Rising to the challenge: The industry's most successful execs on the biggest tasks facing the biz

The music industry elite turned out for a record-breaking edition of the Music Week Awards last month, yet even the most successful execs in the biz continue to face challenges. We spoke to the big winners to find out what they are…

Sarah Stennett, CEO, First Access Entertainment
Winner, The Strat
“Really, the biggest challenge is communication. We’ve got a global business that’s in London, New York, Los Angeles and Stockholm and the challenge for us is everybody as a global team being able to communicate in a really effective way. I’ve got some people who are really good at making sure communication is great, but one of the things I really encourage is, Get off your e-mails and get on the phone, that’s my motto.”

Tyler Brown, MD, Syco Music
Winner, Record Company Of The Year
“I see more positives than challenges to be honest. As long as you focus on working with super-talented artists that have a point of view and can deliver big records, I think you’ll always win. It might not connect instantly, but it’s about being patient, having a great network and a great set of relationships with managers, artists, producers, writers, agents. Some artists have their biggest success on their third or fourth album, so it’s about sticking in there. The emergence of streaming has changed things dramatically, but we only see that as a positive thing. This is the first time there’s been predicted growth in the industry since I started eight years ago.”

Dan Chalmers, president, Rhino, ADA & East West UK
Winner, Label/Artist Services Company
“It’s more about opportunity, the streaming space is growing and throwing up a lot of interesting challenges for us all, so we’re very excited about what the future holds.”

Jess Kangalee, head of UK Radio and TV, and Michelle Kambasha, senior UK publicist, Secretly Group
Winner, Independent Record Company
Jess Kangalee: “Just trying to cut through to the mainstream is difficult. It seems very major label dominated right now. We all believe in what we do so much and we work very hard, so it will happen in time but it’s just trying to cut through.”
Michelle Kambasha: “It’s trying to be creative in how we do that too. It’ll always be harder because indies don’t necessarily have the resources, but this kind of award proves that you can be very creative and try and cut through a bigger audience.”

Brian Johnson, director, artist management, Spotify
Winner, Music Retailer/Streaming Platform
“We’re excited for the challenges to come ahead, and that’s bringing in so many more users, many more artists and getting their music out there to as many music as possible.”

Ollie Hodge, A&R manager, Columbia Records
Winner, A&R Award
“For us the biggest challenge is finding enough time to make stuff great before it gets out to the audience. The whole thing for us is about letting stuff get great before we put it out into the world. Things move so quickly now, we’re just trying to make sure we hold the line and make sure the music is great before we move forward. It’s all about artists, not songs. Great artists make great songs.”

Steve Lamacq, presenter, BBC Radio 6 Music
Winner, Radio Station
“6 Music reminds me of working at the New Musical Express where we had an editorial meeting every Tuesday and there used to be 10 of us, we all liked different sorts of music and we all thought we were right. The hardest thing is trying to find some consensus of opinion. Brilliantly, sometimes we do… but sometimes we don’t. We still get a diverse array of music out there and, hopefully, some of it’s good and some people like it.”

Michael Eavis, founder, Glastonbury Festival, and Emily Eavis, organiser, Glastonbury Festival
Winner, Festival Of The Year
Michael Eavis: “Coping with the rain and keeping the best artists in the world appearing. We’re very good at that aren’t we? It’s brilliant that so many people still want to keep coming. That’s pure luxury.”
Emily Eavis: “We’re very lucky to be able to choose who we want every year and incredibly lucky to be able to get them.”

Lucy Dickins, agent, ITB
Winner, Live Music Agent (Individual)
“Secondary ticketing is always going to be the biggest challenge, and what everyone is doing, including people I work with who are campaigning against it, has been a pretty amazing thing. “

Drew Hill, MD, Proper Music Distribution and Proper Music Group
Winner, Sales Team
“Brexit’s going to be interesting… Let’s see how that pans out for us with exchange rates and what happens to the workforce. There’s no denying that in the face of adversity and the sweep from digital services out there we’ve got to fight our corner and let people know that physical has still got a part to play. There’s still a lot of people buying physical albums and everyone wants to say it’s all about digital, but it’s not, it’s a blend of physical and digital together.”

