Almost half a billion pounds (£497 million) was invested by UK record labels and music publishers in writing and producing new music, signing and developing artists and songwriters, and promoting records, according to figures for 2014 released today by leading music organisations, BPI and the Music Publishers Association (MPA) – respectively representing major and independent record labels and British music publishers.

British record labels invested an impressive £178 million in A&R in 2014 – equivalent to a quarter (25.4 per cent) of their annual revenues – while a further £157.4 million supported label marketing and promotion (22.5 per cent of label revenues). This combined label outlay of over £335 million means that last year just under half of record label revenues (47.9 per cent) went into signing, developing and marketing artists.

Such investment helps to break new artists and has helped build the international careers of award-nominated acts such as Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, George Ezra, Alt J and Royal Blood. The £178 million A&R figure represents a 19 per cent increase on the £149 million outlay in 2013, and is the highest level of Artist and Repertoire (A&R)1 investment as a proportion of revenues since records began in 1992.

A similar industry survey by the MPA reveals that its members invested £162 million in the careers of songwriters and composers last year. As a result of such sustained investment, the UK music publishing sector generated revenues of over £400 million in 2014.

This means a total of £497 million was invested collectively by these two sectors in discovering, nurturing, developing and promoting music talent – helping to fuel a global boom in British music which, as evidenced by the recent UK Music report Measuring Music, contributed a total of £4.1 billion to the UK economy in 2014.

New artist signings reach a 5-year high in the UK:

At such an exciting time for British music, major record labels have increased the number of artists being signed. The number of new artist deals signed by Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music according to the BPI topped 156 in 2014 – up 30 per cent on the 120 signed in 2013 and the highest annual total since 2009, when 164 new deals were signed.

Music publishers drive UK music exports:

Meanwhile, music publishers can claim to be responsible for one quarter of the UK music industry's £2.1bn exports in 2014, contributing £519 million of the sector’s total. This is borne out by earlier MPA research that revealed British songwriters and composers contributed to more than 1 in 3 of Billboard's Year End 100 US albums for 2014, including those by Taylor Swift, Eminem, Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson – the third year in succession this threshold has been crossed.

R&D investment in British music outstrips other leading industries:

The A&R investment by UK record labels, when taken as a percentage of their revenues (25.4 per cent in 2014), is significantly greater than the proportion of revenues spent by other leading industry sectors on their product research and development. As a comparator, the European Commission’s EU R&D Scorecard shows that Biotechnology (17.4 per cent), Software (14.8 per cent), Pharmaceuticals (13.2 per cent) and Automotive (5.4 per cent) industries all invested less as a proportion of their sales in Europe than the recorded music sector did in the UK.

Commenting on the figures, Jane Dyball, CEO, MPA Group of Companies, said:

“These investment figures highlight why British music remains so successful on the global stage. Music publishers are at the heart of this success – supporting songwriters and composers at every stage of their career, whether that’s a would-be recording artist just starting out, an international superstar or a jobbing writer.

“Their investment takes many forms: offering advice, finding label deals, securing sync licenses and cover versions and, of course, ensuring that our creators are paid for use of their works. Importantly, these incredible figures also highlight that music publishers, like record labels, make a very substantial annual investment in A&R, further demonstrating the music industry’s colossal contribution to the financial and cultural wealth of the UK.” 

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI and BRIT Awards, added:

"It's no fluke that 2014 was such an outstanding year for British music. These achievements do not come easily, however, and they reflect the huge A&R and marketing investment by labels as well as the significant risks they undertake in signing new artists – for every global superstar there are, sadly, other acts that aren’t quite able to break through. Such A&R investment is typically well ahead of the proportion of revenues that other leading industries such as the Biotech, Software and Automotive sectors spend on their R&D.

“Alongside the artists themselves, the passion and commitment labels show in unearthing, nurturing and developing the next wave of talent is one of the main reasons our music is the envy of the world right now. It demonstrates the vital role labels play in the music ecosystem in providing venture capital for new music.”


AMY WADGE - signed to BDi Music by Managing Director/Director A&R, Sarah Liversedge

Songwriter Amy Wadge was signed by Sarah Liversedge to BDi Music at the beginning of 2008. Amy’s admin catalogue deal had expired and she was looking for a creative publisher to work with exclusively to help her develop her songwriting.

In Sarah’s words: “Amy came to see me and her energy was bubbly and enthusiastic. When I signed her, she was about to have her first baby. Then six weeks after giving birth she was back on the road gigging around the UK as a country artist. I was very impressed by her determination to succeed. She had written for others but, at this stage, there hadn’t been any chart activity - so getting her locked in with ‘named’ artists was a mountain to climb.

