Interview: Young Poet discusses what sets them apart, their biggest challenges, and the new music we can look forward to
Today we bring you an interview with London’s Young Poet. Formed in 2018, the label boasts an impressive roster of talent, from label mainstays like Conor Albert and Wooze to rising artists like Alex Amor and Hohnen Ford. We learn about what sets the label apart, some of the biggest challenges they face as an independent label in today’s music landscape, and the new music we can look forward to in the near future.
The Daily Music Report: For those who don’t know or are unaware, can you tell us Young Poet’s origin story and its mission?
Young Poet: We set up Young Poet back in 2018 with a desire to help emerging artists. We saw too many new artists struggling to be heard, not being serviced as rigorously as needed by their release partners and lacking a sympathetic ear that appreciated their perspective. We saw a different way of doing things and have pursued that approach doggedly ever since.
Can you talk a bit about the mix of artists on the label?
It’s a broad church that’s relatively genre-agnostic, with each of our artists occupying their own musical and artistic space within the roster. The musical values we champion mean we naturally have a fair few individual singer-songwriters and producers on the roster, but bands have always held a special place within the label too – we launched with WOOZE, and they’ve been with us ever since.
Congratulations on the brand redesign. Can you talk some about your new brand identity? Can you discuss some of the choices made along the way? And what does this new chapter mean for Young Poet moving forward?
Thank you! We worked very closely with the team over at Re (part of M&C Saatchi) who were great and have created a visual shorthand representing what Young Poet stands for. For both teams it was a chance to really explore what a record label is in 2022, what our values are and the role we provide when partnering with artists.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an independent label?
The sheer volume of music more than anything – both from an artist discovery perspective, and from the point of view of connecting artists with a relevant audience.
There’s also a problem around consumer attention. We’re competing against not just the entire history of recorded music on streaming services, but podcasts and audio books now too. Via the smart phone we’re also competing against social media, news, e-books, video games, video streaming… you get a headache just thinking about it. Of course, music can form part of all those experiences in an accompanying role, but we still need fans connecting directly with artists and their stories.
There’s been a lot of talk of streaming services treating “music as utility” the last few years, and whilst there are positives to that from a monetisation perspective, we need to be careful music doesn’t become commoditised and devalued. You’d describe a utility as useful and functional first and foremost, and if something’s commoditised there’s little differentiation from product to product. That seems in conflict with what fans want from music and how artists want their music to be perceived. Great music should be treated as something meaningful and precious, and the artists responsible for that should be celebrated.
What sets Young Poet apart from its contemporaries?
Our ethos, our people, our treatment of our artists as equal partners…
We’re uncompromising in our view of music as art and its transformative power. We’re working with artists who share those values, and we’re hopefully attracting an audience who aspire to them too. I guess we’re trying to be a cantilever to some of the dynamics described above – a torchbearer for a set of musical and artistic values that risk going un-championed in the mass consumption era.
Speaking of ethos, is there one that ties the artist roster together? If so, does that ethos carry weight in the artists you sign?
If there’s a single unifying element across the roster, it’s the fact all our artists have individual voices with something meaningful to say. We believe musical culture is a richer place for those contributions and are here to support that.
A lot of our artists know each other, hang out with each other and have recommended the label to one another. That’s hugely important to what we do too – providing a supportive community and mission for our artists to feel a part of.
What does the ideal artist look like for you? Not necessarily creatively or musically, but are there certain qualities an individual or group must have for you to work with them?
I’m not sure there’s such a thing as an “ideal” artist as that suggests there’s a single commonality. Truly great artists are unique from one another and an incredibly rare breed. Ultimately, it’s as much about the person behind the music as it is the music they’re making. That means we look at someone’s potential as well as what they’ve already achieved, and we encourage them to be fearless in the pursuit of their goals.
In the past you’ve mentioned that Young Poet takes a long-term approach regarding their artists’ careers. Can you elaborate on what that means for the label? And from the artist’s perspective?
We work with our artists across many years and across multiple singles, EPs and albums rather than just on single products. A long-term approach means you’re investing time and resources in a different way and targeting outcomes that are closely aligned with helping artists establish sustainable careers. A longer-term commitment also provides stability and a deepening understanding that’s beneficial to everyone involved.
It’s been a busy year of releases for Young Poet. From the singles to the EPs and LPs, you’ve had a prolific year. Are there any projects that stand out in particular? Why?
Collage 2 was a real gamechanger for Conor Albert, musically and in terms of public awareness of him as an artist. There’s a confidence to what he’s doing now which is so compelling to watch, and it’s hugely satisfying to have helped Conor evolve from the talented but shy teenager we met a few years ago to where he is today. Being name checked by Justin Bieber, Questlove and Idris Elba… it’s crazy, but he’s earnt it.
Any future releases coming up that you would like to call attention to?
We’ve welcomed a few new artists to the roster recently and it’s exciting to see their journeys progress – Elizabeth M. Drummond, Alex Amor, Hohnen Ford. They are all telling their own unique stories, and it’ll be great to see people discover them for the first time.
What’s next for Young Poet?
In short, more great music from more great artists. Expect new releases from Conor, Alice Auer, all the above, plus a few artists you won’t have heard of yet and most likely a few we haven’t either – we’re always on the lookout for brilliant new artists to back and for new ways to reach and entertain fans.
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