‘A total visionary’: Simon Cowell to receive A&R Icon award at MBW event in London next month

Simon Cowell will collect the prestigious A&R Icon prize at the A&R Awards in London on Tuesday, November 6.

The UK-focused event, presented by Music Business Worldwide in association with Abbey Road Studios, has now completely sold out.

The A&R Icon Award, a highlight of the evening, recognizes an individual who is considered a legend of music business A&R – and someone ‘whose professional feats will influence generations to come’.

There can be no doubt that Cowell more than fits the bill.

Acts associated with the London-born exec and/or his company, Syco, have sold more than 500 million records worldwide during his career to date.

They include everyone from One Direction to Fifth Harmony, Leona Lewis, Little Mix, Il Divo, Camila Cabello, Labrinth, James Arthur and Susan Boyle.


The father of record-breaking TV formats such as X Factor and Got Talent, Cowell began his music industry career in the A&R department of EMI Music Publishing in the 1980s, before joining BMG.

There, he broke one of Britain’s biggest-selling artists of the 1990s, Robson & Jerome, who were stars of UK TV drama series Soldier Soldier. It wouldn’t be the last time that Cowell would masterfully combine the power of television with pop music.

Cowell broke boyband Five at RCA, then, via his own label at BMG, S Records, broke Westlife – who sold more than 50m records. He then created Syco Entertainment as part of a new deal with Sony Music in 2004.

“Simon is so omnipresent in pop culture over the past 20 years that it is sometimes overlooked that he is originally and primarily a truly great A&R executive.”

Rob Stringer, Sony Music

His story from that point on is very much public property.

Cowell fronted Pop Idol in the UK, then American Idol for eight years – which produced the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. He also created Syco’s own TV properties in X Factor and Got Talent, which have since launched more global superstars than any other talent shows in history.

Artists discovered by X Factor have racked up more than 250 No.1s, and 450 Top 10 records.

Cowell’s A&R influence doesn’t just touch Anglo-American repertoire, either: in 2015, he teamed up with Univision to create TV show La Banda. The winning group, CNCO, is now the biggest Latin boyband in the world.


Cowell is truly a giant of the global pop music business, and has continually called on his A&R skillset, rooted in the UK record industry, to break worldwide megastars.

He’s certainly come a long way since his first ever hit, So Macho by Sinitta (1987) on Fanfare Records.

Those offering Cowell applause and commendation for his A&R Icon award say it all.

Rob Stringer, CEO, Sony Music Entertainment: “Simon is so omnipresent in pop culture over the past 20 years that it is sometimes overlooked that he is originally and primarily a truly great A&R executive. His track record is up there with the best A&R people of all time if you look at the number of hits he has produced, so I am thrilled he is getting deserved recognition with this particular award.”

“Simon has been a really great mentor for me over the years.”

Camila Cabello

Camila Cabello: “Simon knows what makes something connect to another person. He knows if you sing songs that have nothing to do with you or your artistry, people can tell. The most important thing to him is that the music and the artist connect and it all makes sense.

“He knows it’s not just about the song, it’s about the person and their story. He’s been a really great mentor for me over the years and has seen me grow up. That’s the most important thing I’ve learnt from him; the authenticity of your artistry is what will make you connect with your fans.”

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group: “I tried to bring Simon over to UMG on multiple occasions, and each time he left me waiting at the altar! A brilliant record maker with phenomenal instincts for crossover hits, I’m thrilled to see him being recognized for his incredible A&R talent.”

“A brilliant record maker with phenomenal instincts for crossover hits, I’m thrilled to see Simon being recognized for his incredible A&R talent.”

Sir Lucian Grainge, UMG

Legendary songwriter Diane Warren: “Congratulations my friend! Your career as a music man is amazing. I still remember that early hit I had at your house. Unfortunately, it was a car I hit. Now let’s have some more hits – but maybe not that kind!”

Max Lousada, CEO, Global Recorded Music, Warner Music Group: “Simon is a pioneer of the idea that talent can come from anywhere, that music can go global from day one. His journey has been all about the joy of discovery, shared in real time with huge audiences of fans.

“This award gets to the true heart of his success – he’s a brilliant A&R who understands the ingredients of stardom, the importance of great songs, and the power of image. Congratulations, Simon, on this much-deserved honor.”

