UMPG's Mike McCormack on Harry Styles: 'The guy is a superstar'

UMPG's Mike McCormack on Harry Styles: 'The guy is a superstar'

Universal Music Publishing Group UK managing director Mike McCormack has spoken to Music Week about the global success of Harry Styles as a solo artist.

Earlier this week, McCormack delivered his message to rivals including Hipgnosis with the words: “We’re building the catalogues of the future”.

Harry Styles is central to that mission at UMPG, along with co-writer Kid Harpoon who’s also signed to the company, which was recently named Publisher Of The Year category at the Music Week Awards.

Although Fine Line by Harry Styles was released in late 2019, it still finished at No.7 in the US last year based on digital and physical sales (317,000). It was the fourth biggest seller of 2021 on vinyl in the US (256,000).

In the UK, Fine Line was No.12 overall last year (178,527 including streaming equivalent sales). It has total sales to date of 543,797.

In his exclusive interview for the latest issue of Music Week, Mike McCormack said: “A bugbear of mine is that we produce so much great, innovative music in the UK, but where are the superstars? Where is the next Adele or Ed Sheeran? And [signing Styles] was one of the first decisions made when I got here. Jody [Gerson, UMPG chairman and CEO] was instrumental in the deal as well. We just went, ‘The guy is a superstar, and they are so few and far between that we have to do everything we can to convince him to sign to us.’ Thankfully, he did. 

“[Fine Line] has proved he can stand on his own two feet and be an original artist in his own right. I hear [his next record] is coming together very well and hopefully, it will be even bigger, better and more successful than the last, which was an extraordinary success. He’s very much in charge of his destiny.”

Harry Styles is very much in charge of his destiny

Mike McCormack

Harry Styles is in good company at UMPG, which also signed Adele early in her career.

McCormack was deputy MD when the BRIT School graduate signed on the dotted line with the company as a 17-year-old. 

“Obviously, she had an incredible voice,” he told Music Week. “She didn’t have Chasing Pavements – she only really had four songs, if I remember correctly – but she had Hometown Glory. She also had Daydreamer and a couple of others. But what we saw was somebody who had an incredible voice and was unique – she was very funny and her personality was amazing. She was totally magnetic live, an absolutely extraordinary, one-off artist.”

A number of those tracks found their way on to Adele’s 2008 debut, 19, while UMPG helped pair her with writers such as Eg White and Sacha Skarbek.

“Eg White co-wrote Chasing Pavements with her and that just blew us all away,” said McCormack. “Even we couldn’t believe just how good she was. We knew she was really good, but we didn’t know she was that good. It’s almost like she cracked the code. That approach – she works with Greg Kurstin and others now – really brought out the best in her and she has turned into a superstar.”

Subscribers can click here to read the full interview with Mike McCormack.

Read our cover story with Harry Styles here.

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