Home / Blog / Featured / #IT2023 THE A&R REALITY CHECK: WHAT DOES ARTIST SUCCESS LOOK LIKE IN 2023? 

#IT2023 THE A&R REALITY CHECK: WHAT DOES ARTIST SUCCESS LOOK LIKE IN 2023? 

From March 27th-April 2nd, UD curated an epic week of music industry and live music events – welcome to Industry Takeover 2023. Through talks, panels, masterclasses and workshops, the week aimed to share insider knowledge with artists, producers and people aspiring to work in the music industry, and allow them the opportunity to network with some of the music industry’s finest…

THE A&R REALITY CHECK by Saadiq T

The start of a jam packed #IT2023 week beamed ahead. UD’s Industry Takeover kicked off with a bang on the Monday. Free to attend for the first time ever, this enabled those who otherwise may not have the opportunity to get involved too.

We began with a panel discussion. Benjamin Turner – who founded Rap Club Productions (The Spit Game) – hosted the panel of industry professionals discussing what artist success looks like in 2023.

THE A&R REALITY CHECK by Saadiq T

The line up was stacked – Benson Udia, the Senior Marketing Manager at EMI, Joy Warmann, the Product Manager at Secretly Canadian, Preye Crooks who’s an A&R at Robots & Humans (SONY) and also the founder of Strawberries & Creem Festival, Davina Merchant, who’s a Senior Publishing A&R and manages Tion Wayne, and Theo Oliver, an A&R at Pias who manages p-rallel and Venna.

THE A&R REALITY CHECK: WHAT DOES ARTIST SUCCESS LOOK LIKE IN 2023? 

Davina Merchant on Tion Wayne’s success: “His numbers are pretty strong. So the next thing would be live shows. We haven’t done a headline show in ages, so it’s a bigger venue, it’s a tour that we’re looking at.”

Theo Oliver on p-rallel’s success: “[He’s] about to sell out his biggest ever London show. That’s his success for me. He’s had his first tour, biggest room he’s ever played, biggest London show.”

Image: Kat Friar.

On how to utilise social media: “It goes back to servicing your fans and what’s the best way you can get across the process – and what you are doing – to the people who are gonna follow that, and so I think if you do have social media and you have people following it, you kind of owe your followers a bit of insight into who you are in the process and what is happening in the music and that’s the easiest way to connect sometimes.”

Joy Warmann

Artists having an exciting year & things they’re doing that are making them grow as an artist:

Wesley Joseph as told by Joy Warmann

Joy Warmann by Kat Friar.
  • A lot more playlisting, a lot more love at radio. 
  • Some recognition from some celebrities or people that you’d class as celebrities.
  • He’s just finished the support tour with Connor and has just sold out his headline show at KOKO (which is actually only his second headline show ever).

I think it is just knowing to invest in those different spaces that are gonna get you noticed. 

Which includes…

  • Taking him to the studio to chat to different artists
  • Getting him in front of the DSP (Digital Service Provider) teams
  • Getting him in front of the people who were controlling his radio and his press

– Getting the talent in front of the people that are gonna be selling it is always really beneficial – it makes them wanna fight for you a bit more. 

– He’s been equally as invested as his team, which is super important.

There’s some kind of charm that you can’t really get over email or when you just check someone out online. I don’t think you can have someone else shouting about your music in the same way as you might.

Theo Oliver, PIAS.
Image: Saadiq T

Venna as told by Theo Oliver

  • [Dropped] the second EP 
  • He’s already lucky to have won a Grammy and a lot of people know him from working with Knucks or they know him from the Burna Boy and Wizkid stuff that he’s done. 
  • He’s also spent a lot of time with Yussef Dayes – a trailblazer [of] British jazz.
  • He gets to collaborate with an amazing array of people from the UK and the US and beyond. 

This next record just solidifies him and the sound and [which sets him] apart from the usual UK producer acts.

  • He’s a musician and he’s a classically trained saxophonist 
  • First live show [was] just announced

Jim Legxacy as told by Benson Udia 

Benson Udia by Kat Friar
  • Blends a lot of stuff from when I was growing up and the sounds and the energy behind that but still brings a newer style.

