Home / Blog / Events / #IT2023 The Friday Takeover powered by The Rio Ferdinand Foundation (RFF) x Warner x Music Against Racism (MAR) Part 1 The Journey Of A Song

#IT2023 The Friday Takeover powered by The Rio Ferdinand Foundation (RFF) x Warner x Music Against Racism (MAR) Part 1 The Journey Of A Song

Day 5 of Industry Takeover 2023 was powered by The Rio Ferdinand Foundation in collaboration with Warner UK and Music Against Racism. To kick things off, A&R and Marketing experts from Atlantic Records delivered a workshop, taking us through the journey of a song. Kat friar reports…

Jade Busola, A&R Manager at Atlantic Records
Jeremiah Gogo, Head of Data & A&R Analytics at Atlantic Records
Tia Johnson, Junior Marketing Manager at Asylum / Atlantic Records
Mali Emeka, Junior A&R Manager at Atlantic Records
Host: Paul Samuels, Founder and Chair of MAR (Music Against Racism)

Paul started as a manager working with Flaming Lips and Stands. Paul also had a producer roster and promoted club nights. With no connections he built within the music business by getting bands signed to small deals and learning the business.
Paul convinced Craig Kallman, CEO of Atlantic now, then head of A&R to let him scout records. That then became a job. Paul label managed Big Beat Records, which has a amazing roster of Black artists, and built that in the UK to some great success. Paul went on to start Atlantic 25 years ago “and they will carry me out of the building one day!” He’s worked on acts as diverse as Enter Shikari, James Blunt, Estelle, Rumer, Birdy, Maisie Peters & Kwabs.
Image: Saadiq T

This particular workshop gave huge insight on what it’s like to be an A&R. Going from tapping into a song on TikTok and making it the next big thing, to refining it and giving artists feedback until the track is ready for release. Atlantic’s Junior A&R, Mali Emeka will bring in a record that he finds and is excited about. Or Jeremiah Gogo, Atlantic’s Head of Data & A&R Analytics, will flag songs that are growing in engagement. They make calls, have meetings and from there they compromise and articulate feedback to the artist. They may have to clear samples, aswell as finding the right producers and allow them to see the vision. Beats may need to be reworked and replicated. It’s even about looking at the engagement to see what it is exactly that’s drawing fans in, what are they talking about in the comments – this is a good indicator of what should be present in the final record. They’ll fiddle around with structure like the chorus placements for example, going back and forth with the artist until they can find what works.

Mali Emeka is currently the youngest A&R manager in the country. Working across Black music at Atlantic Records UK. He is most recently working with Manchester rapper, Nemzzz. 

“One thing I have learned over the last year as an A&R is understanding that there’s a certain hunch that artists have – you can’t over inflict your creative process or your understanding, your music – onto the artist you’re working with ’cause the reason they’re with you is because you found something that was specifically unique about them, and you shouldn’t try and extract that from the music.” 

Mali Emeka

As Head of Data at Atlantic Records, Jeremiah supports Atlantic’s data needs by delivering research & analysis projects and using data to support A&R teams in discovering talent.

“When we sign a record, we have deals with all of the DSPs – Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and those deals include data, so every day they’re sending us data on the tracks that we have. And what kind of data do we get? I can probably see what all of you are streaming every day if I really wanted to, because it’s quite detailed, and one of key metrics I look at when a song first releases is how many times is each person streaming it per day? I call it a passion score.” 

Jeremiah Gogo on why the data matters

Marketing Manager, Tia Johnson explains how it’s important for the marketing to stay true to the essence of what piqued the audience’s interest. How the marketing needs to stay authentic to you as to best push your brand.

“You could literally have one follower and you could put a marketing campaign around it.” 

Tia Johnson, Junior Marketing Manager at Atlantic Records UK working across multiple artists including Lizzo, Ed Sheeran, KidWild, Kehlani and more. Joined as a Marketing Intern in 2019 after shortly after graduating.
Image: Saadiq T

The panel speak on the future of Black British Music

JEREMIAH:  I think the future for Black British music is super bright. I think the experience of black people in the UK alongside the kind of changing demographics in the UK is gonna help to drive that music or that genre forward. It’s looking, in my opinion, like black music coming out of Africa is having a bigger influence in the UK. New artists such as JayO are leading a new sport in taking this Afro sound to British music, which I think will help propel the genre forward. 

