The secret of success – times two

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Saturday 3rd January 2015

IMG_1480Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny on BBC2 is synonymous with New Year’s Eve. This year’s celebration boasted a stellar line-up – Joss Stone, Ellie Goulding, Paloma Faith, Paolo Nutini, you name them, they were all there.

One of my favourite performances of the night came from the multi-talented Ed Sheeran, who in four years has catapulted from teenage busker to global music phenomenon. His latest album, x (did you know it stands for Multiply? No, me neither) has sold three million copies worldwide, Sing and Thinking Out Loud topped the charts in 2014 and his one-man show at Wembley Stadium next summer (that’s a mind-boggling 80,000 tickets) sold out in a week.

After reading a profile of him in FT Weekend Magazine (it was actually in a pre-Christmas issue but I’ve only just caught up with it) I’m even more impressed by the 23-year-old superstar. Why? Because after persuading his parents to let him leave school and move to London at the age of 17 he worked his socks off to make it in the notoriously cut-throat music business. He played gigs up and down the country, sometimes playing to decent sized crowds, sometimes playing to hardly anyone at all, and frequently resorted to sleeping on friends’ sofas.

The story that really struck me was his account of the way he upped his ambitions after signing his first record deal with Atlantic.

As he told interviewer Craig McLean: “At Atlantic everyone said James Blunt was the hardest working guy in the music industry. So I asked my manager to get James Blunt’s diary from 2005” – the year that Blunt released the mega-selling You’re Beautiful.

Sheeran studied the diary of shows intently, then told his team that he was going to do the same number of performances – “times two.”

He added: “Because he was the hardest working guy, I wanted to work twice as hard as him.”

So that’s what he did. And there’s no doubt about it, it worked a treat.

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