“I think what really excites me is just I don’t think we live in a world anymore where you can put songs out and go away and then put another song out six months later. I think the consumer’s so interested in knowing everything about the artist these days, so I think it’s all about how you can kind of depict your yourself and a really authentic brand that people buy into.” Preye Crooks

Preye Cooks by Kat Friar.

p-rallel as told by Preye Crooks

  • His events [have grown over the] years. 
  • Totally in his own lane with a type of music that was very, very authentic to him. 

Now people are flocking to that, not the other way around. 

Davina Merchant by Kat Friar.

Asake  as told by Davina Merchant

  • The collaboration between [his producer] and what they’ve done and how they’ve changed the sound of African music which is by being completely different.

Not just looking from a numbers point of view – it’s such a feel good vibe that they’ve created for the last year

  • Ended 2022 on a high
  • This year’s gonna be bigger for both of them. 
  • Opened so many doors in terms of collaborations globally. 

On the future of Black British Music…

THEO: [The] future of Black British music is whatever it wants to be – whether that is genre wise, how it looks, how it’s presented. I think the opportunities are endless, I hope it’s broarder, I wanna see more people being different.

BENSON: Black British music is in an exciting place. I think we’ve got infrastructure, we’ve got facets of culture that’s emerging and is commercial and getting it’s just dues to some degree. We’ve still got a long way to go and continue to build on the music, but I think [in] the future it’ll continue to grow, continue to be amazing as it is and be a dominant genre, pastiche, music and popular culture.

Image: Saadiq T

On how the panelists found the event…

DAVINA: It’s always nice meeting people who wanna work in the music industry. I think it was a really great panel, [it] covered every aspect of what it means for an artist and emerging music, and I think we need to continue do more of those.

PREYE: I thought the panel was really fun. I thought the questions were really good. I felt that everybody in the room felt really ambitious and felt really talented, so I’m really happy to be a part of it.

THEO: The best thing about talking on the UD panel today was talking to young people and answering their questions, because we know what we do, we can talk about that, but helping you guys or helping the kids, people that are here figure out what to do next, how to get where they’re trying to get to, that’s important.

Image: Saadiq T

Advice for artists

JOY: I always say to artists – authenticity, longevity, and creativity, I think those have to be at the forefront of what you’re making. Make sure it’s true to you, make sure that you see a future for it as well. I think a lot of people make music in the now because it is valuable for where they’re at in that space and time, but if they don’t see it for them in the long run, a lot of other people won’t see it for you either and so I think it’s important to know what you want for that. And also creativity – [have] fun with it. A lot of people are down with the fear of failure and myself included, and so we will stifle their creativity and stop themselves from trying new things, but now is the time with “genre agnostic”, as a lot of people want to say. So now’s the time to try new things and explore outside of your comfort zone.

Image: Saadiq T

Advice for people looking to work in music

JOY: Be honest as an industry professional. I think a lot of the time people feel like you have to come in already knowing all of the stuff or having it all figured out or with this grandiose attitude, but I think be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, and people will be able to support you in that. The times when things [get messed] up is when people are lying or not articulating where they’re at or how much they know or understand one thing, and that’s when things get confused. Be straight up [and] the right people will come to you. 

DAVINA: Don’t ever take no as a no.

BENSON: Hustle, take risks. Just get out there and hustle. Have a goal in terms of what you wanna do and where you wanna get to. Hustle every day. 

Advice for people looking to make their own festival from Strawberries & Creem founder, Preye Cooks.

“Start small. I think that festivals are a big operation. Everything from the lineup – that’s the easiest part – it’s about the toilets, the licenses, the council, the police. We were really lucky we started as a 500 capacity event and kind of built it to where it is now. That would be my advice to everyone – build it organically and authentically and [you’ll have] more chance of not making mistakes.” 

Preye Cooks

Kat Friar at work with Theo Oliver, PIAS.
Image: Saadiq T

Words & photography: Kat Friar. Kat is a freelance journalist, DJ and photographer with a passion for music. She likes to cover all bases regarding music so whether it’s a new album, a rising artist or a gig, she’ll be writing about it.

Additional photography: Saadiq T

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