Young Turks MD Matthew Thornhill talks diversity and new music

Young Turks MD Matthew Thornhill talks diversity and new music

Young Turks managing director Matthew Thornhill has given Music Week an update on new music and future plans for the independent label, management and publishing company. 

Interviewed for our Indie Takeover special issue, Thornhill said the business is focusing attention on diversity and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"We’ve been questioning everything we do, both internally and externally,” he said. “We’re taking a long, hard look at who we are how we operate as people, what our office culture is and how we treat our staff.”

Thornhill said that events in 2020 have “brought up some fundamental questions about how we interact with our staff” and said the “young, nimble” company is ready to enact change in the music business.

“The thing I find most exciting about the current moment is how accountable people are being held, people aren’t letting this issue go,” he said. “If companies post about taking a day out for Black Out Tuesday, it’s like, ‘Cool, what are you reading and what are you going to do as a result of it?’ That conversation is still ongoing, I’ve noticed some of the really brilliant initiatives people have instigated.”

Thornhil said that much of his time in 2020 has been devoted to HR.

“It’s been brilliant and necessary,” he explained. “I’m working with staff who are dealing with all manner of things, experiencing emotions through lockdown and inclusion and diversity off the back of Black Lives Matter. It’s really seismic, it’s a great opportunity and you end up checking yourself during the process to ask whether or not we should have been doing this sooner.”

We’ve been questioning everything we do

Matthew Thornhill, Young Turks

Jamie xx released a new single Idontknow in April, and the MD confirmed that more music is coming from the producer and his bandmates in The xx, Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim.

“At the moment, all of The xx are working on solo projects,” Thornhill said. “Young Turks artists always collaborate together and The xx are no different, Romy and Oliver both sung on Jamie’s record, Jamie is producing tracks, along with other people, for Romy and Oliver, so there’s a lot of collaboration between the band. They’re all working independently and hopefully some of that will see the light of day this year from all of them.”

Thornhill suggested more singles are coming from Jamie xx and said “undoubtedly an album at some point, too, but that’s a little way off yet”. Young Turks are also developing a new signing, Yorkshire songwriter Ethan P Flynn, who wrote on FKA Twigs’ (above) Top 20 album Magdalene.

“Last year did feel exciting because of the success of FKA Twigs, that was pivotal,” said Thornhill. “Second records are always difficult and it was a phenomenal success. It was a long and difficult record to make for her personally, she went through a lot, so for it to come out the way it did and be the record it is, we’re all incredibly proud. Being able to put that record out and do it justice was a phenomenal result.”

Finally, Thornhill reflected on Young Turks’ mission as a music company. “We like to be as creatively ambitious with everything we do [as possible],” he said. “We don’t put out many records, but we do put a huge amount of work into the A&R process and the nurturing of these artists. The vision we have is to create environments that nurture artists, A&R isn’t simply about helping artists make records, it’s about inspiring them, challenging them and introducing them to brilliant people. It’s all about taking time, that’s what the independents could and should be doing.”

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