Lorde: Developing young talent
When Scott MacLachlan at Universal Music New Zealand received a video tape featuring Ella Yelich-O'Connor he, and the team at the label were blown away. Yet the record company's normal approach to signing, nurturing and developing artists was complicated by the fact that Ella was just 13.
The company realised that she had a unique talent, but that she needed time to enjoy a reasonably normal childhood. Adam Holt, chairman of Universal Music New Zealand, says:
"We signed a development deal with Ella, mindful of her age and her continuing studies. We felt she had an amazing talent and we wanted to enable her to develop that."
MacLachlan introduced her to the producer Joel Little, who worked with her on her debut EP The Love Club, which included the track Royals, released under her stage name of Lorde. Holt says:
"We thought her EP sounded fantastic, but we warned her that as soon as it was released the demands on her time would grow as people would want to know more about her."
Lorde decided herself that she wanted to put together a Facebook page and put her music on various other online platforms. She decided to remain anonymous, not displaying any biography or details of her age alongside her music. Holt says:
"Royals went viral instantly. I've never seen another track go so viral. The mystery around the artist became part of the appeal."
The label allowed the record to gather momentum organically, eventually releasing it on iTunes three months after it was first promoted. Royals went to number one in New Zealand and demand for the track from overseas increased as its viral popularity spread.
Lorde's parents, management and the record company agreed to take any international promotion slowly, given the huge pressures that it can bring. Holt says:
"In those early days, we needed to work very closely with Lorde's management and her family to help manage the pressure that came upon them all very quickly. Ella's welfare and personal development were always of paramount concern."
Pure Heroine, Lorde's debut album, proved enormously successful, topping the charts in Australia and New Zealand, while going top five in Canada, the UK and US. Universal Music pushed the album as one of its major fourth quarter releases in the US and other territories. Lorde chose to step up her touring commitments in 2014 and is expected to start thinking about her next album after this round of live performances. Holt says:
"Ella can now work with whoever she likes and she has strong vision of who she is and where she is going. She has only just got started and the best is yet to come."