'We have good ears': Domino Publishing boss talks Mercury shortlist success

'We have good ears': Domino Publishing boss talks Mercury shortlist success

Next month the winner of the Hyundai Mercury Prize 2019 will be crowned, and Domino Publishing will be watching events unfold with much excitement.

The publisher, set up by Domino Records chief Laurence Bell and Paul Lambden in 2005, works with the artists behind five of the 12 shortlisted albums.

Director Lambden and his team work with Anna Calvi, whose Hunter (Domino) is on the list. So too are Black Midi’s Schlagenheim (Rough Trade), Cate Le Bon’s Reward (Mexican Summer), Seed Ensemble’s Driftglass (Jazz Refreshed) and Fontaines DC’s Dogrel (Partisan). All are handled by Domino Publishing, and Lambden has told Music Week that this represents a landmark year for his company.

Read on to find out what the recognition means to Domino Publishing and just how they’ve assembled such a stellar roster.

Congratulations on the Mercurys, that's almost half the shortlist on Domino Publishing. What does that say about the year you've had?

“It's great that so many of our writers have been recognised this year but, of course, we think we should be getting several nominations every year! I think that four times in the past we've had two: Villagers & Wild Beasts in 2010; Anna Calvi & King Creosote & Jon Hopkins in 2011; Jon Hopkins & Villagers in 2013 and Anna Calvi & Kate Tempest in 2014. Kate was also 2017, as was Roisin Murphy in 2015, without winning it sadly. So, despite our modest size, we feel our writers belong in this company. But I'm not going to lie – five nominations is pretty special.”

We never sign someone just to make money

Paul Lambden, Domino Publishing

What does it mean to have the records on the list and why do you think they made it?

“Laurence Bell invited me to set up the company in 2005 and to be where we are today looking after 70,000 copyrights and with offices in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris is remarkable. To publish, as you say, nearly half of the list is a proud achievement. At Domino Publishing we are always seeking to work with writers who have a distinctiveness about them, something that makes them stand out from the crowd. We never sign someone just to make money. We sign them because we think they have something different to that which we have heard before. Some of those writers may work in a more typically commercial sphere, but we always think they have a certain quality that we are not hearing elsewhere. And we think we have good ears so that if we are excited by their music we believe others will be too!”

What does the Prize mean to the company? 

“It really reflects the hard work all our staff and especially the A&R team have put in. We are a boutique music publishing house that can't really compete financially with the majors or big rights management companies, so to be able to convince writers to work with us is a testament to the efforts of every member of our staff. It gives me great pleasure that each of the nominees was signed by a different member of the A&R team. As does our determination to give those writers space and time to grow - in the case of Anna Calvi (who was also nominated for her two previous albums) & Cate Le Bon we have been their publisher for 10 years or so. The added exposure that the Mercury brings is without doubt the main benefit for our writers, but to be honest I'm not sure that it will have much of a similar impact upon us as a company as, unfortunately, most people don't know what a music publisher is or does! And so I fully support the music publishing industry's efforts to lobby to make writer and publisher credits more visible in the digital world. Although perhaps the nominations will will cause a few our peers in the industry to raise an eyebrow.”

The indie sector accounts for a big portion of the list this year, that must be good news?

“Indeed. At Domino we are inherently, fiercely and proudly independent. We have no venture capital funding. This company was built from the simple desire of Laurence Bell to build a music publishing company that could exist with its head held high on its own terms. I know that many of our friends at indie labels and publishers also work extremely hard with limited resources with a wish to share interesting and exciting music into the world. Congratulations are due to them also and long may that continue.”

Revisit our report from the nominations ceremony here and watch the Mercury Prize unfold on September 19 on musicweek.com and our Twitter page.

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