Chairman/CEO, Atlantic Records
Chairman/COO, Atlantic Records
President of black music, Atlantic Records
President of West Coast, Atlantic Records
12.6 PERCENT MARKET SHARE: It was a big year at the house that Ahmet built, as Atlantic took the individual-label market-share crown for the second year running — and not by a nose. Driven by big wins across genres — songs by Ed Sheeran, rapper and cultural phenom Cardi B, and from the Greatest Showman soundtrack generated 7.1 million equivalent album units in 2018 — the label’s 12.6 percent current market share is over a full point ahead of its nearest rival, Republic.
Some victories, like the six Grammy noms for Low Country Sound/Elektra’s Brandi Carlile, a defining voice of alt-country, showed how Atlantic’s A&R bets outside established streaming (and major-label) sweet spots have paid off. Others — like the six months the label spent working Janelle Monáe‘s modern-soul ballad “I Like That” until it hit No. 1 on the Adult R&B chart — showed the same perseverance that powered an eight-month campaign for Portugal. The Man‘s “Feel It Still” to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017.
“People in our industry want to rush to judgment based on how the music is going to stream,” says chairman/COO Julie Greenwald, who notes that she has worked with Monáe for over 10 years. “For us it’s a marathon, because we want career artists that could be around forever.”
Several marathons, in fact. The range of successes that Greenwald and chairman/CEO Craig Kallman have overseen in their almost 15-year partnership reflects Atlantic’s heritage, which runs from Ray Charles to Led Zeppelin, but it also reflects Kallman’s roots as a New York DJ in the ’80s when he was dedicated to playing “the widest cross-sections of music.”
Those roots figure in Cardi B’s Hot 100 No. 1 “I Like It,” with Bad Bunny and J Balvin, which, says Kallman, 53, is the first time he has served as a producer since Lupe Fiasco‘s Grammy-winning “Daydreamin'” in 2006. The track began with a visit to Kallman’s vinyl stacks at his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side — home to a portion of his 1.1 million albums — where he played Latin records for Cardi producer J. White, and the two sparked to Pete Rodriguez‘s 1967 boogaloo hit, “I Like It Like That.” Cardi’s track went on to be No. 7 on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100, with 911 million streams.
As president of black music, Mike Kyser oversaw the marketing and promotion that ensured Cardi B would not be a one — or two — hit wonder. Kyser, 52, finished off 2018 with Billboard 200 No. 1 albums from Meek Mill and Kodak Black, and in 2019 A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. But Atlantic’s biggest album last year, overseen by West Coast president Kevin Weaver, 47, was also the best-selling album of 2018: the Greatest Showman soundtrack, which, boosted by an Academy Award nomination for “This Is Me,” sold 1.5 million copies and racked up 1.1 billion streams. The companion album The Greatest Showman Reimagined — featuring P!nk, Kesha and Panic! at the Disco — kept the momentum going.
Greenwald sums up a year where achievements came from all sorts of genres this way: “I’ve come to learn that our artists and our staff can define success differently. Our job is to understand what their goals are and to help them. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a career for 26 years. All I want for them is for them to be able to surpass that.”