Five years ago this week, a 20-year-old Sam Smith was about to receive the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award.
After pipping Chlöe Howl and Ella Eyre to the trophy, the Capitol-signed singer would release debut album In The Lonely Hour. It landed at No.1 on June 1, shifting 101,000 copies in week one. It now has 2,425,905 sales to its name, according to the Official Charts Company.
Capitol, it turns out, had planned for its success all along.
Co-president Nick Raphael says as much in the new edition of Music Week, joining a host of other executives and past winners in our extensive look back at the history of an award that puts new artists under the brightest spotlight in the biz.
To celebrate BRITs Week, we’re running exclusive extra content on musicweek.com, click here for Ellie Goulding’s recollections on her 2010 win.
Here, we dig deep into Sam Smith’s campaign with Nick Raphael…
Were you targeting the award?
100%, we knew we wanted to get it, it’s prestigious. As most record companies do, with six months running up to it you send it to the people on the list of critics. Record companies consciously go for it if they think they’ve got an artist who can win it, with it being such an amazing launch pad. We thought if Sam had the opportunity, we felt he was of a standard where, with that platform, he could do incredible things. Most of the winners had worldwide success.
What does it do for a campaign?
The most important thing I can say about it is, for the right artist, with the right campaign, with the record ready, with all the things I believe are the necessary parts, it’s an incredible piece of the jigsaw and it definitely has a catalyst effect for artists who are ready to go.
Where did it fit into Capitol’s plan for Sam, then?
You plan for success; he’d also won the BBC Sound Of poll. It was one of those mad things, make the album, so that when it’s announced that we’ve won, it’s up for pre-order so that we can maximise the exposure and momentum. We thought that was a really important factor. We looked at what everyone else had done in the past; we saw all the things that were really positive and consciously planned for a positive outcome. We didn’t know there would be one, but it’s better to plan for it than to be caught without a plan in place.
Is it still an important award for the business?
It is intrinsically important and special to the British music business; the Grammys does not anoint an artist prior to releasing an album. I don’t know what other countries do. It’s very interesting that we as a UK business choose to pick someone prior to them releasing their debut album and tell the public, ‘Watch out for this person’. When you add up the winners, most of them ended up with a minimum of a seven figure first album, that’s an incredible achievement and it’s the target of a record company to get artists to that stage. I think it’s extremely important that we continue to do this because it’s a wonderful platform, a wonderful opportunity, it’s very special.
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