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David Joseph recalls that given the amount of time his father, an artist manager who handled acts like Billy Ocean, spent away from home, “I decided the music industry was not the life I was going to choose for myself.”
But try as he might, including successful stints in advertising and games company Sega, Joseph was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. He started out as RCA’s chief of press relations. Since then, Joseph has enjoyed an auspicious climb in the music biz, having been appointed in 2002 co-president (with Colin Barlow) of Polydor, Universal Music U.K.’s flagship label and the British market leader.
In April, Joseph was given the added title of president, Universal Music Operations, placing him in charge of Universal Classics & Jazz, Universal Music’s compilations division UMTV and the company’s new television production arm Globe Prods. — not bad for a 37-year-old.
Under Joseph’s aggressive stewardship, Polydor signed the Scissor Sisters, who have sold 2.6 million albums in the U.K., Snow Patrol (1.4 million) and the Kaiser Chiefs (2 million) — bucking the trend of singles-driven disc sales.
Polydor’s latest discovery, James Morrison, recently topped the U.K. charts with more than 300,000 sales of his debut album “Undiscovered” in its first week of release. In the past year, the label has continued to break new talent such as Welsh foursome Automatic and art popsters the Guillemots.
Other multimillion sellers released through the Polydor label include Gwen Stefani, Black Eyed Peas, Pussycat Dolls, Eminem and 50 Cent, as well as Irish rock legend Van Morrison.
“Trust the instinct of the artists that we sign” is Joseph’s career mantra, and while the bottom line has underscored the success of his philosophy, he appears more interested in career longevity than instant gratification.
“We want to build on the work we’ve done in signing artists that are capable of selling four and five albums and beyond, rather than just selling records,” he says.
Joseph cites the success of million-plus-selling jazz pianist/singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum and breakthrough talent such as Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins as a sign that Universal Classics & Jazz is on the right footing. “The company has an incredibly focused and dedicated team,” he says. “I’d like to use that knowledge and expertise to slightly diversify the A&R process at the company.”
And while Globe Prods. is only 5 months old, the initial plan is to produce or co-produce some television programs for Polydor’s artists. Joseph also has his sites on the lucrative reality programming format that has catapulted such shows as “American Idol” to the top of TV ratings and records charts.
“We look like we’re close to getting two other formats commissioned,” he explains: “a talent search for a classics and jazz artist, and a project to promote music in education and place a greater emphasis on it in the national curriculum.
“Overall, though, the emphasis at Globe Prods. is on quality,” he adds. “I want to treat programmaking in the same way as doing an album — we want the very best quality for our artists.”