‘Managers should make decisions based on reason, logic – and knowing their artists’


MBW’s Manager Of The Month celebrates some of the artist managers doing great things in the global business. This month, we’re delighted to sit down with Jamie Oborne (pictured inset) – founder of Dirty Hit/All On Red and the manager of the hottest new band on the planet right now, The 1975. Manager Of The Month is supported by INgrooves Music Group.

“I didn’t want to be just another manager. I wanted to focus on development and build a business that had assets, like a record company – with the artists sharing in the creation of that asset wealth.”

Six years ago, Jamie Oborne was in a frustrating position. The 1975 and Benjamin Francis Leftwich were both acts he truly believed in, but neither could get record deals. So he took matters into his own hands – and signed them himself.

Label Dirty Hit launched alongside Oborne’s management firm, All On Red, and exist today as a joint operation.

All On Red/Dirty Hit acts include The 1975 (released via a licensing deal with Polydor/Interscope/Universal), as well as Leftwich, The Japanese House, Marika Hackman and Fossil Collective.

BRIT and Grammy Award nominees Wolf Alice are signed through Dirty Hit, but managed elsewhere.

“I get emails from kids telling me the 1975’s music has saved their life. I’d rather get an email like that every day, which I do, than plaudits from [the press].”

Jamie Oborne, Dirty hit/All On Red

This week of all weeks, though, we really need to talk about The 1975  – a band Oborne has worked with for nearly ten years (the four-piece describe him as their fifth member).

During that time the Manchester group have gone from being rejected by all (literally all) of the major record labels, to hitting No.1 in the UK with their 2013 platinum-selling self-titled debut LP.

In 2014, they were inexplicably and stupidly named ‘Worst Band of the Year’ by NME – only to feature as cover stars last month, less than two years later, ahead of their widely praised and highly anticipated second album.

Titled I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, it came out on Friday.

In its opening weekend, it hit No.1 on no less than 37 iTunes albums charts, including the US, US, Australia, Canada and, perhaps most unbelievably, Japan.

Make no mistake, The 1975 are on the verge of becoming the world’s next favourite band.

It’s quite the transition from the picked-on British boys that none of the majors ‘got’ – but it’s not one that Oborne spends too much time contemplating.

“We live in our own vacuum, we’re more worried about what the fans think than the press,” he tells MBW.

“I get emails from kids telling me that the band’s music saved their life. I’d rather get an email like that every day, which I do, than plaudits from people I don’t know.”

He adds: “Sometimes you work with artists and you almost don’t have to do anything and you have momentum. It’s always been like that with The 1975.

“It’s amazing to have achieved what we have so far and be on the cusp of so much more.”

Oborne’s hoping for a joint UK and US No.1 for the new LP, and has plumped for an interesting release strategy for the record: like Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams, released at the end of last year, I Like It When You Sleep… is not available on Spotify for its opening fortnight, but is on premium-only streaming services such as Apple Music and Google Play.

“The dream of having a No.1 record in America and the UK at the same time is something I’ve been working on for four years. Whether or not it’s achieveable, I don’t know. But the band couldn’t have made a better record.”

Jamie Oborne, Dirty hit/All On Red

“The record is amazing,” says Oborne. “I’m normally hypercritical of stuff I work on but that record is something else. I’m really proud of it.

“It’s the only thing I really listened to for the whole of last year in its various forms and I feel like it sent me a bit mental.

“There was very real stuff going on while we were making it that related to the record in terms of how emotionally charged it is.

“[Frontman] Matthew [Healy] always used to say that he wants to make the soundtrack to people’s lives and I found that he made it for our lives as we were living it. It was intense, but a magical thing to share.”

He adds: “The dream of having a No.1 album in America and the UK at the same time is what I’ve been working on for the last four years. Whether or not that’s achievable, I don’t know.

“But the most important thing is that the band couldn’t have made a better record. There is something really special about the album, for us, as a group of five people, and that already exists.”

Oborne’s kinship with The 1975 may have something to do with his beginnings in the music industry: performing as part of a signed band in his early 20s.

After that experience imploded, he went to university to study Philosophy and contemporary English Literature, before the music industry beckoned again.

“I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about my band,” he explains. “We were talking about the music industry and why I felt that, perhaps outside of my own actions, my artist career hadn’t really worked out.

“That night we decided to start a management company,”

Thanks to a stroke of beginner’s luck, within a few weeks Oborne and his business partner had found a band and signed them to UMG’s Island Records, before that project imploded too around 12 years ago.

“All of our [label] deals with artists are profit splits rather than royalty deals.”

Jamie Oborne, Dirty hit/All On Red

Says Oborne: “It was a glorious disaster. My partnership with this person then fell to the side as I got more serious about wanting to do it and he got less so.”

He adds: “One of my great regrets with the first few things I managed is that I allowed people to question my instincts.

“A manager needs to develop a really intuitive relationship with their artist and that relationship should dictate your pathway and choices.

