We’re not exactly an easy bunch to surprise here at Ears To The House – once you’ve been writing about dance music for just a few months, you start getting a sense of how things generally proceed. But this one certainly raised a few eyebrows when we first noticed it.
This revelation came courtesy of music writer Shawn Reynaldo’s First Floor – one of few publications in dance music that’s actually worth bothering with. He took a closer look at NTS Radio – who decided last week that the best way to show solidarity with Palestinians on the Gaza Strip was not to do their regular jobs – and noticed something quite unusual.
Companies House – the government registar of businesses in the UK – listings for NTS Radio Limited show that Universal Music Group now owns a significant stake in their company. Whilst the exact amount isn’t publicly known, documents do reveal that they now own somewhere between 25% and 50% of the company.
So how on earth did a fiercely independent station like NTS Radio and the world’s biggest record label end up becoming bedfellows? The answer lies, like in so many other things, with money. NTS Radio Limited has an artist development arm, which previously received funding from a government quango called Arts Council England.
Exactly how much funding they received is a mystery right now – but Ears To The House understands this funding has dried up. This is partially because of cuts within Arts Council England itself. As a result, there’s a gap that needs to be filled – so instead of British taxpayers now coughing up the dough, the world’s largest record label is now providing it.
But the question remains as to why. After all, Universal’s boss Lucian Grainge is not the kind of man to act recklessly – calculated risks are how this man moved from Polydor’s A&R department in the 1990s to heading the biggest record label in the world today. So what is Universal getting out of this deal?
On the face of it, access to that artistic development programme is what they’re looking for. Getting an artist to a stage where they can consistently release music is an exercise where labels experience frequent failure – and something like this helps reduce those risks. It’s also possible that Universal will want to sign some of those artists to their many labels.
If Grainge’s apparent plan starts to bear fruit, anyone else out there running some kind of artist development programme might soon find themselves being offered a lot of money from the other majors…