“I can’t take credit for the whole 70 years,” said Greenwald. “Just the last 14.”
That’s enough. Under her leadership, Atlantic is experiencing a two-year hot streak of growth that has earned Greenwald Billboard’s 2017 Women in Music Executive of the Year award. Atlantic led total market share through the first three quarters of 2017, with 10.17 percent as of Nov. 9, a year-over-year gain of 1.1 percentage points. Before Taylor Swift reset the clock with Reputation, the label had the top-selling album of 2017, Ed Sheeran’s Divide (931,000 copies, through Nov. 16), with Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic holding down the No. 4 spot (624,000 copies). Sheeran and Mars also scored the No. 2- and No. 4-selling digital tracks of 2017, with Sheeran’s “Shape of You” moving 2.4 million and Mars’ “That’s What I Like” clocking in at 1.6 million.
Big wins came from streaming as well, where Atlantic claimed five out of this year’s top 10 most-streamed songs (on-demand audio and video combined) as of Nov. 9: Sheeran’s “Shape of You” (No. 2, with 928 million streams), Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” (No. 6, 849 million), Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” (No. 10, 807 million), Mars’ “That’s What I Like” (No. 4, 785 million) and KYLE’s “iSpy” (No. 11, 654 million). That’s a grand total of 4.02 billion streams, which Billboard estimates generated nearly $18 million.
The chart picture was just as impressive, with the label placing a dozen songs in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, including a No. 5 breakthrough for alt-rock band Portugal. The Man, and No. 1s from Migos, Mars, Sheeran and Cardi B, whose “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” became the first No. 1 for a solo female rapper since Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” in 1998. “Bodak Yellow” was a personal win for Greenwald. After being told that Cardi B was within striking distance of taking the No. 1 spot from Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” she started working the phones with the zeal she had shown in her early 20s, when she was cutting her teeth working for Lyor Cohen, first at Rush Management and then Def Jam, in the mid-’90s.
“I got on the phone with every person I could think of and I gave them the speech,” she says. “Which is, ‘It has been 19 years since a female MC herself had a Hot 100 No. 1. Please help me. Let’s do this not only for her, let’s do it for the culture.’” Greenwald was looking for streaming services to move the track up on playlists or put it on new playlists, and also asking for better positioning from the iTunes Store, and help from radio. “Charlamagne Tha God had her on [WWPR New York’s] The Breakfast Club again -- everybody I got on the phone said, ‘I will help you.’”
In part that’s a reflection of Greenwald’s determination; in part it’s a reflection of the reputation she has built during the last 25 years as someone who matches pushing with caring. “The creative business is full of passive-aggressive people who use words they don’t mean,” says her mentor Cohen. “Julie brings clarity, which is the best friend of the creative business.”