“My strategy at this point was to get her writing weekly with up and coming UK development artists via our A&R relationships with managers & labels. We agreed to block two days a week for BDi songwriting sessions – and alongside her own songwriting and artistic ambitions, Amy was also working as a radio presenter for BBC Radio Wales and in a prison supporting and introducing prisoners to the world of music.”

Following these weekly writing sessions Amy began being approached by artists - the most notable being a 17-year old from Suffolk called Ed Sheeran.

“Ed had been on my radar for a while,” says Sarah.“He had been in to see me with his then management and had played songs to me. He had hung with us in the pub next door to BDi HQ and we had chatted a lot about who he wanted to work with, his aspirations and goals. 

“He already had around 200 gigs under his belt, which was obviously hugely impressive, and was clearly very talented, but his ambitions fell into two clearly defined genres: singer-songwriter and urban. His management wanted him to focus solely on the singer-songwriter side of things but he really wanted to work with rappers so I introduced him to my BDi producer/writer Jake Gosling who had just finished working on an album by Wiley.”

Through this connection, Sarah introduced Ed to Amy and they began working together. “Both introductions clicked and continue to blossom to this day,” says Sarah. “Ed and Amy got on like a house on fire. They wrote very naturally together and Ed decided to self-release an EP ‘Songs I Wrote With Amy’ – which went on to be released by Warners, after ‘+’ went to No.1. Amy also co-wrote a song with Ed for the deluxe version of ‘+’ , ‘Goldrush’.

“With Ed’s music spreading like wild fire artists and managers were now starting to come to us. Then in February 2014 the big day came where Ed invited Amy to stay with him for the weekend to write some new songs together. He had been in USA for most of 2013 writing his second album and touring ‘+’. I was told he was still looking for songs. Amy and Ed wrote ‘Thinking Out Loud’.

“On release, Amy’s life changed dramatically and she is now working with A-List artists every day of the week - including a cut on Jamie Lawson’s No.1 album ‘Don’t Let Me Let You Go’ and she has two cuts on Ben Haenow’s upcoming debut album on Syco.

"To follow up the success of such an amazing song is huge pressure but, I have no doubt Amy will continue to succeed – she is very ambitious and she has the talent and quality in her song writing. As publisher, it is a true honour to own the copyright in such a ground breaking song. I will continue to do what I do best: invest in songwriter’s careers, nurture and develop songwriting talent and protect my songwriter’s songs.”

Producer, writer and musician Fraser T Smith, signed to Sony/ATV by Co Head of A&R, Janice Brock 

Grammy award winning producer, writer and musician Fraser T Smith was signed to Sony/ATV by Janice Brock (Co Head of A&R), in 2010. Taio Cruz was just about to have a big hit with Break Your Heart, which Fraser co-wrote. Brock sought him out at an Ivor Novello after party at The Audley, and got an invitation to meet him and his wife and manager Sarah at their studio. Brock said “He played me the demo of ‘Set Fire To The Rain’ with Adele early in our relationship.

In terms of development and strategy Brock added “Fraser was already well established in the UK. He was having big radio hits with Tinchy Stryder, NDubz and Taio Cruz, and Adele’s album 21 containing Fraser’s co-write ‘Set Fire To The Rain’ was soon to be released. The strategy was to get Fraser known across the US labels, going forward.”

He went on to co-write Not In That Way from Sam Smith’s debut album In The Lonely Hour. Jo Charrington and Nick Raphael had just signed Sam Smith to London Records, now Capitol. “They asked us for help getting some key big co-writers writing with Sam early in the process. One of the writers they asked for was Fraser T Smith. Sarah, his manager, said yes immediately; Sam was incredible from the start, so it was a natural match.”

“Great writers like Fraser respond to great voices, not to whether a label has mapped out an algorithm of which radio stations are playing the first record and the likelihood of having a hit record. It’s a visceral response; does a great writer feel they’d have chemistry with a new artist? That’s the key.” Brock added.

Fraser and Sam’s creative relationship worked well from the beginning said Brock “I think they had a massive amount of respect and trust in each other from the start. They wrote a lot of incredible songs together. Sam went on to write with many other writers after, and a body of work for the label to choose from happened pretty quickly. Wrapping the album happened quickly, as by now Sam Smith’s name and talent was beginning to make waves here, and America was an early adopter, so his label needed to get the record out, to meet the rapidly growing interest in Sam.

Since then Fraser has gone on to write with many other new and established artists on both sides of the Atlantic, spending a decent amount of time in LA. “He loves discovering new artists. It’s very early days for Sam Smith’s second full album (his repack of his first album is due out early November), but his management have indicated Sam wants most of the same writers from his first album back with him.”