Ed Sheeran: Showcasing an amazing talent
Ed Sheeran is a singer-songwriter who has topped the charts worldwide with his first two albums + and X. He began gigging around London aged just 17, starting to build a fan base, but his aim was always to secure a record deal so he could take his music to the widest possible audience.
Ben Cook, president, Atlantic Records UK, says:
"When I first saw Ed perform, it was a chemical reaction to his talent. He walked through the door with his guitar over his shoulder, rucksack on the other, he'd been sofa surfing for months on end, funding himself from gig to gig hand to mouth, but he had an incredible drive and he recognised a record label was the next partner he needed to deliver his ambition."
Atlantic signed Sheeran in January 2013. Cook says:
"We formed a strategy that made sense for him as an artist, retaining the intimacy and DIY flavour of what he'd done while introducing more people to his music." He released an EP called No 5 Collaborations Project, featuring grime artists such as Devlin and Wiley. "The day it was released all his artist peers went nuts about him on Twitter. It was a way of putting his head above the parapet."
Atlantic's A&R team worked closely with Sheeran to develop his music, putting him with the best producers, engineers and other collaborators. They helped showcased the breadth of his talent, making sure his debut single The A Team was followed by the more hip hop influenced You Need Me, and onto his third single Lego House, which was a more radio friendly hit.
The promotions team made a number of media introductions for Sheeran, taking him to see BBC Radio 1Xtra, a dedicated urban music station, which picked him out as an artist to watch. They also persuaded influential DJ Zane Lowe to name The A Team as one of his "hottest records" and Jools Holland to invite Sheeran to perform on his prominent Later... TV show.
The marketing team wanted to introduce Sheeran to older music fans. One way of doing this was through a series of free performances at the The Barfly venue in Camden Town, which led The Guardian to comment: "We saw the Strokes at their legendary show here in 2001 and next to this it was tame." The visual team created videos that brought new audiences to his music. For Lego House, they persuaded Hollywood actor Rupert Grint to appear as a crazed fan who wanted to ape Sheeran's life, an unexpected role that generated huge attention.
Atlantic continued to support Sheeran as he put together and promoted his second album X. The album campaign began through a series of promo utilising YouTube as the main platform for activity. The audio for the first official single Sing was uploaded to Ed's YouTube channel and received over 700,000 plays in 24hours, making this Ed's biggest ever YouTube launch at the time. Shortly after, the official video for Sing was launched via Ed's Facebook page reaching 3 Million people in 24 hours. To ensure both aspects of Ed's artistry were represented, an acoustic version of One was also uploaded to YouTube, and the track was made available on iTunes. The activity propelled both the track and the album pre order into the iTunes top 10 - over six weeks before the album release. Alongside such digital promotion, Sheeran used traditional media to introduce the world to the album, appearing on television programmes such as America's Saturday Night Live and performing at the Logie Awards in Australia. The album charted at number one in 12 countries and was top five in a further 11 markets.
"We aimed for X to be a fixture all year in the upper reaches of charts worldwide. We put together a global campaign for the album that had local relevance in key markets. Its success has offered him the opportunity to tour and headline festivals, further developing his global fan base. We always believed from the start that he had the potential to be a global star."