This Is Music: Going Global With Glass Animals

14.11.2023: Glass Animals manager Amy Morgan on how the band's 10 years of hard work helped them achieve international success. 

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14.11.2023: Glass Animals manager Amy Morgan on how the band’s 10 years of hard work helped them achieve international success. 

Glass Animals achieved international acclaim with their third album Dreamland, released during the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020.

Lead single Heat Waves became a slow-burn global hit, eventually clocking up over two billion steams to top the charts in multiple territories, including the US Billboard Hot 100 in March 2022.

This success was the culmination of an international approach spanning over a decade since band members Dave Bayley, Drew MacFarlane, Edmund Irwin-Singer, and Joe Seaward formed Glass Animals in 2010.

Their manager, Amy Morgan, tells us how the band achieved this international success.

What attracted you to Glass Animals?

I was attracted to them because the music didn’t sound definably British; it sat in its own space outside of a geographical place.

Dave Bayley (singer/writer/producer in the band) spent a lot of his childhood in the US and I think you can hear that in the music.

Before working with the band, I had worked in international marketing, so I understood from an early  stage they had a sound and a visual world that could work internationally.

They were also quite different from the British alternative scene at the time so there was no obvious fit here.

Tell us about how you launched the band internationally?

When it came to developing Glass Animals internationally, initially we had to go and open doors in overseas markets for ourselves.

We used a modest publishing advance from Beggars Music to fund the first European shows. The band signed a development deal with Paul Epworth’s label Wolf Tone, which went through Caroline (now Virgin).

Virgin’s focus was on international so we were lucky to get some tour support which meant we could keep building and the label supported us going into key markets (like Australia and the US) early (pre album).

Glass Animals played their first American shows at SXSW, tell us about that.

That first American trip was critical. We played SXSW, it was insane. The band played about twelve
shows in three days.

The roads were closed to traffic, so we had to carry amps and equipment from one show to another.

We were lucky enough to get funding from the PRS Foundation to help cover the trip and Virgin were really active on the ground, bringing people to shows and helping us get key showcases with DSPs (digital service providers) and alternative radio stations.

Why are exports so important to an artist’s career?

I don’t think you can sustain a career only in the UK anymore as an alternative leaning artist – you need to think about the world. I don’t just mean in the touring sense, but also culturally, how you think, how you release music, and how you communicate.

You released the last album, Dreamland, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, what impact did that have on you, and how did you navigate that release?

By the time we released Dreamland in 2020, the band was established as an international band, and live was a huge part of that.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, it was devastating for us because the band had delivered what we felt was an important record with some big songs on it.

If we couldn’t move around and tour, then we could not promote it the way we were used to.

The pandemic challenged us to think differently, and pivot into different ways of connecting the band’s work their community.

It was a scary time. Like every artist who relied on touring income it was financially terrifying. We’d been building to this album for so long, there were moments were I was scared COVID-19 would destroy it all.

The band took a very innovative approach to Dreamland, tell us about that.

We wanted to find ways to open up the world of the album to the fans. We started to experiment with ways to let the audience come into the world.

The website became the hub with an open source section that we uploaded artwork and music stems to so that people could use them as a start point for their own work.

It was a dark time and people felt so isolated. I think it became a positive thing- people shared and engaged with each others work and the band were a big part of that too.

It was powerful for them to see how much it meant to people. It was about fan engagement, but it was also about communication and giving people a space to play with the world of the record themselves, to enter Dreamland I suppose.

A lot of factors contributed to the build around Heat Waves. The team at the label (Polydor/Republic) were fantastic during a very tough time, we were very lucky to have support from DSPs and from radio and there were a couple of key syncs that really moved the needle (FIFA at the
start and Never Have I Ever later in the campaign).

A large element of it was fan created. A piece of fan fiction about two Minecrafters that went viral, some brilliant fan art and TikTok creations…it was culmination of a lot of things happening around the same time.

Dreamland, as an album, and Heat Waves in particular both explore themes of loss and nostalgia and wishing for things taken from you, it resonated for a lot of people I think.

Heat Waves won the Triple J’s Hottest 100 in January and became a global hit, breaking records for the longest charting single in the Billboard charts, the longest song to chart in the top ten in the ARIA Charts, the first British band to top Spotify’s global chart and hitting number one in multiple countries
round the world.

What was it like to tour again once the pandemic had receded?

It was a fraught process, despite having a big record. There was no insurance available for COVID-19 related cancellations and the numbers of cases were still very high. That meant developing a very strict COVID-19 protocol – testing, bubbling and keeping the band pretty isolated for the duration of the tour.

It was tough on them and on the crew – we got through it with no COVID-19 cancellations thanks to everyone’s commitment to the project and to the band. It was a huge team effort.

What have you learned from your experience, especially in terms working with artists who are not in the mainstream?

I have learned that to be successful internationally, artists need to make a start and travel early in their careers.

Local music (in overseas markets) is becoming exciting and vibrant, which is great for the world, but it is more reason than ever that if you are trying to travel culturally, you have to be in those markets early.

You cannot wait for a hit or radio support, especially with alternative music. Alternative music in whatever genre is about building communities and fanbases.

You have to think about, invest, and strategise internationally from day one. This requires support.

As a country, I feel very strongly the UK needs to be more supportive of artists looking to develop an international career.

Finally, what challenges are you seeing for young artists launching in 2023?

The world has changed. If you are an independent artist, the impact of cost increases will be especially hard – travel, visas, freight, insurance, hiring local crew, and poor exchange rates compound each other.

The risks are higher and the costs are higher and together those things make touring outside the UK prohibitive for a lot of new artists.

Read UK Music’s This Is Music report for more information on the state of the music industry in 2022.

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