“Outside influences from time to time needs to be listened to, of course, but you should always make your decisions based on logic, reason and intuition from knowing your artist.”

With this philosophy in mind, Oborne decided to go it alone and launched All On Red.

Early success included One Night Only (pictured inset above) – a skinny jean-clad guitar act that signed to Mercury and had a big single with Just For Tonight, reaching No.9 in the UK charts.

Then Oborne discovered The 1975 (called Drive Like I Do at the time), and everything changed.

He was tipped off about the band by a fan of One Night Only via a Myspace message.

Having managed The 1975 since 2007 (and running into those repeated record company rejections) Oborne signed them to Dirty Hit in 2010 – before securing a short-term licensing deal with Universal UK imprint Polydor (rumours point to a seven figure sum).

While some might consider both label and management roles being fulfilled by one company a risky set-up, for Oborne, it’s the opposite.

“I’m terribly idealistic and all of our deals with artists are profit splits rather than royalty deals,” he says.

“It started off like that because the artists that I was working with were artists that we managed so there was already an ethos of wanting to protect their business rights.

“Now we have Wolf Alice, who we don’t manage, but they have the same deal because its an ideology that I really believe in.

“I take my responsibility to our artists really fucking seriously, across the board. Matthew Healy is not going to get another job. He’s not built for that life, so I have to make sure he gets what he needs.”

Jamie Oborne, Dirty hit/All On Red

“Some people have said to me, ‘Is there not a conflict of interest?’ No, not really because the label earns at the same time as the artist and the management doesn’t earn at all.

“If anything, it’s purer because there is a symmetry that isn’t there in most artist/label/management set-ups.

“I can’t think of one scenario where people can bullshit us because we have transparency on everything to do with our artists. Some might say that’s controlling, I say that’s operating with your artists’ best interests at heart.

“I take our responsibility to our artists really fucking seriously, across the board.

“For a lot of the people that I work with, this is all they can do.

“Matthew Healy is not going to get another job. He’s not built for that life, so I have to make sure that he gets what he needs. I know it sounds like a joke but it’s not, it’s really serious.”

Oborne’s management strategy is a combination of parent, creative soundboard and collaborator and business and legal advisor.

“I’m very strict on making sure that my artists are financially aware and are not squandering income when they earn it,” he adds.

“I like to think we can be equally as serious about the business stuff as we can with the creative stuff.

“My aspiration is to offer an alternative to the major labels, as well as the huge management companies that take on hundreds of artists and wait for one to break. [We also want to be an alternative] to the idea of working with outside marketing agencies – because I want to be the best marketing agency myself.

“I want artists to sign to us because they want to live in our vacuum; to look out on the world rather than be part of everyone else looking in.”

“I want artists to sign to us because they want to live in our vacuum; to look out on the world rather than be a part of everyone else looking in.”

Jamie Oborne, Dirty hit/All On Red

The deal with Polydor for The 1975 is one which Oborne would replicate for other artists that needed marketing might, though perhaps only for the US.

And is a closer relationship with Universal on the cards?

“I have quite a deep relationship with Universal so I wouldn’t be surprised if that broadened in the not too distant future,” he replies. “A lot of people I really respect work there, but who knows.”

He adds: “With The 1975 deal though Polydor, they let us do exactly what we want – that was a condition of the deal and they’ve been very honourable towards that.

“They didn’t hear the album until it was finished, delivered, mastered and all the marketing plans are our plans that they help us execute.

“Whether or not I would do that deal today? I’m not sure – I didn’t do a deal like that for Wolf Alice.”


Wolf Alice will be working on a new album after wrapping up their tour at the end of the summer, and Benjamin Francis Leftwich has a new record that Oborne describes as “beautiful” coming out at the end of August.

The Japanese House are a new addition to Oborne’s roster, alongside Manchester band Pale Waves (pictured) and an act based out of LA that he’s keeping under wraps.

But, understandably, most of Oborne’s year will be taken up with The 1975’s second album campaign – featuring a heavy touring schedule that includes 15-date UK dates (including five at London’s 5k-capacity Brixton Academy), 13 European dates, and 26 US dates (plus a number of festival appearances).

“This album campaign is bittersweet because I don’t know if I’ll ever have this same intensity of creative momentum again,” he says.

“Every gig is creating a little 1975 world somewhere and I love that as a principle for the marketing – the anchor point.

“The best thing is that Matthew and I will sit and talk about ideas; what he wants to do, what I think will be cool, and the amazing thing is we can do anything we want. There is such a freedom in that.

“What I would say to new managers, is when you get that opportunity you need to really cherish and respect it because it doesn’t happen for many people. I feel humbled by it all, really.”

MBW’s Manager Of The Month is supported by INgrooves Music Group, a leading independent provider of distribution, marketing and rights management tools and services to content creators and owners around the world. With experienced & knowledgeable people, unparalleled commitment to customer service and thoughtful marketing solutions, INgrooves aspires to be the most transparent and solution-driven partner for labels and artists. Visit INgrooves.com for more details. Music Business Worldwide

Related Posts