“Simon’s career as a music man is amazing.”

Diane Warren

Louis Tomlinson: “Me and Simon have always had a great relationship. There’s been times in my life that have been a bit difficult for me and he’s one of the people that I take advice from and speak to in those moments.

“Simon has always encouraged me to think for myself and voice my opinions, so for the first 18 months after meeting him I must have been a pain in his arse, but in the end that’s what made us get on well. His ability to spot talent is second to none and One Direction certainly wouldn’t have been the success it was without him. He’s a good lad.”

“Simon is a brilliant A&R who understands the ingredients of stardom, the importance of great songs, and the power of image.”

Max Lousada, Warner Music Group

Jason Iley, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music UK: “Simon is a total visionary and has been one of the most prominent influences in shaping popular culture in recent decades. His track record and impact, not only with the global music business, but also the global TV business, speaks for itself and this recognition for A&R Icon is wholly deserved.”

Carrie Underwood: “Simon has contributed so much to the worlds of music and television. He is a true visionary who has never been afraid to make bold statements and he embodies everything this award represents. He has had a huge impact on so many artists’ lives and careers, including mine. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor.”

“He has changed the way we develop and nurture talent forever.”

Sylvia Rhone, Epic Records

Larry Rudolph, talent manager and entertainment lawyer: “Simon defines the term ‘innovator’. He has single-handedly changed the music industry with vision, foresight and talent rarely seen by any single individual in any field.

“He is quite literally the Steve Jobs of the music industry and I am so happy he is receiving this great honor and being recognized for his A&R genius. He is also an overall great guy and someone who I am very proud to call a friend.”

Sylvia Rhone, President, Epic Records: “The through-line of Simon’s influence is everywhere; from Kelly Clarkson to One Direction to Fifth Harmony to Camila Cabello and beyond. His mentorship of many of the world’s best acts coupled with an incredible discipline for identifying what makes a great song is second to none. He’s changed the way we develop and nurture talent forever. Simon, congratulations on this much-deserved recognition!”

“Simon is a total visionary and has been one of the most prominent influences in shaping popular culture in recent decades.”

Jason Iley, Sony Music UK

Richard Griffiths, Co-Founder, Modest! Management: “What makes Simon unique is that not only does he have great ears that can pick a hit, but no-one has a better understanding of the commercial marketplace than him.”

James Arthur: “Simon is so well known around the world for being on television; people sometimes forget his pedigree as the ultimate record business man. He is the artist-friendly A&R!

“He’s creative, caring and collaborative and he understands what it takes to make a hit record that also suits the artist.”

“Simon’s musical sensibilities and ability to bring out the best in an artist make him one of the greats.”

Leona Lewis

Doug Morris, Founder of 12Tone and former Chairman & CEO of Sony Music Entertainment: “Simon’s accomplishments are too many to list. Over and over again, he has successfully leveraged his talent to deliver some of the world’s biggest stars.”

Susan Boyle: “Simon is a genius in the music industry. His instinct for what will be successful is unrivalled and he treats all his artists with the greatest respect and care.”

Sir Howard Stringer, former Chairman, President and CEO of Sony Corporation: “I’m heartened to see Simon being recognized for his great contribution to the music industry.

“It seems that, in an increasingly polarized society, he has been a brilliant unifying force reaching across class and social barriers to bring artists and audiences together from a wide spectrum and finding opportunities to enhance their values. Few can do that as well as Simon can, because he connects so skillfully.”

“Simon taught me so much about the art of a great pop song and gave me my first real shot in this business.”

Steve Mac

Leona Lewis: “It is so wonderful to hear Simon will be receiving the A&R Icon award. Simon has been an incredible and important mentor throughout my career. He has been one of my biggest supporters since day one, aside from my dad!

“His musical sensibilities and ability to bring out the best in an artist make him one of the greats.”

Steve Mac, celebrated British pop songwriter: “I’m so happy that Simon has won this award. I can think of no one who deserves it more.

“He taught me so much about the art of a great pop song and gave me my first real shot in this business with Westlife. From that moment on he has guided my career in one way or another and for that I am eternally grateful.”Music Business Worldwide

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