Top execs reflect on the highs and lows of 2019

Top execs reflect on the highs and lows of 2019

In the new issue of Music Week, we celebrate the execs, artists, labels and stories that made headlines in 2019, from the rise and rise of Lewis Capaldi, to Mabel’s enormous breakthrough and the incredible procession of hits by Savan Kotecha.

And, as is tradition in these parts, Music Week also invited the industry to hold court on the moments that defined 2019. In the first of a yuletide series, a host of execs reflect on the highs and lows of the year as we count down to Christmas. Read on to relive the year in music...



Louis Bloom, president, Island Records

Best: “Stormzy headlining Glastonbury and delivering the most undeniable and amazing performance. Reclaiming the Union Jack in the Banksy vest was very powerful and timely. He’s a truly inspirational figure.”

Worst: “There is so much for us all to do to try and recognise mental health issues before they escalate and to help and support our artists to the fullest.”


 James Wright, Agent, UTA

Best: "According to UK Music’s recently released Music By Numbers report, it looks like we’re on a record high in the live industry. In 2018 the UK music industry contributed over £5 billion to the British economy of which over £1bn was from the live music sector. The experience economy is not going anywhere."

Worst: "Viagogo’s purchase of StubHub. This brings perceived legitimacy to a company that has been under a lot of public scrutiny."


Clara Amfo, presenter, BBC Radio 1

Best: “Beyoncé finally putting Lemonade on Spotify. I jest, but that was great, though! I’m glad everyone finally got the memo about Lizzo, watching her get commercial success and all the praise that comes with it has been genuinely lovely.”
Worst: “I am absolutely for sincere collaborations and artists stretching themselves, but lazy songs solely made for the purpose of being put on streaming playlists via ubiquitous featured artists or tactical use of genre made me eye-roll a lot this year.”


James Curran, director of music for Absolute Radio and Magic Radio

Best: “That streaming revenues produced profitable times for the industry.”

Worst: “That manipulation of streaming lists produced ‘oven ready’ hits , not necessarily chosen by the public.”


Alex Boateng, president, Urban Division, Island Records

Best: “Stormzy at Glasto felt like a real moment for people to see the stage and level at which MC/black/street culture should be supported and Stormz delivered.”

Worst: “Lots of great moves but still more diversity and support at all levels is needed.”


Baylen Leonard, Country Hits Radio presenter

Best: “That the conversation about women in music and women in country music specifically finally came to the forefront. It's no longer a dirty little secret that women aren't getting their props in country music, everyone is talking about it loud and proud which hopefully means change is a comin'! I'd also include the Lil Nas X phenomenon as one of the best things to happen in music in 2019. A young, black, out, unknown artist came along and blew everyone's minds, and totally upset the applecart about what country music can be and who it belongs to. It was a year of challenging the status quo.”

Worst: “Despite all the conversations about how country music must change and be more open to other influences and types or artists, that actually on the ground and in the towers of power, the dial didn't actually move that much.” 



Amber Davis, head of A&R, Warner Chappell Music UK 

Best: “Stormzy at Glastonbury on the Pyramid stage was an incredible moment for British culture. It was so inspiring to see how far he has come and to see grime take centre stage on one of the world’s biggest platforms. Watching him put on such an amazing performance is a moment I’ll never forget.”

Worst: “Losing a great legend like Keith Flint. Also losing Cadet at such a young age and when he was right on the cusp of breaking through was tragic and heartbreaking.”


Riki Bleau, co-president, Since 93

Best: “The continued growth of Black British music, to see this scene continue to grow in the UK is just amazing, seeing young people from all backgrounds unified in enjoying and being a part of it is great to see.”

Worst: “The passing of Cadet. One of the nicest artist I’ve ever met, his passing was tragic and at a key juncture in his career.”


Steve Hogan, agent/partner, WME

Best: “A wider acceptance to blurring of genre lines in electronic events and festivals; good music is just good music in the end. Oh, and Lizzo!”

Worst: “Dirty linen being aired in public (again)…too many names to mention.”


Nigel Harding, VP of artist marketing, Deezer

Best: “Stormzy headlining Glastonbury was undoubtedly a seismic cultural event. It was also wonderful to witness Lewis Capaldi becoming a global superstar after Deezer first backed him as a Deezer Next UK act in January 2018." 

Worst: "The continuing demise of small venues around the UK. Much of my teens and early 20s were spent seeing young bands in local clubs and the experience is what set me on my career path. We’re losing something very special, and it’s making it even harder for new acts to build an audience."



Simon Barnabas, MD, Universal Music On Demand

Best: “We got a surprise new Gang Starr album and second Lost Tapes from Nas. Separately, proving there is room for everyone at the top table in this ultra-diverse consumer climate, celebrating Kidz Bop having their third UK Top 10 hit album.”  

Worst: “Someone saying ‘influencer’ in every meeting.” 


Jeremy Lascelles, CEO, Blue Raincoat Songs

Best: “It lives and breathes and continues to confound. Most importantly, it throws off more opportunities for an artist to reach an audience bypassing the traditional gatekeepers.”

Worst: “How many people do you really NEED to write a hit song?!”


Glyn Aikins, co-president, Since ’93

Best: “The growth of UK rap music! As a child of predominantly US hip-hop, I always thought it was wishful thinking that the UK would have such a powerful and influential rap scene. Long may it continue.”
Worst: “The passing of Nipsey Hussle. An artist who was about to enter his prime.”


