Billboard's Dance Exec of the Year Adam Alpert on Taking the Chainsmokers to the Top of the Industry
"We are always thinking two or three chess moves ahead," says Adam Alpert, the manager and label boss who has steered The Chainsmokers to a rarefied level of pop success. As he spoke to Billboard from his memorabilia-filled office on lower Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Alex Pall and Drew Taggart had just logged their 57th week in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 -- the second-longest streak in the chart's nearly 60-year history -- with four blockbuster hits: "Don't Let Me Down," featuring Daya (which reached No. 3); "Closer," featuring Halsey (12 weeks at No. 1); "Paris" (No. 6); and "Something Just Like This," featuring Coldplay (No. 3). In March, the latter three were all in the top 10, matching a feat previously achieved by only two other groups or duos, The Beatles and Bee Gees.
It's just one reason that Alpert is 2017's Dance Power Players executive of the year. Under his guidance, The Chainsmokers have won a Grammy Award, four Billboard Music Awards and five iHeartRadio Music Awards over the past year. In April, the duo's debut album, Memories...Do Not Open, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and it embarked on a North American arena tour featuring a live band and an ambitious stage production.
The University of Pennsylvania graduate (and former nightlife director of Manhattan nightclubs 1Oak and Butter) additionally runs Disruptor Records, Disruptor Management and Selector Songs, created in a 2014 joint venture with then-Sony Music Entertainment CEO Doug Morris. In addition to The Chainsmokers, Disruptor's roster includes Lost Kings and Jocelyn Alice.
You not only manage The Chainsmokers, you're close friends with them. Do you ever drive one another crazy?
As they get more success, the frequency with which they want to kill me is increasing, because the opportunities and the responsibilities are just becoming overwhelming. They've always been the type of artists that say "yes" to everybody and want to be everywhere. On their arena tour, they basically crossed the world four times in a day-and-a-half, flying 45 hours just to do a 30-minute set at BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend in the U.K. I got a big lashing for that, but they had signed up for it.
What's a tough situation you've helped Alex and Drew overcome?
Losing the best new artist Grammy to Chance the Rapper was an interesting experience. But I wouldn't have changed the result. I think that Chance deserved to win, and I think it would have put a whole different type of pressure on us that we didn't need. If anything, losing just motivated us.
The Chainsmokers joined Florida Georgia Line at the 2017 CMT Music Awards to perform their "Last Day Alive" collaboration. Can they affect the country music market?
The Florida Georgia Line collaboration turned out to be one of the most special on the album, because Brian [Kelley] and Tyler [Hubbard] are like the most awesome dudes ever. They're almost the country equivalent of The Chainsmokers. Alex and Drew aren't trying to go into country music. They appreciate it. They also appreciated the opportunity to be exposed to a new demographic of music fan.
You've described making Memories...Do Not Open as the most difficult thing you've ever done. Why?
Making and [producing] 12 songs that form a cohesive body of work -- while dealing with lots of different people in the process -- can be challenging, especially when it's all based on what Alex and Drew are going through in their lives. One of the most rewarding things I've seen is that, outside of the first two singles, which came out before the album, all the songs are being consumed tremendously, almost at equal levels. And that was our goal from day one -- don't put out an album until you know people are going to listen to the whole thing.
Do you still meet regularly with Sony Music chairman Doug Morris?
We meet every Wednesday, and that won't change as long as he is willing to do it. The thing that Doug preaches most is to be kind to people. That mentality shaped the vibe of Sony Music.