Speaking as a proud Northerner, it is all but baked into my DNA to remind people that, while the core of the UK music industry is predominantly based in London, it has always relied on musicians and executives who live outside of the capital to help it thrive.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to extol the power of regional scenes ad nauseam here (I just deleted that whole tome-length section, FYI). I do, however, want to dwell on a certain deficit related to it.
A question: how often does the London-based industry reach out in a meaningful way to regional hotspots for reasons other than signing its musical talent? There are, assuredly, some good examples, and each one warms my cold dead heart.
The amazing team at Cre8ing Vision hosted the first ever regional incarnation of its Ultimate Seminar in 2021, bringing top executives to Liverpool to share their knowledge with the next generation. The event was also staged in Manchester in 2022.
Then there’s the MOBO Awards, taking the best of Black music to the likes of Coventry, Leeds and Glasgow in recent years. These are two brilliant examples of meaningful regional outreach, it’s just a shame that instances such as these are still relatively few and far between.
All of this explains why I think Universal’s announcement in January that EMI is to open a regional imprint christened EMI North in Leeds was greeted with so much acclaim. Based in Duke Studios and led by Clive Cawley, it will be “dedicated to working with the very best musical talent in the North of England and providing opportunities for young people to work in the industry.”
Our goal is to support and invest in local talent, helping them to find new audiences and build their businesses
EMI North has a remit of unearthing new talent in the North of England, while providing opportunities to get into the industry.
“I’m delighted to finally open the doors to EMI North with a very simple goal: to support and invest in local talent, helping them to find new audiences and build their businesses,” said Clive Cawley.
To this end, they have already partnered with Leeds’ Clue Records and Come Play With Me – the latter being the winners of The Company Award, Diversity In The Workplace, at Music Week’s Women In Music Awards 2022.
There is a crucial distinction here. EMI North is not just an A&R exercise, it’s also focused on fostering behind-the-scenes talent, too.
Of course, for years there have been amazing independent labels doing this around the UK, but the more opportunities for people from different areas of the country to be able to have an entry point into music the better, if you ask me. The idea that the next generation could thrive in the business without having to say bye to their families and embark upon a career pilgrimage to London is one that gives me real hope.
Some of the most game-changing musical minds – be they presidential, managerial or otherwise – have been cultivated far outside of the M25. How many more influential people might be unleashed if others follow suit?
Maybe Atlantic Aberystwyth, Polydor Preston and RCA Rotherham are too far-fetched. Then again, Leeds is now home to EMI, and Tileyard North is go in Wakefield. Who knows where we go from here?