“People are having big songs, but big artists are not coming through”: Former Columbia Records UK head says not enough acts are breaking into the mainstream

“You can release music pretty easily — but it’s very hard for anyone who’s not established to get space.”

Sam Fender

Image: Roberto Ricciuti / Getty Images

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Ex-Columbia Records UK President Ferdy Unger-Hamilton has commented on the lack of artists breaking into the mainstream, saying things are “harder than it ever was”.

On the latest episode of Cambridge Audio’s Made By Music podcast, Unger-Hamilton admits that “We’re not breaking as many acts as we should be at Columbia, but no one is at the moment.”

“Acts aren’t breaking – big acts that matter. People are having big songs, but big artists are not coming through,” he explains [via Music Radar]. “Central Cee is an exception, you know, Dave is, but he came a long time ago. PinkPantheress has done really well [and] Sam Fender. But it’s harder than it ever was.”

Having worked with some of the biggest names in the industry like The 1975, Ellie Goulding, Foo Fighters, Portishead, Harry Styles, Ozzy Osbourne and Adele, the former Columbia exec and A&R maestro says: “What you want someone like me for is to find you great new acts, and when I’m not doing that it’s like a footballer that’s not scoring goals.”

“That’s what it is and I think it’s a happy thing for everyone because I started to build my own world – I had a publishing company and the other act that’s done really well is on my publishing company… Fred again.., who I signed about seven years ago really as a writer, before he was Fred again..”

Despite the challenges, Unger-Hamilton concedes that there’s still “a lot that’s good about now”.

“As an independent artist or label, you’re not held back by distribution,” he says. “You don’t need a truck, you don’t need to press any records or CDs. You can release music pretty easily — but it’s very hard for anyone who’s not established to get space.”

Asked for his advice to young musicians looking to succeed in the industry, Unger-Hamilton has this to say: “Artist, I just think be really good. Play an instrument – really learn your craft because the people that I’ve known who are amazing, are amazing because they’ve really given their time to it.”

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