The Hot Seat: Hassan Choudhury

Published in The Music Network

 

British music marketing veteran Hassan Choudhury is a man with drive. And then some. Choudhury is an effortlessly energetic character, a trait which betrays his 20-plus years’ experience in the record biz. On April 22, however, he took on a challenge of a vastly different kind. He ran the London Marathon, completing the 42km course in four hours 32 minutes. His efforts raised more than £16,000 ($25,500) for Abbie’s Fund, a charity which supports research into Neuroblastoma. It’s an issue close to Choudhury’s heart; his son Louis suffered from the rare aggressive cancer as an infant. Now seven, Louis has beaten the cancer. But his father is on a mission, and in recent years has raised more than £30,000 ($48,000) toward finding a cure.

In his working life, Choudhury has been on the road this year setting-up Melody Gardot, Amy Macdonald and Keane albums, plus the ongoing international activity with Pixie Lott in Asia, The Wanted in the United States and James Morrison in these parts. TMN caught up with the VP International Marketing UK for Universal Music British on a recent trip Down Under.

What’s a typical day in your career?
No two days are similar in international. You’re always facing different challenges in other markets. I oversee the marketing and promotion of all the UK repertoire outside the UK through the four major UK repertoire sources – Polydor, Mercury, Island and Decca. With a huge roster of artists and markets to deal with, every day can produce its own challenges. My job is to make sure I fit those square pegs in the right holes. Through talking with the territories you find out what’s working for them and what we can do for them to make our repertoire work. At the same time, you’re talking to the UK labels. You really are an information highway. And, of course, you’re building a relationship with your artist to make sure they feel comfortable with all the promotions that you put in front of them.

You’ve been an international marketing man since the mid-’90s. How has your world changed?

It’s changed dramatically. The demise of physical product is something we’ve had to learn to live with. That’s our business model superseded. Now the revenue streams we’re looking at are not just about selling music. We’re looking for business opportunities in terms of strategic marketing partners and sponsorship deals. The digital revolution is something you’re embracing every day. You’re always looking for new ways to reach the consumer and how the consumer picks up on new music.

One of your early roles was in TV promotion. What skills did that give you for this reality- TV driven landscape?
It was a real understanding of what the TV requirements were and how the artists can fit into that TV platform. Stepping out of sales and moving into promotion, the real key thing was understanding artists and developing relationships with artists and managers. [Choudhury started as a sales rep with WEA Record in 1987. Later, he became Head Of Television Promotion at East West/Atlantic Records, serving in that role from 1991-1995]

When you see a rival like Sony Music get away a band like One Direction, how much energy does that give you and the company to rival it?
Competition is great. It breeds success. Competition is good for the industry. Sony have One Direction, and you compliment them on the job they’ve done. We’ve got The Wanted and we will do everything we can to surpass the success that One Direction are having globally. If (competitors) have great ideas, I’m always happy to try bring them into our own plans. It’s very important to see what your competitor is doing, and try and do better. Anyone who thinks they know everything about international marketing is a fool to themselves. There’s so much to learn. Every day it’s changing. You need to look around at what everyone else is doing, what your competitors are doing, and try and learn from it. Try and better it.

Britain has enjoyed a ridiculous amount of recent success with solo women in America with Adele, Duffy and Amy Winehouse, to name a few. But not so much with the guys. What’s behind it?
A lot of this is cyclical. There will be a time. We’re re-launching James Morrison back into the US. I think Warners are looking at Ed Sheeran. It comes around. Everyone will get their turn. Good music will always surface somewhere. Obviously if there’s something we believe in, we will invest accordingly. I’ve been in this long enough to know music is cyclical. Who’d ever have thought boy bands would come back in? And British boy bands at that?

What are your thoughts on the Australian music market?

It’s something we love to focus on. It’s a hugely important market for all of us. Unfortunately for us, the Australian market tends to rely on what goes on in America, so if we can get a record away in America, then it will obviously help it here. Australia is a hugely important market for us and we want a slice of it.

 

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