Arguably the most successful and influential British producer of the past 10 years, Paul Epworth’s work with Adele on her all-conquering “21” (XL) resulted in four Grammy Awards, including the 2012 producer of the year statuette and global sales of 25 million-plus and counting, according to XL parent Beggars Group. Following his work on three tracks on “21,” he reunited with Adele for the James Bond song “Skyfall,” taking home the Academy Award for best original song in February. It capped an extraordinary run for Epworth, who also scored big with Florence & the Machine, Cee Lo Green, Foster the People and others. Epworth says he couldn’t have done it anywhere else. “The weird career path that I’ve had — working in a studio during the day, playing in a band in underground car parks and doing sound at nightclubs afterwards — is an agenda I would never have been able to achieve in a city as spread out as L.A.,” he says. “My work has been infused by grime, rare groove, punk, reggae and rave, all of which have either been unique to London or fed and diversified by the myriad of cultures here. There is such a wonderful cross-cultural pollination, which has a lot to do with the density of the city — we all live on top of each other.”
As head of music at Radio 1, the United Kingdom’s most popular top 40-formatted network, George Ergatoudis holds ultimate sway over which artists gain exposure on the station’s all-important 50-song playlists. With 11 million weekly listeners (according to Radio Joint Audience Research) and an unrivaled reach in the core demographic of 15- to 30-year-olds, Radio 1 can make or break a new artist. Ergatoudis is also head of music at the BBC’s R&B network 1Xtra, where’s he’s been credited with helping to facilitate the rise of such British stars as Tinie Tempah and Emeli Sandé. “It’s my job to ensure we are playing the right balance of hits and new music, and getting that balance right is very important,” Ergatoudis says. “We make a real difference to new artists because we introduce them to such a huge audience.” For business dinners, he hits contemporary bistro restaurant Pollen Street Social, close to the BBC’s main London base by Oxford Circus. Kitchen Table, an intimate, 19-table eatery run by the team at Bubbledogs (who specialize in gourmet hotdogs), is another favorite. “London has become a world-class destination for foodies,” he says.
Beggars Group chairman Martin Mills’ influence extends across the past 35 years of independent music and beyond. After starting out as a DJ, record store clerk and promoter, Mills co-founded the Beggars Banquet label in 1977. He now heads a global empire that encompasses four of the world’s best-known indies — 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade and XL Recordings (in partnership with Richard Russell) — and generates annual revenue of $50 million. A longtime advocate for the indie community, Mills testified before a U.S. congressional subcommittee against the Universal-EMI merger in 2012. His continued thirst for discovering new music is at the heart of Beggars’ zeitgeist-defining success — as a result, Mills remains a regular presence on London’s live scene. “Most of the time when I go out to see music it’s in the East End, in Hoxton, Shoreditch or Dalston; there’s been an incredible shift from inner North London to inner East London. You find new music these days in places like Hoxton Square Bar and the Old Blue Last,” Mills says. Before hitting the town, he fuels up at West London’s River Cafe, international nouveau Japanese chain Nobu and contemporary Indian spot Amaya in Belgravia. “There are great restaurants all over town these days,” Mills says. “In terms of great eating capitals, London and New York are pretty much up there, neck and neck.”
“London is a city which has music running through its veins,” Universal Music U.K. chairman/CEO David Joseph says. “Music’s DNA is in the street paving, in the pub venues. The same wallpaper which witnessed the skiffle, punk and open-mic nights is still there for [today’s] DJ sets.” Sitting at the head of Britain’s largest music company, Joseph is well-placed to exploit and sustain the British capital’s rich music heritage and constantly evolving output. Certainly no other U.K. label boss can rival him when it comes to market power or reach. The launch of Virgin/EMI in March — an amalgamation of Mercury Records and the previously EMI-owned Virgin Music — further strengthened that hold, bringing together Rihanna, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and big-hitting domestic acts Emeli Sande and Jake Bugg on one roster. Joseph’s remit also extends to Universal’s other British labels — Island, Decca, Polydor and Capitol, which launched in April, marking the first time the imprint has had a stand-alone presence in the United Kingdom. Joseph says both he and his city’s music scene are ready for whatever changes lie ahead: “London welcomes and applauds the new. It’s a historic city [but it] doesn’t stand still, nor expects its music to.”