Chris Organ, senior partner, Russells Solicitors, Simon Esplen, Russells Solicitors
Winner, Law Firm Of The Year
Chris Organ: “We mustn’t lose focus on the artist and the content and what it is we are actually selling, and the development of that and the nurturing of talent and making sure they get properly remunerated as well as properly developed.”
Simon Esplen: “It’ got to be the impact of streaming. We’re starting to see a turnaround in the level of income being generated for artists now and record labels. I want to see more fairness in the amount of streaming income shared with artists.”

Adam Bulleid, senior brand partnerships, Universal Music – Globe
Winner, Music & Brand Partnership
“It’s about getting the balance right. Phones at gigs annoy everyone, but there’s a way technology can enhance the experience. You see what Coldplay have done and its revolutionised their live experience And there is so much that can be done in that space, we’ve just got to play with it more and see what does and doesn’t work.”

Laura Sinclair, head of press, DawBell
Winner, PR Campaign (Craig David)
“Diversifying as a PR agency. When I started it was very much print focused, and the industry has changed. we now have an online team and a social media department. We’ve grown with the times and I think that’s what DawBell is incredible at doing – diversifying as a company as the business moves forward.”

Nathan Clark, general manager, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Winner, Grassroots Venue: Spirit Of The Scene
“There is a sea change in the way small venues are perceived. With the closure of a lot of small venues there is now a groundswell to recognise that these are the places that are the breeding ground for music and that things wouldn’t happen without them. And that’s an opportunity. The threat is increasing licensing and burdens of regulations and things like that. If we can increase investment back into the sector then hopefully there’s a long-term future there.”

MistaJam, presenter, BBC Radio 1/1Xtra
Winner, Radio Show
“It feels like a lot of people are writing off radio because of the advent of streaming. But the bottom line is there is no other medium that can give you that connection to the music. With TV you’re behind a screen, with streaming you’re behind an algorithm to tell you what it is you are going to listen to or you are looking for something based on your mood, but radio is unique in that it’s so intimate. It’s one voice into one ear at any given point and you’re being able to tell people the story behind the music at the same time. You have the opportunity and the ability to change somebody’s mood and you’re playing stuff they haven’t necessarily chosen to listen to. That’s why it’s so important. It’s the place where I go to discover.”

Andrew Parsons, managing director, Ticketmaster UK
Winner, Ticketmaster/TicketWeb
“The challenge is price. We’ve still got a long way to go to be able to optimally price that which we do every day of the week. Opportunities wise, it’s about finding new artists and being able to connect them with fans. Ultimately it’s a great business to be in.”

Jon Tolley, manager, Banquet Records
Winner, Independent Retailer
“It’s just the cold, hard economic issues. The demand is there, people are buying more records than they ever have, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t try to expand to quickly and make sure we are keeping in touch with the customers. Our business is growing and growing but we are nothing if we are not that place in the community that serves what the customers want.”

Simon Moran, managing director, SJM Concerts, John Cornwell, promoter, SJM Concerts
Winner, Live Music Promoter (Company)
Simon Moran: “It’s about never being complacent, always offering a great service and trying to do better than anyone else. Or the best that you can do at least.”
John Cornwell: We also have to innovate, we always have to be their first, and we always have to be more dynamic. We’re always looking for really brilliant staff, and the team in Manchester are terrific in all areas, That gives us an edge in what is a very competitive market.”

Philip Thirlway, VP business affairs, Kobalt Music Publishing
Winner, Publisher Of The Year
“One of the biggest opportunities now is streaming. It’s been seen for many years as a big challenge, and Willard, our CEO, has been evangelical that it’s the future of the industry, and now in the last six months or so we’re hearing about more people starting to embrace that optimism and he’s built the platform to set us up for that, and we’re very much looking forward to seeing what the next chapter involves.”