Warner Music UK announced a change in leadership on Monday (May 17), elevating head of A&R Joe Kentish to president to replace Phil Christie, who is departing after a five-year run as head of the label.
In his new role — he officially starts on June 1 — Kentish will be charged with overseeing the direction of the label and its stable of artists, including Dua Lipa, whom he signed, along with Biffy Clyro, Muse, Liam Gallagher, Griff and Royal Blood, among many others.
Kentish joined Warner UK in 2014 as a senior A&R manager before being upped to head of A&R in 2016. His predecessor in that role? Christie, who had only spent two years in that position before taking over as president in April of 2016. (It marked the first time in eight years that the label had a standalone leader.)
Before landing at Warner UK, Kentish worked in A&R at Mercury Records (later Virgin/EMI), where his most notable signings included The Vamps, Just Jack and Pixie Lot. Earlier in his career he co-founded Middle Row Records.
Kentish is based in London and will report directly to Warner Music UK CEO Tony Harlow, who called him an “instinctively brilliant” executive in the company announcement.
“Not only is he an incredibly talented A&R, but he’s someone with a comprehensive understanding of what great artist development takes,” Harlow said. “He can spot distinctive British talent in its infancy and nurture it into a successful career that resonates in the UK and on the global stage; his unique creative relationship with Dua is a testament to that.”
Dua Lipa’s sophomore album, Future Nostalgia, recently won best pop album at the Grammy Awards and album of the year at the BRIT Awards. Her latest single, “Levitating,” is currently climbing the Billboard Hot 100 chart, at No. 4.
“[Kentish is] a genuine music man whose artist-first, hands-on approach has made him a pleasure to work with,” commented Ben Mawson, Dua’s manager. “We wish him every success in this new role and have complete confidence in his ability to help us continue our ambitious journey with Dua.”
The label said Christie will be leaving by the end of 2021 after five years in the role and seven years total at WMUK. Prior to joining the label side of things, Christie spent four years as senior A&R manager at Warner/Chappell, where his signings included London Grammar, Ben Howard, Tom Odell and the Brit Award-winning rock duo Royal Blood.
“The label is unrecognizable from the one I walked into in 2014,” Christie said. “Now the time has come for me to look ahead and move on, and I couldn’t be happier for Joe, who deserves every accolade. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family before thinking about the next step.”
Harlow added that Christie’s “hands-on approach to artist development sometimes gets overlooked in the intensity of the day-to-day running of a big label, but his expertise and guidance are always felt.”