Partisan Records’ general manager, international Jeff Bell has spoken to Music Week about how Fontaines DC have connected with fans despite the absence of live opportunities.
The Irish band’s second album A Hero’s Death was released on July 31 and was in the running for No.1 in early Midweek sales figures. They ended up duking it out with Taylor Swift for the top spot after her label EMI moved the physical release forward.
Fontaines DC’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut Dogrel peaked at No.9 last year and has sales to date of 50,446, according to the Official Charts Company.
For this campaign, the band have boosted their Spotify monthly listeners to almost a million.
“It has gone up since the start of the campaign, it was about 400,000,” said Bell. “We're hoping to get it above a million and sustain that throughout the year, which is something we’d feel quite proud of for an artist in that space.”
Bell stressed that the band now have an international following. Dogrel moved around 100,000 units globally.
“It's not just the UK,” he said. “We're seeing it grow and grow across Europe and beyond as well. Japan has reacted really well, we just had an eight-page feature in a prominent magazine over there. They were scheduled to play Fuji Rock – obviously that's not happening, but the numbers we're seeing growing in Japan have been really encouraging.
“France has really opened up, we've got multiple magazine covers, radio playlisting and some big streaming partnerships, I think it's partly that kind of brooding image that really is resonating there. It’s always encouraging to see local territories like that really get behind a band.”
Bell added: “Radio play across the continent has been fantastic, we've had key stations in every country – Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Spain to Eastern Europe – and we’re picking up lots of interest in Russia. Streaming platforms there are coming around to it as well, and it's always a good sign when we've got PR companies from Russia reaching out and wanting to work with the band. It’s not often that happens.”
Partisan Records’ plan to push ahead with album releases from its more established artists is also working out. When the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in, the label decided to focus on its bigger acts despite the uncertainty around physical retail and live.
“It was a tough decision to make back in March to continue with it, but ultimately we feel like we've made the right decision,” said Bell. “The band have gone to town on providing content, handling press and just really finding ways to connect with fans in the absence of shows. That was something that was a bit outside their comfort zones, so full credit to them for rising to the challenge.”
As well as filming remotely during lockdown, including a performance for Later… With Jools Holland, the band have taken over Spotify’s social media with a tour of Dublin and recorded a set featuring the new songs at 2FM Radio’s studio in Dublin. Around 3,500 fans with the pre-order link to the livestream watched the performance earlier this week.
“There were very strict guidelines in the way it was produced, there was a very limited amount of crew,” said Bell. “Everyone went overboard on the PPE and a lot of guidelines had to be met. There's no point in it where the guys are less than two metres away from each other.”
As well as support at BBC Radio 6 Music, particularly from Steve Lamacq, BBC Radio 1 has playlisted singles A Hero’s Death and Televised Mind.
“We've had success at Radio 1 on this campaign, which was a target,” said Bell. “They have really come to the table in terms of supporting the band.”
While fans will have to wait to see the new songs played live in a venue, Fontaines DC have lined up a major date at Alexandra Palace in May 2021.
“That is far and away their biggest show and that's going to be a real moment,” said Bell. “Not just for them as a band, but I think for their fans as well, to just celebrate being together again.”
“Most of the tour is now sold out, there’s definitely a lot of demand,” said Bell. “We've partnered with retail and thrown in a few out stores in November, it's nice for fans to have access to them. The band are obviously very keen to play the songs, but those shows are dependent on what the Covid restrictions are [at the time]."
Bell said the band’s sonic shift has paid off on this sophomore album, which includes ballads, richer songwriting and the harmony-heavy title track.
“From what we're seeing it doesn't sound like they've lost any fans at all,” said Bell. “They’ve consolidated what they have and managed to pick up a bunch of new ones in the process. I do think it's a record very much of this time in 2020, of uncertainty and lockdown. It’s a wonderful headphones record, although we're all longing for the day that we get to celebrate these songs live together.”
Bell also credited the role of the management team at Wildlife Entertainment and other label partners.
"The entire rollout has been a massive team effort, which provided its own challenges amidst a worldwide lockdown, and management company Wildlife Entertainment (Trevor Deitz, Emma Greengrass, Sara Stokes and Ian McAndrew) in particular have been instrumental in shaping the campaign and working with the band to find creative workarounds to what would normally be business as usual," said Bell. "They have the band's implicit trust and a result like this would not have been possible without them. Similarly, PIAS on the distribution side and Prescription and Ghost (UK PR/radio) have pulled out every stop along the way to do the record justice."
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