In the latest edition of music week Interview, Island Records UK chairman Louis Bloom explained why he thinks his label has now laid “the foundations for huge success” in the future.
Island has recently scored a series of major hits and accolades with the likes of Dermot Kennedy, ArrDee, Unknown T, Yard Act, Easy Life, The Lathums, M Huncho, Sports Team, Sigrid, Fireboy DML and BRIT Rising Star contestant Lola Young. Not to mention the big buzz around newer signings like FLO, Dylan, Nia Archives and Sam Tompkins.
But from an A&R point of view, how do they find their acts? Especially when so many of them are being discovered outside the usual UK music hotspots – with ArrDee from Brighton, The Lathums from Wigan, Easy Life from Leicester and Yard Act from Leeds. music week wondered if Bloom and his team signed more with their hearts or with data. Did he, for example, recently sign someone who was just a case of hunch?
“It’s just intuition, I promise you that,” Bloom said. “The competition is so fierce that I don’t think you have time to look at the stats. Other than that, for me, the most important thing is that it’s not about transactions. It is a relationship. It’s about waking up every day knowing that I’m going to be working with an artist for the next five to ten years minimum. It’s about careers. I think there is a very big difference between moments and careers. Both are valid, but I want to be in both sectors – I want to be in the singles sector and the albums sector. Data is very, very important and you would be foolish not to take it into account. But what I’m saying is if you don’t have an emotional connection, or an understanding of what you can do for an artist, or a shared vision, then there’s no point. Let another label do it.
So what if the data is good but the intuition isn’t there?
“It’s not signed,” Bloom said. “I don’t know many who haven’t been standing starts from anything we’ve signed. ArrDee was pretty much a standing start, although Mixtape Madness, which as always was ahead of the curve, definitely did caught our eye on him with his freestyle release. Yard Act had released a few songs, but they were embryonic. And they were both signed during Covid when he wasn’t even going to meet them. Easy Life had a single on Chess Club, but that was it. These acts that we sign go from nothing to suddenly becoming instant priorities. With FLO, I saw their video and I thought: ‘Good! Let’s put all our energy into this! But there were no stats, they hadn’t published anything. It’s all about following your heart and following your gut. I’ve had a lot of experiences where I went headlong and it didn’t We look at the data, it’s really important, because it’s never that ‘one song you need to follow – you have to follow everything, you have to work to see where the spikes are that you need to push. It is after signing that the data becomes more important.
Bloom also spoke about the pressure of working for a label with Island’s immense heritage. Has he ever felt like it weighed on him, especially as he took office as president for the first time?
“When I became head of A&R, I was like, ‘How am I going to do this?'” Bloom said. “But you’re encouraged here to take informed risks, you’re encouraged to do it on your own terms, and I’ve never found that I’d be second-guessed in any of this. You have to bring new meaning to the palm tree, and you have to put your own stamp on it. It’s about being a modern take on what is an iconic label, and that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s all about finding the best artist ever [laughs]. Wherever you are, I think there’s an expectation of that. By the way, I never really look back, I’m always on the lookout for something new, like, “What happens next?” What’s exciting? But when it all ends, I want to look back and see a legacy of artists I’ve helped and be proud of. And talk about inheritance? U2 is still with us. Bob Marley is still on the charts. I want to be part of all this musical history and this journey.
The only thing keeping Bloom up at night? The idea of missing the next big thing…
“I have tremendous anxiety about finding these acts,” he says. “That’s what keeps me awake at night, just to make sure we don’t miss the talent. And that hurts. It hurts a lot when I miss something – and no, I’m not going to go into detail! I guess when it stops hurting, then I know that job isn’t for me anymore. So I try to turn this pain into a positive, but I’m really fucking competitive. I really want to win. I want the greatest and most influential artists of all time. I’m just excited, and I think in the next five years, hopefully, we’re going to enter another golden era for Island.
Subscribers can read the full Louis Bloom Music Week interview here.
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