IMPALA Interview with Play It Again Sam Managing Director Peter Thompson
How did you discover Agnes Obel, and why did you sign her?
I have to give credit for this to Stefan Struever in the PIAS German office. He tells me it was a combination of hearing demos from her manager at the time and meeting her in person. There was also a synch of "Just So" on German tv at the time which may have helped focus the mind. After that there was a small showcase in Hamburg where himself and the PIAS founder, Kenny Gates, agreed to sign her on the spot. Wasn't it nice before social media got involved in A&R!
What did you think of Citizen of Glass the first time you heard it?
It was clearly an astonishing piece of work and both a natural and progressive development from what had gone before. There was touring at the end of the Aventine campaign and I was getting excited by the way the dynamics of the Agnes live show were developing. At that time it was clear the future album was gonna be a whole different sonic ballgame and that's what Citizen of Glass delivered.
What’s next for Play It Again Sam and Agnes Obel?
It's still early days in this current campaign and with Agnes being popular in so many countries there's a lot of touring ahead. She's recently been in Canada and the States where things are taking shape nicely and then she'll head off around Europe to play some pretty big headline shows. Then we'll have the summer festival and maybe once all this is out of the way we'll see how she feels about what comes next.
How is being a label different nowadays than it was when Play It Again Sam started?
Given that Play It Again Sam is 35 years old this year I think it would be easier to say what hasn't changed. Actually one of the big things that hasn't changed is the personnel at PIAS in general. The company is still owned by the original founders, many of the staff and senior management have been involved with the company for 15/20 years or more (including myself) and I believe this is the true essence of the Company and of independent labels in general. A lot has changed in the music business over the last 10 years in particular but during that period Agnes has, to all intents and purpose, been working with the same people at PIAS across many different countries. Stability is a big part of artist development.
What advice would you have for labels starting out today?
Think beyond record sales. Developing a new artist from scratch is a very long process either from behind the scenes A&R or to establishing a healthy body of work out in the market place. If you judge your artist on record sales alone you're going to end up very disappointed a lot of the time.
Make sure you keep an eye on the broader business and make the most of every income stream you can. Success comes from many different areas in the modern music business so work with everyone you can in all areas of the business to get the best for your artist.