Paul Reed, CEO, AIF

Best: “It has been an unprecedented year for action on the climate emergency - from Extinction Rebellion’s presence at festivals, to AIF-led campaigns such as Drastic On Plastic and Take Your Tent Home/Say No To Single Use. We had Glastonbury banning single use plastic bottles, the Vision 2025 pledge, the launch of the Music Declares Emergency campaign, and countless other initiatives at festivals and events on a global scale.”

Worst: “Ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, in particular the implications for touring musicians. There has been plenty of guidance but none of it translates to readiness and the live industry is not ‘ready for Brexit’, we’re simply part of the national malaise around the political situation in the UK at present.”



Iain Watt, MD, YM&U Group

Best: “A great year for new artists to break globally: Billie Elish, Lizzo, Lewis Capaldi.”

Worst: “Chart means less and less time for a new model that is a better reflection of consumer behaviour.”


Simon Pursehouse, global director of music services, Sentric Music Group

Best: “I’m a big fan of Lewis Capaldi’s rather meteoric rise over the past twelve months. In the not too distant past I was bemoaning the fact that we’re currently in the age of the ‘beige pop star’ (imagine being trapped in a lift with some of the biggest musicians about at the moment, blimey) and then along came this genuinely hilarious character who, importantly, can write and perform fantastic songs.”

Worst: “Viagogo buying StubHub. Good grief. That’s the footballing equivalent of Leeds United merging with Millwall FC. No one needs that.”


David Martin, GM, FAC

Best: “The passing of the Copyright Directive was an enormous milestone in bringing forward overdue protections for artists and creators in the modern digital landscape. It's imperative that the huge amount of work that went into it is appropriately transposed into UK law, and that we continue to push for creators to be appropriately remunerated for the amazing work that they do.”

Worst: “The fallout from PledgeMusic's collapse was significant. So many artists, particularly those who have extremely limited resources as it is, were affected by the company’s mismanagement of artists' funds and lack of communication. We are very grateful to all our sister organisations for coming together to try and assist those affected where possible. There are still artists out there who are owed money and an apology. Artists reading this now can still get in touch with the FAC for advice and support if needed.”


Kim Bayley, CEO, ERA

Best: “The rescue of HMV by Doug Putman’s Sunrise Records came as a boost to the whole sector. It was a stark reminder of the continuing importance of the physical market even as streaming goes from strength to strength. When Doug spoke at the ERA AGM it was clear that this is a man determined to give it his best shot.”

Worst: “The relative lack of exciting new UK artists that can connect with a broad audience has to be a concern for many retailers. Lewis Capaldi is the stand-out exception which proves the rule.” 


Richard Davies, founder, Twickets

Best: "Viagogo being banned by Google." 

Worst: "Viagogo being allowed back on Google." 


Charlie Phillips, CEO, WIN

Best: “One of the best things from the WIN perspective was getting to a point where the RDx data project could be announced. The announcement recognised the collaboration behind the project, and it’s great that the industry is united in its approach to create efficiencies for labels and CMOs.”

Worst: “Keith Flint’s tragic passing.”


Chris Price, head of music, Radio 1 & 1Xtra

Best: “Stormzy headlining Glastonbury.”

Worst: “The deaths of David Berman and Daniel Johnston – two visionaries gone too soon.”


Joe Harland, head of visual, BBC Radio

Best: “Billie Eilish, and – crucially – her fans.”

Worst: “The death of Nipsey Hussle. Tragic loss of an inspiring figure.”


Derek Allen, SVP commercial Europe, Warner Music UK

Best: “It’s been good to see Voice Hardware firmly establishing its credentials in the home - it’s giving the industry a viable way to reach a mass audience in the way that CDs once did.”

Worst: “HMV falling over again gave us the worst possible start to 2019, however Doug Putman’s rescue plan has turned a dark moment into a real position of hope.” 


Sarah Williams, CEO, IMPEL

Best: “My head says the passing of the EU Copyright Directive, which means businesses built on artistic creations must respect the rights they freely use as commercial assets. My heart says Stormzy smashing it as the first black UK solo artist to headline Glastonbury. Epic.”

Worst: “Spotify, Google, Amazon and Pandora challenging the CRB’s long- overdue and entirely just increase in US publishing mechanical royalties. These digital giants are on the wrong side of history on this one. Everything goes back to the song, so don’t bite the hand that feeds you!”


Jeremy Marsh, chief global marketing officer, Warner Recorded Music

Best: “I love that regional hits can now become huge global smashes. With the right global marketing focus and international collaboration, we can really break hits from anywhere. Tones & I is a great example of this!”

Worst: “It’s always heart-breaking when we lose global icons. It was devastating to lose the genius of Keith Flint, Mark Hollis and Nipsey Hussle.”


Marc Robinson, president, Globe

Best: “The abundance of brilliant new TV and content being created globally which is giving fantastic sync and music creation opportunities for our artists and composers. This is especially helping to showcase and break UK talent.”

Worst: “The decrease in music education in schools is thoroughly depressing.”


Pieter van Rijn, CEO, FUGA

Best: “I think the introduction of the latest DDEX metadata standard, MEAD, was a definite highlight as it represents all the exciting developments in digital music and discovery, particularly around voice activation. It is also a great example of industry-wide collaboration with service providers and labels having come together to work out new solutions for an ever-evolving ecosystem.”

Worst: “There are still social (media) platforms out there whose business models rely completely on the integration of music in their offering. The great value that music contributes to the success of these platforms is not recognised, nor reflected enough in pay-outs to music rights holders.”

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