In the new edition of Music Week, we speak to Guy Moot in a wide-ranging interview about his experience so far as Warner Chappell CEO and co-chair.
A brief recap: for a long time, it was expected that Moot – then Sony/ATV Music Publishing UK MD and president, worldwide creative – would succeed Martin Bandier and take the top job at the company. It was, however, Warner Chappell’s Jon Platt who was eventually confirmed as heading up Sony/ATV. And so it was that in January Moot left to become Warner Chappell CEO, and co-chair with Carianne Marshall – a move making him the latest British exec to cross the pond and assume one of the biggest jobs in music.
In our new interview, Moot opens up about how he been adjusting to life across the Pond, the changes he’s noticed in company culture between Sony/ATV and Warner Chappell and some of the big signings he and Marshall have overseen.
Since starting in his new role in April, Warner Chappell has welcomed some big names to the roster including Lizzo, Summer Walker, Ava Max and Tones And I. Similarly, its A&R team has been refreshed, with Ryan Press becoming president, A&R, US and Shani Gonzales appointed as head of international, executive vice president of A&R, US. Across the pond, Amber Davis was named head of A&R at Warner Chappell Music UK and Paul Smith appointed to the new role of vice president, A&R and international songwriters, with both reporting to Warner Chappell Music UK MD Mike Smith.
Here, in an unread extract from our interview, Moot reflects on his success so far, signing Lizzo and the joy of A&R…
What’s been your proudest achievement in your first six months or so?
“I think a couple of people saying to me, ‘Wow, it's really exciting what's going on at Warner Chappell.’ Someone asked me recently, ‘What would be your definition of success?’ And I said, ‘When there's buzz about it and people want to work with Warner Chappell’. That would be my definition of success. But I'm thrilled about a lot of things. I'm thrilled with some of the successes we're having with Lizzo, and I love Summer Walker because I was a fan of her music before I even got here. Some of the stuff we’re doing in the UK, too, I'm very proud of our UK urban roster. There are lots of great things happening all around.”
Lizzo is one of the biggest stars in music right now. How did Warner Chappell end up signing her?
“It was just a great team effort. I just thought what she stands for is so important, and also it's an album that everybody can listen to but it's still got art. It's really hard to make an album that's that appealing to so many different people, but still has a really defined artistry. I don’t think it was complicated: instead of us being there chest-beating like, ‘Look at us, we’ve got all these artists, we’re the best! we sat with Lizzo, and said, ‘What do you want to do? What do you want to do in your writing career and how can we help you?’ I think we realise in the music industry we are going to become more service orientated so it was more about, ‘How can we work with you? What's your vision? Are you into films? Do you want to collaborate with other people? Who are some of the writers you'd love to work with?’ That was really what we put across. Lizzo was a key, key signing. But again, it's not about us, it's about working around her.”
Everybody in this business knows the most enjoyable part is the trajectory of a new artist and feeling like you've been part of it
Ava Max’s star has been building too…
“I was blown away when she played the album. I was just blown away with her songwriting. I went into it thinking ‘I know she's good, she’s had some hits’, but when I heard the rest of the album I was like, ‘She’s a real writer, she's got something to say, she's real force of nature.’ Another artist that's really important is Tones And I – that's old fashioned A&R for me in one respect, because that’s a fucking radio hit that she wrote 100% of it, and she’s a really important artist as well. She’s unique.”
In your last interview with Music Week, you said you “used to love developing artists and songs before record deals”. Is it harder to take those developmental risks nowadays?
“No, the risks have maybe got more expensive but I think it's really important that we do some of that. I call it going back to real A&R, and don’t get me wrong, we will roll on some of the biggest deals, we’re a well-financed company. I think everybody in this business knows the best and most enjoyable part is the trajectory of a new artist and feeling like you've been part of it. And that for me is an adrenaline that I can never get enough of. We’ve made some great signings here, and it's key for me to sign [artists] earlier and use some of our JV partnerships to help develop them.”
Subscribers can read the full Guy Moot interview here.