Relentless Records GM Ben Coates talks Tom Walker, TikTok and breaking acts

Relentless Records GM Ben Coates talks Tom Walker, TikTok and breaking acts

Breaking a debut album artist has been tough during 2020.

As revealed in Music Week’s report on debuts for the first half of the year, there was not a single debut charting release from 2020 by an artist in the Top 100 album sellers for the first six months.

But while debuts have yet to make a significant impression so far this year, not least because labels put campaigns on hold during lockdown, the class of 2019 are thriving.

Tom Walker’s What A Time To Be Alive is still selling and streaming, more than 70 weeks after it debuted at No.1. The album made No.18 in the Top 100 artist albums for the half-year. It has sales to date of 344,851.

Ben Coates, Relentless Records GM, said the hard-working Walker has even maintained momentum for the LP during the pandemic.

“Tom has really embraced online and live over the lockdown period and kept a regular schedule, which really helped to keep his audience engaged and resulted in the continued growth of followers,” he said. “With catalogue tracks holding steady throughout lockdown, we also focused some marketing efforts around catalogue visibility and activations around certain playlists.”

Tom Walker has new single Wait For You in the Top 75 at the moment. Just You And I, which peaked at No.3, made No.82 in the half-year Top 100 singles. It has sales of 1,348,778. 

Walker’s global streams have passed two billion. He’s now working on a follow-up album.

“Releasing new music has also been key in sustaining momentum and keeping the fanbase engaged,” added Coates.

But he acknowledged the challenges for launching new artists this year, with the absence of live opportunities and limited media. 

“Whilst lockdown has presented many challenges, it's also forced us to try new approaches and presented new opportunities,” said Coates. “Music is still being consumed so we have to remain positive, help our artists navigate the new landscape, and provide all the support we can as other areas of our business face even tougher challenges. 

“Each artist and team will have to make their own assessments as to whether they feel they can gain the momentum to cut throughout with a debut album in the current climate.” 

BMG artist KSI’s debut album did make No.42 in the Top 100 for the first six months, though the TikTok-friendly rapper had scored previous albums chart entries with EPs. 

Coates said the current situation could work for the right artist.

“Timing will be key but as long as the audience is continuing to grow, even if a debut album has to move back then it shouldn't be seen as a negative,” he added. “Week one is important but maintaining momentum post-release will be the measure of real success.” 

Relentless has secured a breakthrough on the Top 100 singles for Q2. Pour The Milk by Robbie Doherty & Keees made No.83 overall for the quarter. Despite only peaking at No.44 on the singles chart, it has sales to date of 152,619.

“Robbie Doherty & Keees had a genuine club hit with Pour The Milk that started to move from club land to streaming just as clubs were closing,” said Coates. “The management of streaming growth from genre and mood playlists into the pop list has been key, as has the growth across TikTok and through specialist radio. 

“There is no denying the power of TikTok. Not every song works for the platform and audience, but Pour The Milk has been embraced by the community and created lots of viral moments that boosted the streaming story.”

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