Ed Sheeran's manager Stuart Camp has revealed discussions took place about launching the = campaign with two lead singles.
The strategy to preview 2017's all-conquering ÷ with the simultaneous release of The Shape Of You and Castle On The Hill proved a masterstroke.
However, Team Sheeran eventually opted against trying to repeat the trick and stuck to one lead track - Bad Habits - for the star's upcoming LP =, which is out this Friday via Asylum/Atlantic (October 29).
Shivers was going to be the first single for a long time and then Bad Habits snuck in
Stuart Camp, Grumpy Old Management
“There was a conversation, I’ll be honest with you," said Grumpy Old Management MD Camp, speaking in the latest issue of Music Week. "I still think the ÷ thing was actually the most sensible thing to do because the record was called ‘Divide’ for a start. The whole album is about two sides and those records represented the two completely different sides of it. It was the best thing to do and I’d do again in a heartbeat.
"But ultimately, we felt we’d done that before and it was best to look forward. Bad Habits came relatively late in the recording process. Shivers was going to be the first for a long time and then Bad Habits snuck in and it started really well.”
Released in late June, Bad Habits (1,301,061 sales, OCC) was a huge hit and topped the charts for 11 consecutive weeks before being replaced by Sheeran's Shivers (364,006), the follow-up single from =. Camp was delighted to see the public's appetite for new material from his superstar client was not on the wane.
"We'd like to think the music that we're producing is still better than what we started with," said Camp. "I think he's grown as an artist and as a writer. Once the music gets a bit stale, then fair enough if people would want to hark back to the rest of it. But at the moment I think we're in a good position."
Camp recently confirmed that the = LP will be the first release of a two-album campaign for Sheeran, with the sequel set to arrive before the end of 2024, and suggested the 30-year-old might have released a double album had he been left to his own devices.
“One individual who shall remain nameless – Ed Sheeran – always wants to do a double album, whereas I’m not a fan," admitted Camp. "I just think double albums are [made by] people with weak quality control. I think having a confined number of songs that are just, ‘Bang, bang, bang’ all the way is the way to go, then you have material for your next record ready to go.”
Camp explained Sheeran's decision to drop the standalone single Afterglow (457,332 sales), which peaked at No.2 in the UK, four days before Christmas 2020.
"That song is not on the album, that was purely just a drop," said Camp. "Ed just wanted to put something out because we'd done [2019's No.6 Collaborations Project] and we weren't sure when we were going to come back on this album.
"Ed has records that are like hot potatoes in his hands, so he just wanted to have something out as a 'I'm still here, hello,' sort of thing. But we specifically didn't want to chart, which is why we released in the middle of the week at Christmas - so we weren't in that running."
We've been with Atlantic/Asylum for 11 years now and we're on our last record, but we're confident that relationship is going to continue
Stuart Camp, Grumpy Old Management
Camp also discussed Sheeran's relationship with Atlantic. The upcoming album is his first since the departure of ex-Atlantic Records president Ben Cook, who stepped down in 2019 after admitting to what he described as an offensive appearance as a member of Run-DMC at a party seven years earlier. Briony Turner and Ed Howard were promoted to co-presidents in the wake of Cook’s departure.
“Obviously, there have been some difficult periods with some changes and, of course, everyone’s been working from home for nearly two years now,” said Camp. "But we’re really happy with our team; they are in a good position and clearly the results are proving that as well.”
Camp added that he was "confident" the singer-songwriter's relationship with Atlantic would extend beyond the current campaign.
“Never say never, but I think we have a great relationship with them," he said. "We’ve [been with Atlantic/Asylum] for 11 years now and we’re on our last record, but we’re confident we’re going to sit down and thrash that out and the relationship is going to continue.
"There are people who have been there since day one who understand him and how we work and it’s quite a finely-oiled machine now. It’d be interesting if we ever had discussions with anyone else, and who knows what the future may bring, but we are very happy there.”