Justin Timberlake Manager Johnny Wright on Secret Plans Around ‘20/20 Experience,’ Touring, Myspace,  More

Justin Timberlake performs onstage during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.


Who were the masterminds of all this planning?
Myself and Justin and [PR/marketing firm M2M Construction]. And then, of course, we sat down with [RCA Records chiefs] Tom Corson and Peter Edge and said this is our vision, this is our idea, a lot of it you guys can help us execute. We had already pre-talked to some of the partners and they were already in, so when the conversation happened with Tom and Peter, they were like “let’s do it.” And Justin is creative, he’s not that artist that just sits back and lets people dictate what he’s gonna do.  He’s very involved in all the creative stuff, from creating the music to the ideas to the album cover -- and also the marketing of everything. And that’s a beautiful thing, because we all know when we’re marching, we’re marching based on a belief and an understanding of what Justin has and what he’s going to support. There’s no friction because he’s excited about the plan he crafted together with us.

When was album finished?
The album was finished … I wanna say the middle of July. It was a fast record. Justin had a short window because he had to actually fly to Puerto Rico and shoot a movie with Ben Affleck [“Runner, Runner,” out in September 2013]; he had like four weeks, him and Timbaland. I mean, he’d been thinking about it for years, but by the time they got the studio he had it inside of him -- a direction he wanted to go. And his and Timbaland’s relationship is like a brotherhood: They’re just so comfortable with each other -- not only as musical friends but as personal friends -- that you can get things done in a short period of time. And Timbaland had been eager for the opportunity to get back in the studio with Justin because when those two come together there’s a lot of magic that happens.

Had [the Affleck movie] not happened, we might have actually set up and put the album out sooner. But because of that, the timeframe with that wouldn’t end till late September/early October, and then he had this little other thing that he got sidetracked on doing, which is called marriage. [Laughs – Timberlake married longtime girlfriend Jessica Biel in October 19.] And we weren’t in a rush: It’s been six-and-a-half years. So we said let’s just wait for the top of the year: we’ve got a plan, we’ve got partners that are willing to help us out with this, so let’s execute based on that, and that’s what he’s done.

So how did you keep the album secret for six months?
I mean, the people that Justin worked with were people that are his friends and have been a part of his life forever, and they all share in the common goal of, we don’t want this leaking out. We know what a surprise to the world this is going to be, and it’s also a part of our hard work that we sat in the studio night after night, day after day to work on. So no one’s going to try to ruin it. And we made everyone that was working on the album aware of what our plans were and how we actually wanted to market it, and everybody was super excited about it. So for someone to want to jump the gun and do that -- there was no malice like that, because everybody stands to win. We just did it the way we all talked about doing it, and that’s the way it was.

But to be honest with you, outside of that group of people -- you know, the people that manufactured the record and shipped it to stores and everything like that -- I’m just as dumbfounded at the fact that the record hasn’t leaked sooner. Right now, because of the stream, people are figuring out a couple of ways to [bootleg it] and as that happens we’re taking them down, using every effort that we can, because we want to make this special for Tuesday. And I think that was one of the reasons we decided it would be okay to let it stream because we wanted people to hear it and not feel that they have to just download it. So go ahead: Listen to it as many times as you want. If you love it now, on Tuesday buy it or preorder it and have a copy. And the other thing to is that the way Justin’s created the booklet for it and everything, the photos that are inside, it’s beautiful. You wanna get the whole package.

Were there secret codenames for the project and things like that?
It was tough! I mean obviously, we had a couple of code names for things -- I’m not gonna say what they are because we might wanna use the names again. It wasn’t called “Justin Timberlake.”

The hard part -- and I give a lot of credit to Peter Edge and Tom Corson for this -- was to get a whole international record company engaged and sending marketing plans and talking to them about what platforms might be available, and they couldn’t tell them who the artist was. So it was kind of one of those, “Hey, we’re thinking of having one of our artist do something in January or February, and they’re thinking about doing ‘Wetten, dass..?,’ can you tell us what their schedules are?” And it was all based on the fact that we wanted the single to be a surprise to people. It hit when the countdown clock hit [on January 10], and we pulled it off. So soon as the single was out, then all bets were off and now we can start having all the conversations that we wanted to have about the album itself, because now everybody realizes that Justin’s back in music.

Justin Timberlake performing at the Grammys

When did you start having conversations about the marketing?
We had conversations with the Target team in the early part of November -- obviously we were having conversations with our label. Right around December, right before Christmas break, we had conversations with Ken Ehrlich and Neil Portnow at the Grammys -- we wanted to put them on radar that something was coming and there was an opportunity for us to possibly to be involved with the Grammys. The marketing plan and conversations started to actually roll out, through some of the partners that we needed to have involved, I would say a week or so before Thanksgiving.