Escape plan: Raye's artist services team on the ascent of a 'global superstar'

Escape plan: Raye's artist services team on the ascent of a 'global superstar'

Raye’s services and distribution team have spoken about fulfilling her vision as an independent artist with ambitions for an international breakthrough. 

The UK singer and songwriter has just released her debut album, My 21st Century Blues, following her first ever UK No.1 with Escapism (Feat 070 Shake) last month. The single, which is at No.10 in the Midweek Sales flash despite moving to ACR under chart rules, has now gone platinum.

Raye's long-awaited debut LP peaked at No.2 with strong week one sales of 15,516 (Official Charts Company). After two weeks, it has sales of 19,716 (9,858 physical copies, 3,517 downloads and 6,341 from streams).

Raye’s campaign marks her return under a new distribution partnership with LA-based Human Re Sources, which is part of Sony Music’s artist & label services operation The Orchard.

“She A&R’d the project herself, the heavy lifting was done,” said J Erving, Human Re Sources founder and EVP, creative development at Sony Music. “It was about finding a distribution partner and creating a scenario where she could be the captain of the ship and have support on the back end, but with her really driving it. This is 100% Raye’s vision.”

Escapism went Top 5 in multiple territories, including No.1 in the UK (602,926 sales to date). 

The Orchard’s campaign, aligned throughout its offices around the world, has now shifted to building consumption of all the tracks on My 21st Century Blues. For a performance on BBC One’s Graham Norton Show last month, Raye performed The Thrill Is Gone rather than her chart-topping single.

“It’s not just about delivering [Escapism] as a huge hit single,” said UK MD Ian Dutt. “It’s about delivering Raye as a global superstar, which she was always meant to be. [The No.1] was an amazing moment for us and we’re delighted for Raye, but it’s about what we do over the next 12 months. And it’s important to stress that it’s very much a global strategy.”

Meanwhile, there is an increasing US focus for Escapism, including the cover of Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits playlist. 

“The US is taking the lead in terms of streaming [of Escapism], it’s got really good playlist pick-up and the radio story is starting to shape up in the US,” said Erving. 

Following a brief UK tour next month, including a Roundhouse date, Raye will play five sold-out US club shows.

“I wish we could make the venues bigger, the demand is crazy,” said Erving. “But she’ll be back to do bigger rooms. I’ve been in the music business for over 20 years, and she is one of the most dynamic live performers I’ve ever seen.”

Although established as a hitmaker, with 18 Top 75 entries prior to Escapism, Raye had voiced her frustration at not being able to release a debut LP. She parted ways with Polydor in 2021, who said the decision was “amicable and mutual”. 

Dutt underlined The Orchard’s working partnership with Raye, who is managed by her father Paul Keen and mother Sarah Keen, as well as day-to-day manager Tia Ferguson.

“The most important thing was to build an environment around Raye that was empathetic, inclusive and creative,” said Dutt. “It gave her the freedom and confidence to make the decisions she wanted to make.”

Raye is just getting started, she could be as big as any artist in the world

J Erving

Raye has made all the singles choices for the campaign. The ballad Ice Cream Man is the next focus track from the album.

“It is another phenomenal piece of songwriting,” said Dutt. “It is in a very different lane to Escapism so the two tracks can happily live side by side.”

“These records are a culmination of Raye’s experiences,” said Erving. “Ice Cream Man is a very vulnerable record, it is reflective and the hook on that song is infectious. I want young women to hear that record and feel empowered.”

While the services company has had chart-topping albums, Escapism is The Orchard’s first ever UK No.1 single. 

“It underlines that with the right artist and the right song, we can compete in this field,” said Dutt. 

The single went viral on TikTok, including a sped-up version that’s featured in 473,000 creator videos. In total, Escapism has inspired more than a million TikTok creations and two billion TikTok views of videos featuring the song.

“We’ve been very active in terms of monitoring, putting the right marketing in place and looking at various versions,” said Anette Collins, senior director, international artist services. “The sped-up version on TikTok was massive.”

Erving highlighted the crucial role of Raye’s songwriting in the impact of Escapism, which has amassed more than 243 million Spotify streams.

“The virality on TikTok was around a lyric,” he said. “That is a testament to Raye and her songwriting. There’s so much connectivity between what she is saying and singing about, and how young people are feeling and thinking.”

The UK star teamed up with the US-based Human Re Sources after Erving was alerted to Raye and her album by an A&R. 

“We looked at Raye like a new artist, we didn’t approach this as a relaunch,” he said. “It was very little to do with the track record, I just heard an amazing body of work. She is really smart, really driven, super-talented. I heard a global superstar when I listened to this project.”

Raye is signed to Warner Chappell for publishing alongside her partnership with Human Re Sources and The Orchard. 

Human Re Sources and The Orchard are now working to build Raye as an international star on her own terms.

“I’d love to see her as a long-term career album artist that can have hit records at the same time,” said Dutt. “What we’re proving now is that she can deliver as part of an album campaign, so I think the future for Raye is phenomenal.”

“She’s already working on more music,” said Erving. “Raye is just getting started. She could be as big as any artist in the world, she checks all of the boxes.”


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