Polydor says it’s ‘at the forefront of breaking UK acts’ after BRITs Critics’ Choice result

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Universal’s Polydor Records is the only major label with an artist on next year’s BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice shortlist. Two, in fact.

The final three for 2018 is made up of Stefflon Don and Mabel – both signed to Polydor – in addition to independent artist Jorja Smith, with the winner set to be revealed on Monday (December 4).

Previous winners of the Critics’ Choice prize include a run of stars who have gone on to multi-platinum success, such as Adele (2008), Florence + The Machine (2009), Ellie Goulding (2010), Emeli Sande (2012), Sam Smith (2014), James Bay (2015) and Rag N Bone Man (2016).

Speaking to MBW, Polydor co-President Tom March (pictured, left) said: “We’re very proud and excited for Steff and Mabel – it’s incredible to see them recognised like this.

“It also reinforces our belief that Polydor is the best label in the UK today in terms of breaking new artists.”

Fellow co-President Ben Mortimer (pictured, right) said: “This is a big result for us, and it’s testament to the fact that Polydor is all about the new.

“We’re at the forefront of labels breaking UK acts, and we take a long-term approach with the acts we sign.

“We know there’s a long way to go until either of these artists are at the Grammys, but the seeds of success have been sown.

“And [Polydor] won’t stop pushing until they are where they deserve to be. I’ve never seen this label looking so determined to succeed.”


Both March and fellow Polydor co-President Ben Mortimer have tasted Critics’ Choice success before: Mortimer signed Florence + The Machine to Island before the British artist picked up the accolade in 2009, while March worked with Florence as well as fellow winners James Bay, Jessie J and Mika in the past.

“I’ve seen first-hand that if you win it, or you’re just being one of three that are highlighted, it can have a huge impact on your career,” added March.

“Everyone talks about what it means for the Top 5 artists named on the Grammys Best New Artist [shortlist], but I believe the Critics Choice is now starting to have the same resonance.”

Tom March, Polydor

“Everyone talks about what it means for the Top 5 artists named on the Grammys Best New Artist [shortlist], but I believe the Critics’ Choice is now starting to have the same resonance. It’s played a big role in launching some phenomenal careers, and it’s incredible to be a big part of it this year.”

Both Mabel and Stefflon Don have already enjoyed significant chart success this year: Mabel recently broke into the mainstream with track Finders Keepers (feat Kojo Funds), which reached No.8 on the UK’s Official Singles Chart and stayed in the Top 10 for five weeks.

Meanwhile Stefflon Don’s Hurtin’ Me (feat French Montana) hit No.7 in the summer and has racked up more than 25m plays on Spotify.


In addition to its Critics’ Choice-approved duo, Polydor’s other hotly-tipped new British singings today include Mura Masa – who was nominated for a Grammy earlier this week in the Best Dance/Electronic Album category.

There’s also Jax Jones, whose You Don’t Know Me has sold over 5m worldwide and 1m in the UK alone, and the guest vocalist on that track, Raye.

In addition, Polydor is working with Tap Management-signed Grace Carter, American band Lany and Colombian-Canadian Jessie Reyez, who Polydor has co-signed with fellow UMG label Island Records in New York.

“We’re at the forefront of labels breaking UK acts, and we take a long-term approach with the acts we sign.

Ben Mortimer, Polydor

Its roster is also graced by new non-domestic/international talent like Julia Michaels (via Republic), Maggie Rogers (via Capitol), Billie Eilish and 6Lack (via Interscope).

“A year ago everyone was saying it was a bit tough [A&R-wise] in the UK market, but now the industry is properly breaking artists again and Polydor is at the forefront of that,” added March.

“I think it took everyone a moment to work out the new world of streaming, across both labels and the media. But now there are some very hot domestic scenes happening in the UK with so many exciting artists coming out of them.

“We feel like we can take on the world with our new British artists.”


Stefflon Don was signed by Polydor via her own V-IV imprint earlier this year, with reports at the time suggesting her deal with the Universal label was worth more than £1m.

March and Mortimer wouldn’t be specifically drawn on that figure – but it’s clear that, should it be true (and we reckon it is), they think she’s worth every penny.

“From the the first moment we met Steff we were blown away by the quality of her music – even back then she had for or five massive songs, and that didn’t include Hurtin’ Me,” said March.

“We didn’t have a second thought in terms of the level of investment we were willing to put into her career – she’s going to be around in this business for a long time.

“We really believe Steff can break beyond the UK. She’s got a big character, her records sound really global, she’s incredibly well connected and has a great team.”

Tom March, Polydor

“She’s always had the ambition and the talent to take over the world and it’s our job to help her achieve that.”

Added Mortimer: “We really believe Steff can break beyond the UK. She’s got a big character, her records sound really global, she’s incredibly well connected and has a great team.

“She completely leads the charge; we work in the background and follow her direction.”

Stefflon Don is released in the US by Capitol Records via the Quality Control label – with fingers crossed for a big 2018 for the act in the States.

“We know Steff is an absolute priority for QC and Capitol, and we have some big features in the bag to be revealed in the future,” said March.

“We’re going to really put the time in the US next year with a lot of promo, with a January trip already locked in. And then her record will crack it wide open.

“All the right people out there are saying the right things about her.”


Ben Mortimer signed Mabel to Polydor over two years ago.

The artist, the daughter of singer and songwriter Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey, is currently working on her debut album – following the commercial success of Finders Keepers, which was released in May.

“Only two other new British acts this year have had records stay in the Top 10 longer than Mabel [Rag N Bone Man and Jax Jones], and we know she’s going to become much more than one hit single,” said Mortimer.

“I’ve heard the new music she’s got coming and it’s brilliant – she’s going to have a great career.”

“I’ve heard the new music Mabel’s got coming and it’s brilliant – she’s going to have a great career.”

Ben Mortimer, Polydor

Added March: “We’ve been developing Mabel for nearly three years now and we’ve got some real breakout songs coming. Both Mabel and her manager, Radha, have been absolutely fantastic to work with.”

As for the third finalist on the Critics’ Choice list… rumour has it that every major British label is extremely keen to bring Walsall-born Jorja Smith onto their rosters.

But, for now, she remains committed to being an independent artist on her own label, FAMM.

Said Mortimer: “Jorja Smith is an incredible artist – and, like many people, I think signing her would be a wonderful thing!

“But you have to hand it to Jorja and Zubin [Irani, manager], who are doing a phenomenal job themselves.

“We are full of respect and admiration for them.”Music Business Worldwide

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  • Zanrak

    Oh course, the sad part is, that what they’re calling “music” here is some seriously trivial crap. What is wrong with these young audiences?! It’s like aural opiate escapism…. though the world’s a very intimidating place these days…