Sam Smith: innovative promotion

British singer-songwriter Sam Smith has swept the international music scene over the last two years, recently picking up four Grammy Awards, including best new artist and record of the year, and two BRIT Awards

Capital Records president Nick Raphael and Jo Charrington (EVP of A&R Capitol Records) offered the singer/songwriter a record deal on the spot after watching him perform in 2012. Raphael says: “We’d decided there was no intrinsic rush, we’d let Sam find his feet musically and in time produce a classic album.”

Producer Naughty Boy asked Smith to lay vocals over one of his tracks and the result was La La La. “The track came out on Sam’s 21st birthday and became an enormous hit,” adds Raphael. That was followed by the Nirvana EP that was licensed for release through independent label PMR.

Raphael and Charrington worked in the studio with Smith on his debut album In the Lonely Hour, which was completed in December 2013 with the label taking lead single Money on My Mind to radio. At the same time Smith was awarded the Brits 2014 Critics’ Choice award, an honour that had previously been won by Adele, Emeli Sandé and Tom Odell.

In a move to introduce Smith to a wider audience, the label marketing team, Murray Rose and Tom Paul, devised a novel promotional concept – the UK’s first live TV advert. Brian Rose, managing director, commercial division, Universal Music UK & Ireland, said: “We were aware of the heat building around Sam Smith. We wanted to work with business partners to think of new and innovative ways to amplify the campaign.”

In tandem with digital music service Google Play and broadcaster Channel 4 the ad aired in May 2014 and featured Smith performing his second single Stay With Me live from the Camden Roundhouse.

The partnership between the record label and Google Play was repeated with a major campaign to support the release of Take That’s seventh studio album III. Stay With Me went on to sell more than two million copies and the album In the Lonely Hour has sold more than one million copies.

Andrew Kronfeld, president of global marketing, Universal Music Group, says: “The current campaign will go to the end of 2015 as well. Sam is an artist who has magic moments in markets, when he performs live and does TV shows. The songs are great and the success so far is just the tip of the iceberg, we’ll see plenty more in 2015.”


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