In a special feature package in the most recent issue of Billboard, Ed Christman and Andrew Hampp examined the leading labels heading into the crucial fourth quarter of 2013. Over the next week, Billboard.biz will excerpt portions from this special package featuring Q4's top releases, dark horses and extended executive interviews.
Today we examine Interscope's strategy going into the crucial fourth quarter with a look at the label's top releases year-to-date, its big Q4 releases and its dark horses. Also, a Q&A with label president and COO John Janick who discusses "quality over quantity," setting up newer artists (like The 1975, Rixton, Tiara Thomas)) and how how Q4's big releases will likely be next year's big sellers.
When Janick joined Interscope in late 2012, albums from Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar and Phillip Phillips were all about to hit the marketplace. “We earmarked those, saying, ‘These are three developing artists we need to focus on and build them into superstars.’ It seems like it worked,” says Janick, who celebrated his first year as president/COO at the label earlier this month. Interscope is in the midst of a banner 2013, thanks in part to those developing artists (as well continued success from Maroon 5 and Robin Thicke’s song of the summer, “Blurred Lines”). The label’s strong catalog also continues to sell well. And that’s even before November arrives -- when crucial releases for Eminem and Lady Gaga arrive.
Janick, though, takes the long view beyond the fourth quarter. “We do artist cycles, not record cycles.” Case in point: the long-simmering breakthrough success of Lana Del Rey, who scored a surprise top 10 hit with “Summertime Sadness” in August. Janick hopes to see similar legs for acts like Thicke, Zedd and Ellie Goulding, all of whom are working on follow-up singles to top 10 hits.
But perhaps the biggest lesson Janick has learned in his first year on the job is the slow-burn payoff that comes with a OneRepublic album. The pop-rock group’s third release "Native," out in March, is in the midst of a rebound on the back of anthemic, gospel-tinged single “Counting Stars,” which is No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. “I was told when I first came in that it always takes time for these singles,” Janick says. “We knew it was a special album when it came in, but we truly think OneRepublic is going to have a long cycle with that album. There’s a lot of great singles on there.”
Fourth Quarter Label Special
- Q4 Label Special: Republic Records on Q4 Planning, Lorde's Positioning and Big (Big) Soundtracks
- Q4 Label Special: RCA's Tom Corson and Peter Edge on Miley, Britney & JT, the Adult Xmas Market, 'Focusing on Hip-Hop & Rock' (From the Magazine)
- Q4 Label Special: Columbia's Rob Stringer on Big Releases, Dark Horses, Gift Cards, 'No Daft Punk Xmas Record' (From the Magazine)
Q4 Label Special: Atlantic's Julie Greenwald and Craig Kallman on Navigating 'the Xmas Bum-Rush' (Q&A)
Jimmy Iovine, chairman/CEO, Interscope; John Janick, President/CEO; Steve Berman, vice chairman; Brenda Romano, president of promotion; Joie Manda, president of urban music; Dennis Dennehy, head of artist strategy and media; Mark Flaherty, head of marketing; Jennifer Frommer, senior VP of branded content; Jurgen Grebner, head of international; Rand Hoffman, head of business affairs; Larry Jackson, executive VP of A&R; Gary Kelly, head of sales; Larry Khan, VP of urban promotion; Martin Kierszenbaum, chairman/CEO of Cherrytree Records and senior A&R executive; Brooke Michael, head of digital marketing; Tony Seyler, head of film and TV licensing; Ike Youssef, CFO.
Q&A WITH JOHN JANICK
Billboard: How are you feeling about the fourth quarter?
John Janick: Obviously we have a lot of good carryover stuff that’s been going all year long. Some of the stuff kicking into fourth quarter are things like Imagine Dragons, who are having an amazing year, and “Demons” just crossed over to top 40. We have Kendrick Lamar, which has been going really all year long. One Republic and their single [“Counting Stars”] just went top 10 on iTunes, and Ryan [Tedder]’s just about to go on “The Voice” for four weeks. We put that album out in the quarter and we knew it was a special album. One Republic, even though they made an amazing album, from what I was told when I first came in, it always takes time for these singles. So that’s gonna be a great entrance for people discovering that album. There’s a bunch of great singles on there -- I truly think One Republic is gonna have a long record cycle with that album. And then obviously we have Lana [Del Rey], who just had a big hit, the Zedd record with Hayley Williams, which we’ll be working all year long. Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” feels like a really big single, Mike Will just did a deal with us and has Miley Cyrus and Wiz Khalifa on his record, and Robin Thicke is obviously carrying over too. There’s a bunch of records that started at the end of last year or came out this year that just feel they have steam going into next year.
Eminem and Gaga are coming, obviously -- Eminem has three records in the iTunes top 15 right now, and that feels great. And Gaga just finished her album and it’s spectacular. She’s such a talented person and every song -- there’s so much diversity on the album that it all fits together. And obviously we feel with both of those artists [are] gonna carry over into the next year. So we’ll have a great first quarter but also a strong 2014.
When I came into this company, we had Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar and Philip Phillips, those were three that did really well for us [and] were amazing. All those came out either between September and December of last year, and all three of those artists had an amazing 2013. We earmarked those saying, “These are three developing artists we need to focus on, and build them into superstars." And it looks like it worked. We also just put out Scotty McCreery, and with Verve we have the Mary J. Christmas album.
Is the fourth quarter marketplace too crowded for a lot of new releases?
I think for us we actually don’t have that busy for a fourth on the IGA side. We’re really focused -- for me it’s about quality over quantity. So we’re not jammed. I just rattled off to you five records, so we don’t have a ton coming out. Imagine Dragons came out September 2012 and it’s our biggest seller. We believe in artist development and sticking with these long-term. We do artist cycles, not record cycles. You always make sure you’re doing things to develop an artist. For us we’re just trying to be strategic about where we place things, and we feel fine about where everything’s at.
Who are some new artists you’ll start setting up for 2014?
We have a bunch. We’re just starting on Rixton, also The 1975. Their album came out in September, but we’re just starting to lay the foundation. We’re really starting to ramp that up and feel great about that. Aloe Blacc, who wrote and sang “Wake Me up” on the Avicii record, he has a great base and made an amazing album. We put out an EP and have some interesting things going on. Tiara Thomas we’re working on the urban side, she’s fantastic. We have some really big artists with music coming out and making sure we’re building our next generation of superstars.