while we do it. We have some great activations planned and a lot of fantastic content banked already to create a coherent world around the band – not to mention incoming live touring on a huge international level, too. It's an exciting time for them as this will be the first time they will have had this level of expertise and investment around them, which has limitless possibilities as their resources and own hard work so far has already impressed us. Goals-wise, it’s more of a long-term development plan than statistics at this point. We're here to develop a long-term international career as both a recording and touring artist."

The Raven Age have played to huge crowds – what platform has that given them as a springboard? And what does the live plan look like for 2023?

“The interest in the band is across the board – but live is a huge strength for them, and they've honed their craft well. They also have a great knowledge of the tech around it – as well as a great adaptability, from full band to acoustic, without losing their edge. The goal is obviously to elevate touring and have them on the road as both support and headlining in their own right for most of the next 18 months. They have a great live team around them already which is a valuable asset to exploit to elevate their international profiles. We're working with K2 as agents and Kilimanjaro as promoters so we have a great set up already in place. Fans are also rabid for their merch – so on the road sales will be very healthy here. Comprehensive tour and festival dates will to be announced in due course.”

For Music For Nations, our aim is to sign a roster of artists that exist in their own realms and don’t compete for each others' space, which we're currently managing very well 

Julie Weir

They have Phantom Management behind them – what do you admire most about how they’ve worked the band so far? How does that relationship work between MFN and PM?

“One of the attractions of working with the band, aside from them being outstanding characters and wonderful humans, was the team that was already around them. Management have been incredibly proactive and supportive of TRA throughout their career and continue to do so. A strength therein being strategic digital marketing, helping to keep them visible even out of cycle, but in order to progress to the next level, a larger team is going to be a game changer for the people involved. A lot has been done themselves by the band as well as PM, which is impressive. The relationship between band, Phantom Management and Music For Nation is open and collaborative, especially with management having a unique perspective (one of them being in the band originally which brings a very refreshing approach). We are all completely on the same page regarding all aspects of the campaign. It’s a mutually supportive relationship with extensive experience from both sides – plus Phantom Management are also exceptional powerhouses on the live production front too.”

As Music For Nations has presided over some of the biggest rock success stories of late like Tool and Porcupine Tree, what is the key to getting traction for rock at a time when sometimes it seems press/radio/TV are much more focussed on other genres?

“Exceptional storytelling and giving the fans what they want is the ultimate key – alongside supplying things they didn’t know they needed! In this case, the band already have a rabid and loyal fanbasewho are very responsive to calls to action – Google 'The Raven Age tattoos'. It is these early adopters that we are going to be rewarding on the campaign, they are a network to be reckoned with. There is no stronger and more loyal fanbase than inside alternative genres and it’s a pleasure to be able to interact with the fans. We're all looking forward to giving something back for the support received thus far. We also believe strongly in the way a band's story is told throughout the media – it’s not just about press, radio and TV. In fact, bands like the above rarely get radio or TV coverage due to the nature – and length! – of their music. So, alternative ways of promoting bands need to be adopted. We've always worked closely with brands, relevant ones to the artist of course, and will continue to do so in aligned industries such as gaming collaborations. We also work in sync too which TRA will be perfect for, whether its license or write to order. We also have a strong ethic of filming and documenting the bands development for use online. And finally, we always aim to work alongside live promoters and agents to help share insights and build an artist organically – we're all striving for the same goal and can double the outlets if this is done in a strategic manner."

Photo: (Front, L-R) Jai Patel (drums), Dan Wright (manager, Phantom), Matt James - aka MJ (vocals),  George Harris (guitar), Matt Cox (bass), Tommy Gentry (guitar) (Back, L-R) David Sullivan (PR, Wilful Publicity), Dave Shack (MD, Phantom), Julie Weir (director, Music For Nations), Andrew Wyllie (lawyer, Phantom), Tom Critten (product manager, Music For Nations).

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