"I've never been more confident of the role of the record label than today": An interview with Adam Granite of Universal Music Group

"I've never been more confident of the role of the record label than today": An interview with Adam Granite of Universal Music Group

Make no mistake: We are living in Asia’s moment. It has taken globalisation several decades to wave its hand over the biggest and most populated continent in the world but the effects of the convergence of disparate historical forces have manifested in the legitimate flourishing of the entertainment industry, across all its territories. The subsets of film and music have also experienced a hitherto unprecedented growth in infrastructure and output, in tandem with a heightened appreciation of and demand for the depth and breath of both mediums.

At the recent edition of All That Matters 2019, this was made undeniably clear in the announcement that, Universal Music Group, the world leader in music-based entertainment, would be expanding its recorded music operations across Southeast Asia with the launch of two new flagship label divisions: Def Jam South East Asia, that will spotlight and develop the region’s burgeoning hip-hop scene and Astralwerks Asia, that will bring to the forefront Asian game changers in the arena of electronic music.

Adam Granite, UMG’s Executive Vice President, Market Development, who was in town to lift the veil on this reverberating news, sat down with us to reflect on how Asia is adapting to the contemporary playing field and the place of the record label in 2019.

How does it feel to be in town for Music Matters 2019?

I'm very excited. This is, obviously, a very exciting time for Universal Music Group, at this juncture, in Singapore. I couldn't be more happy and excited to witness how everything will culminate around Music Matters and the announcements we're about to make.

Let's talk about your own story for a minute. What drew you to working on the business side of music?

Well, I failed at the piano when I was about five! [Laughs] That sort of cemented my career, or lack thereof, as an artist. But I've always been passionate about music and I'm lucky that I'm be able to work so closely with something I'm passionate about every single day.

Within the context of Asia, how do you think the music business has changed over the last decade, overall?

There've a couple of big shifts that have led to Asia becoming what it is in music. The first is the growth of streaming, which is a subset of the larger factor that fans can now choose what they want to listen to and when. That's so different from how the industry worked 20 years ago. Streaming platforms also give us an opportunity to market to a much wider range of fans, within a local market, within a region and around the world.

The other big piece about why we're so excited about Asia is because there has been such a huge growth in local repertoire, which is fantastic. Fantastic for all the local markets and really excites us because it allows us to work with unique artists all over the world but also bring them to fans around the world.

And with streaming platforms giving artists the seamless ability to get their music out into the world, what would you say is the place of the label today?

I've been doing this for a long time. And when I started in the mid-90s, people were saying that the major label system was over – that was 25 years ago. I can say this: I've never been more confident of the role of the record label than today. We are all drowning in a sea of music; there are so many releases every single day, around the world. Artists need major label support to be able to find and connect with their audiences and market and promote their music on a global scale. 

As an experienced executive in the music industry, what do you look for when it comes to artists?

We work with some incredible artists around the world – they're all unique. I think we work at at our best when we magnify great artistry. So we seek out the best artists and we do everything we can to help their careers develop and to connect with audiences all over the world. 

The supremacy of the single over the album format is another paradigm shift in the industry. What are your thoughts on that?

It all comes down to the artists. For some artists, releasing singles makes more sense. For others, it's the other way around. It really depends. If an artist wants to create a body of work, we're thrilled to work with them to support it. But again, there are certain artists and even certain genres where releasing singles is more relevant to their respective audiences.

Lastly, how do you think the perception of Asia has changed within the industry, over the years?

For a long time, our industry and many other industries painted Asia with a very broad brush and maybe had one headquarters for all of Asia. As the music industry grows, we see the need to have multiple headquarters focussing on different parts of Asia. What's happening in India is very different from what's happening in China, which is very different from what's happening in Vietnam, or Korea. 

That's why dedicated focussing of local resources is very important. It helps local markets grow to their fullest potential.