CRAIG KALLMAN, 51
Atlantic Records, Chairman/CEO
Atlantic Records, Chairman/COO
Last Year’s Rank: 20
Atlantic ran the board, if not the game, in 2016, racking up the label’s biggest year since Greenwald and Kallman took over in 2004, with year-over-year market share up more than two points, from 7.2 percent to 9.4.
Wins came from every corner, led by established acts like Coldplay (2.6 million digital tracks sold) and newcomers like Kevin Gates, whose Islah was the only debut studio LP released in 2016 to earn at least 1 million equivalent album units during the year. The latter joined Twenty One Pilots and the Hamilton original cast album in Atlantic’s platinum club.
It’s an up year for the industry, but a really up year for Atlantic.
Kallman: In the last couple of years we bet on ourselves. We said we’re going to carry two promotion staffs, which is unusual. It’s allowed us two pipelines: Roadrunner / Fueled by Ramen, led by Mike Easterlin, and Atlantic, led by Andrea Ganis. You’ve got to pump a lot of quality records into two promotion staffs.
How has your working relationship has evolved since 2004?
Greenwald: The amount of trust. I know Craig so well — he eats the same salad, every day, for the last 14 years — I always know where he’s coming from. For Craig it’s always about the music. That’s where it starts and ends. He’s on the forefront of signing, always sniffing the baggie, seeing what should come in.
Kallman: Early on it was readily apparent that we were never going to lose a record from the marketing and promotion side of things. Julie is the most ferocious warrior for the artist I’ve ever seen. So it the onus was on A&R. It’s either in the grooves or it’s not. Over time, we keep testing our bandwidth. One of the refinements in the relationship was the confidence to look objectively at each other: “Okay, do we have the bandwidth to do this?”
In January you both spoke at a Spotify off-site meeting in Havana. What was the conversation about?
?Kallman: How do we keep evangelizing and growing streaming — how do we have it become part of people’s daily habits? It’s still a new technology. Half the music business is physical or downloads. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface on the potential.
Greenwald: We’re an artist development company. We are not interested in just breaking a song. We’re interested in breaking the act. So we wanted to talk about how we can have a more immersive relationship, be better strategists with them in the planning and the delivering of our music. These playlists are so powerful.
Who’s a business leader outside of the music industry you admire and why?
Kallman: Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s ability to pivot and innovate is unbelievable.
Greenwald: Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, who started SoulCycle. They created a brand that resonates — people not only attend a class, they buy shitloads of merch and wear it like a badge of honor. Which is something that we do every day — get people to fall in love with our artists, show up at their concerts, and buy their t-shirt.