Damian Christian on Atlantic's airplay triumph

Damian Christian on Atlantic's airplay triumph

Atlantic Records reclaimed their airplay crown in 2021.

Based on figures from chart compiler Radiomonitor, Atlantic came out on top of both the radio and TV airplay charts. 

The label actually had the Top 3 most played tracks of the year, including Ed Sheeran’s Bad Habits at No.1. It is only the second time that Top 3 result has happened on the radio airplay chart (Atlantic did it in 2017).

“Having to adapt in lockdown, it really all came down to your contacts and thinking outside the box,” Damian Christian, managing director and president of promotions for Atlantic Records UK, told Music Week. “You couldn't see people any more, so it was old-fashioned plugging skills - talking about your records.”

Atlantic had a 26.16% market share of the Radiomonitor Top 100 radio airplay hits (All Radio). Polydor was No.2 with 13.68%, followed by RCA (10.38%), Columbia (10.24%) and Island (8.58%).

For the TV airplay chart, Atlantic was No.1 with 27.73%, followed by Polydor (12.04%) and Island (11.68%), who had the No.1 with The Weeknd’s Save Your Tears, followed by Bad Habits.

As well as having the biggest OCC single of 2021 with Bad Habits, Ed Sheeran had the biggest airplay hit of the year. Bad Habits had 1.392 billion impacts based on 130,345 plays across 269 stations. 

“We’re absolutely delighted,” said Christian. “As good as the record is, you just never know when you come back with your superstar act how they’re going to be received. 

“We didn't go to radio with that record until the end of May. So to get the No.1 airplay record, when airplay wasn't really kicking in until June and taking into account all the Christmas records in December, that really shows the enormous play that record got in five months. Even by his standards, it was pretty impressive.”

The achievement was all the more noteworthy in that Sheeran was competing with himself. He was also at No.10 on airplay overall in 2021 with Shivers, No.56 with Afterglow and No.65 with Overpass Graffiti.

Ed Sheeran has a new airplay hit at No.3 with The Joker And The Queen, his duet with Taylor Swift. Christian told Music Week that it will be another big year for the UK superstar singer-songwriter.

“Ed had five No.1s on airplay last year - that's also a record that's never been done before in one year,” he said. “We've got high hopes for [The Joker And The Queen] and Ed's going to be releasing music all through the year. There will be some from the album, and some other new collaborations, so we’re super-excited.”

Heartbreak Anthem by Galantis, David Guetta & Little Mix finished in second place on radio airplay, followed by David Guetta, Joel Corry, Raye and MNEK with Bed at No.3.

Joel Corry & MNEK actually had the most plays of the year with Head & Heart (132,691) at No.5, although the single had fewer ‘impacts’ (1.076 billion) based on those stations' audience reach than Sheeran’s Bad Habits. Joel Corry also had radio hits with Jax Jones, Charli XCX and Saweetie collaboration Out Out (No.58 overall last year) and I Wish with Mabel (No.64).

Joel Corry as a new artist having two in the Top 5 is beyond your wildest dreams,” said Christian. “Anne-Marie did incredibly well, too, with three in the top 42 [Kiss My (Uh Oh), Our Song and Don’t Play with KSI and Digital Farm Animals].”

“I don't want this to look like there's a magic wand in our hands because that wouldn't be fair, but we had some very good records,” he added. “In promotions, I’ve probably said it before over the years, but I think it's about finessing things. 

“There were some records that took a long time to get going, like Ava Max [No.50 overall in 2021 with My Head & My Heart], Ella Henderson [No.24 with Tom Grennan collaboration Let's Go Home Together], Clean Bandit [No.66 with Topic and Wes Nelson collaboration Drive]. Records take a long time to work, some of them can take three months, 14 weeks to get on various playlists. So you've got to keep at it.”

Atlantic’s promotions team also worked successful acts distributed by ADA, including Central Cee and KSI (signed to BMG).

Even by Ed Sheeran’s standards, it was pretty impressive

Damian Christian

Overall, Atlantic had 25 entries in the airplay Top 100 last year. The label had 10 No.1 airplay awards during 2021.

Christian credited the work of the promotions team - Carrie Curtis, Deidre Moran, Holly Marshall, Will Puxley, Katia Rabhi, Mel Rudder and Alex Alexandrou - as well as the label’s A&R strength.

“Everybody at Atlantic is part of this,” he said. 

Christian and his team won the Promotions category at the Music Week Awards 2021 for airplay success in the prior year.

Digging into the data for 2021, Christian highlighted some of their other market share victories based on the pie charts for labels’ performances (“the pie don’t lie!”).

Across the Top 20 rundown for radio airplay, Atlantic had a 30.67% share, while it’s share of the Top 100 for UK artists only on radio airplay was 33.1% (37.41% for the Top 20 UK artists only).

For UK artists only on TV airplay, Atlantic had 37.15% of the Top 100 and dominated the Top 20 with a 59.49% share. The label had more than 80 TV performances across the roster.

Atlantic started 2022 with a No.1 on airplay with Gayle’s Abcdefu. The track also peaked at No.1 on the singles chart and has sales to date of 451,169, according to the Official Charts Company.

“We actually went to No.1 on airplay before it went to No.1 in the OCC, which is almost unheard of,” said Christian. “Everyone was sort of ready for the Gayle record, it was full of attitude. When we can beat the OCC on airplay… well, you want both because we’re greedy! But that was a great one, and we’re obviously excited about her this year as well.”

Christian also noted the success of Silk Sonic in 2021. The combination of Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak secured Leave The Door Open a No.1 on airplay. It ended up as the 68th biggest airplay song of the year.

“Leave The Door Open is a soul classic,” said Christian. “And getting the BRIT [for international group] on top of that made it feel quite special. We’re very excited to have a new Bruno record on his own when he's ready, but these are great soulful radio records.”

Christian also identified some newer faces on the roster who are primed for radio hits in 2022.

“We're very excited about Fred Again, who’s had enormous specialist play and some daytime play,” he said. “We think Fred is an artist that can cross over. And there’s YAZ, who we as a label are super-excited about as a new talent.”

Finally, two years on from the onset of the pandemic, Atlantic’s promotions supremo reflected on their key partnerships at radio during that time.

“I've got to say for the record, all of the stations were  incredible,” he told Music Week. “They kept all of our appointments, all on Zoom, which was obviously a new world to us. But they kept going and they did an incredible job, from the presenters to the guys picking music. 

“They had to make decisions on things like Joel Corry records. I mean, he fundamentally came from clubs, and then all of a sudden these were radio records. People weren’t allowed to go out clubbing, but it didn’t mean people weren’t having a good time. So I think [radio stations] had to use their imagination and gut feeling as well as everything else, which again is quite old school. They never ducked out of appointments, and they were always up for hearing new music to keep the nation going really.”

Subscribers can click here to read our interview with Ed Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp. 

Our interview with Anne-Marie is here.

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