Business

Executive of the Week: Atlantic Records Chairman/COO Julie Greenwald

Julie Greenwald
Courtesy Photo

Julie Greenwald

"This is Bruno at his best."

When Silk Sonic -- the powerhouse duo led by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak -- saw its debut single, "Leave The Door Open," rise to No. 1 on the Hot 100 this week, it represented several milestones for the two artists, whose retro soul has captivated fans across the country.

For .Paak, the song became his first-ever No. 1 on the chart in just his second visit, after reaching No. 89 in 2020 as a featured artist on Eminem’s "Lock It Up." And for Mars, his eighth No. 1 single -- just the 18th artist to ever have that many, and tied with Phil Collins for the most for Atlantic Records (seven) -- became his quickest to reach the top, after just five weeks, with his previous best being the eight-week charge to No. 1 of "Uptown Funk!" in 2015.

And the song, out on Atlantic/Aftermath, has been increasing across the board on all metrics, growing in streams (up 13%), sales (up 138%, aided by CD versions shipped this week) and radio play (up 9%) in the week ending April 11, according to MRC Data. That success has helped Atlantic Records chairman/COO Julie Greenwald earn the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.

Here, Greenwald talks about the rollout of "Leave The Door Open," the decision to release physical versions of the single for fans who love collectibles, the effect of the duo’s splashy Grammy Awards performance and why the song has surged at radio so quickly, reaching No. 2 on the Radio Songs chart this week: "Whether you’re an R&B listener, whether you’re a pop listener, everybody can come to the party because it’s just an incredible song."

Silk Sonic’s "Leave The Door Open" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 this week. What key decisions did you make to help make that happen?

The launch of Bruno, he’s not just such a strong vocalist and producer, he’s such a strong visual artist. And I think lining up his campaign where he launched into his song, and then a week later had the Grammys, it was a one-two punch of the single and the video, then all of a sudden you got this second amazing performance that served as another video to show the world that this song and this partnership, this new group, were just so incredible. You haven’t seen a group like this since God knows when. And really making sure that we came out of the gate swinging super hard. We’re firing on all cylinders. Radio’s contributing, the DSP platforms are contributing, the video is contributing -- every partner we could ask for is all playing and promoting Silk Sonic. And it’s been incredible. It’s our fourth album with the guy, and this is his eighth No. 1. He doesn’t take it for granted and I don’t take it for granted.

How do you approach a project like this with two different artists collaborating together differently than a Bruno Mars solo album?

This is Bruno at his best. He’s the one that said, "Anderson, let’s get together," and he’s completely driving this project and he understood how great him and Anderson would be as a duo, because they have such a mutual respect and love for each other. But to be honest with you, Bruno is in complete control. He has such a vision for this whole project, and you just have to let him rock out and have us be the cavalry that follows behind him. He gives us the art, he gives us the music, he gives us the videos. His attention to detail and his creativity -- he’s a quadruple threat. He directs the videos, he produces the music, he styles, he launched a clothing line to show you his styling -- he’s amazing. You just get in line. So there’s no different approach, it’s, "Yes sir, Mr. Mars, let’s go." He’s that good.

What did you do marketing-wise for this single? I’m particularly curious about the decision to release it on CD.

This is the thing we found: When you have a fan base that loves you, and it’s not just about the song but it’s about the artist, they want collectibles. We found that people still want to buy our music as fan pieces. People collect vinyl, they collect CDs, sometimes there’s even cassettes that get made. We find that artists that have a really sticky base, let’s give them the opportunity to not only hear the music, but to purchase a collectible at the same time. And the artwork was so good, and people that make incredible art, we want to make collectibles for and give fans the ability to buy something that they can have in their collection.

The song has such a retro feel -- did that allow you to get more creative in marketing ideas?

For the rest of this rollout there’s some pretty wonderful marketing plans that go into the vibe, the feel, the texture. But the CD and the vinyl are just really great collectibles for artists that, like I said, when you have a really good fan base that’s into you, the act, and not just the song, you want to super-serve them. But listen, that Grammy performance, you talk about taking you back to a place and really harkening to a time that a lot of these kids don’t know about. He’s such a student of yesteryear and pays homage to the people who came before him, and one of the ways he does is by bringing kids on this journey with him, to say, "Look, this is what used to be, pay attention, there’s some good shit out there." And there’s no one better at that than him. He’s such a fan and he really just cherishes all of the artists that set the way before him, of where he learned music and entertainment from. And that’s the thing, man -- that guy’s an entertainer, he’s not just a musician.

But I gotta tell you something, he made this one really easy for us. He gave us this incredible song, he’s the one that partnered up with Anderson, he gave us this incredible video, and the two of them, their chemistry, their interviews were spectacular. We got them to do a gang of promo and they did so many wonderful interviews with the two of them together, so you really felt that this is a group. We’re marketing this as Silk Sonic the group. He’s driving it, so we have to treat it the same as a Bruno album, but this is a group project; this is not just a Bruno Mars album, this is Silk Sonic. So we really wanted to make sure that you felt this as a band of the most talented musicians and him and Anderson. So everything we’ve done has been the two of them. You’re never going to see Bruno without Anderson and Anderson without Bruno.

The song has also been a big hit at radio very quickly. Why do you think that has been the case?

Because it’s a song that can speak to every genre: mainstream R&B, adult R&B, top 40, rhythm, Hot AC radio -- this song can speak to every age group and every person that just loves great music. Whether you’re an R&B listener, whether you’re a pop listener, everybody can come to the party because it’s just an incredible song. And their vocal performance is funny, it’s clever, it’s inviting, it’s just sonically beautiful, and it doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio. So this thing cuts through right away. The first time people heard it they were texting me like crazy, like, "Holy shit." Because it doesn’t sound like anything that anyone’s listening to right now. And they complement each other so well -- you’re invested in this new group.

They’re having so much fun. And when you hear the banter back and forth on the song, it’s fun, it’s feel-good, and I think we all just needed this at this time. We’re coming out of COVID, thank God, and people just need some goodness in their life. Feel good, put on a great record, and also show the kids, "This is what we used to jam to back in the day." And the kids are thinking this is the greatest new shit that they heard. So it’s wonderful. Everybody’s showing up, and that’s why I think it’s working so well: You can’t put this song in a box and say it’s one thing or another. You just gotta say it’s incredible music and they did a brilliant job making it, performing it, talking about it. They really are a fantastic group together. You want to go see Silk Sonic on tour.

Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak's Silk Sonic Tops Billboard Hot 100 With 'Leave the Door Open' | Billboard News