MALI: My thoughts on the future of UK Black music is bright, but very much so quite diverse in sonics. I feel like at the moment the Black experience is monolithic, so you can kind of express yourself in different ways through fashion, through gaming, through a bunch of different sub-genres and sub-communities, and I feel like that’s gonna bleed through the music. We’re already seeing guys like Jim Legxacy – you can’t really put specific genre in the music he’s making, but it’s resonating a lot of people and I feel like with the influence of Afrobeats at the moment music as well, you’re gonna see a bunch of influence of different areas, create a melting pot similar to ’16 and Afroswing, we’re gonna see like a few different genres coinciding with each other at the same time – that’s my perfect prediction.

TIA: I think the future of Black British music is bright, it’s thriving right now. There’s still a lot more work to be done in certain genres, certain areas that we can pay attention to, but we are employing more young, Black British execs all across the industry, across different areas, whether it be labels, publishing, etc, which I really think will help champion Black British music in the UK. 

Jade Busola is an A&R at Atlantic Records with a major focus on African talent. Jade also manages superstar producer LONDON who is based in Nigeria and has played a huge role in creating the modern sound of todays Afrobeats. 

JADE: I think the future of Black British music is looking good. I think we’re now in a time where there’s varied types of music thriving within Black culture. There’s more room and there’s more space for everybody cause of things like the internet and so on and so forth. I think we’re gonna see a lot more Black British artists kind of understanding the importance of building an international fan base and in doing so by traveling more and connecting with more international artists. I think it feels good. I think it’s gonna continue to grow. We’ve had different waves of grime and drill and Afro swing, and I think we’re now in a space where there’s sort of multiple genres and communities and spaces kind of evolving. I think it’s really gonna get bigger and better. 


For an aspiring A&R

JADE: Hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle. You have to really want this because this job is very glamorised, but when you are in it, it’s extremely difficult. It’s extremely difficult to find an artist to break and it’s extremely difficult to actually stay in the job. A lot of people are getting fired every year across different labels, so I think you have to really, really want it. And in order to get into it you just have to have the most insane level of self-belief. I got into it through DMing loads of people on LinkedIn, on Twitter.

Funny story, I showed up to the Sony building, I didn’t have an interview or nothing, I just finessed my way. I said to the security guard downstairs – when Sony was still in High Street Kensington – “I’ve got an interview,” and he let me upstairs. I got upstairs, I just uttered complete nonsense to the receptionist, but then they clocked me and they were like, “Yeah, you’re gonna have to leave. I don’t even know how security let you in here,” but that just shows you how hungry I was for the role. I think you just gotta have the most insane amount of self-belief and just keep going and network. Don’t be entitled, don’t think this is gonna come easily – hustle. Make sure you have good taste. Send people music everyday, be consistent. If you find A&R’s email addresses and you send them music every Friday at midday for three months, you’ll get a job as a scout. I wish I knew that. It’s actually as simple as that, I swear to you. You have to network, you have to not be entitled, you have to be hungry and you’ll get it, but it’s not easy. I went to uni, I graduated from uni when I was 22. I didn’t get into A&R until I was 25, 26. It’s not easy, but if you really want it, you’ll get it.

For artists trying to get noticed by A&Rs

MALI: Try and create a natural and organic buzz for yourself rather than pushing music directly to A&R. Music is very psychological and the way you interact in music is very psychological… So I feel like by you representing something, a community of individuals and building a bunch of individuals that represent and feel like they can align with you as an individual, bleeding through your music, it’s more beneficial than someone sending me a cold email that I’m seeing on the Monday morning. Understand what you represent as an individual – that could be fashion, that could be gaming, that could be sports – and allow your music to talk about what you love. I feel like the people that need to buy into what you represent will buy in.

For artists trying to boost their metrics

JEREMIAH: Try different things. Be unique, but also make sure you cultivate cult following. Make sure that your initial fans, who are your free marketing people, are gonna have your highest engagement. Those people are gonna like every post. Those people are gonna share all your posts. Make sure you feed them.

Image: Saadiq T

For artists trying to market themselves without a label

TIA: I would say the most valuable piece of advice is to not overthink it. Essentially, marketing is getting people to hear your music – as many people to hear it as possible. It’s not necessarily the traditional avenues of running ads on Instagram or TikTok. It’s how you sell yourself and your brand and how you build your audience. That might be a piece of content that you post online. It’s really important to know who your audience is and who actually buys into you to make sure that what you are putting out there is resonating with them, really creating that fan base is gonna help you along the way.

Edited by Hyabel Kadine (Octavia)

Follow Atlantic Records UK on Instagram.

Words: Kat Friar

Photography: Saadiq T

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