It’s a December morning, and Craig Kallman is caught between cities, and perhaps years, too.
The co-chairman/CEO of Atlantic Records has been busy cultivating 2020 projects, shuttling among Los Angeles (where Portugal. The Man has been recording with Jeff Bhasker), Miami (where Cardi B has been working on the follow-up to Invasion of Privacy) and Atlanta (where a scripted TV series about Aretha Franklin that he’s producing is shooting). “It has been a crazy month,” he says. But right now he’s pushing pause to reflect on the A&R approach that made Atlantic both the industry market-share leader (with 12.57%, according to Nielsen Music) and the No. 1 label on the Billboard 200 in 2019 -- not that it’s really over. “We’re doing some touch-up single mixes and edits for Lizzo [and] trying to find one more single for A Boogie [Wit Da Hoodie] and looking at producers for his new album,” he explains.
Lizzo and A Boogie both contributed to Atlantic’s chart dominance this year: His Hoodie SZN rose to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums) in January, remaining on the chart for six weeks; her Cuz I Love You peaked at No. 4 and hasn’t left the top 30 since its May release. “We haven’t changed our opinion about the importance of the album, even in a digital, singles-driven era,” says Kallman. “It’s all about connection and fulfilling the voracious desires of fans who are used to direct engagement with the artist through social media. But fundamentally, when it comes to artist development and building culturally significant artists, the album is still a body of work that signifies what they represent.”