“I have secret goals of winning a Grammy with Phoenix and one day playing Madison Square Garden,” declared Daniel Glass in a 2011 documentary From A Mess To The Masses, which chronicled the French indie-pop act’s promotional tour for its 2009 breakthrough LP, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
Glass, who founded Glassnote in 2007, was eerily accurate in his predictions: In 2010, the band secured a best alternative album win and a headlining slot at New York’s Garden. And after a whopping 31-week trek, the set’s lead single, “1901,” crowned Billboard’s Alternative chart, bolstered by a performance on Saturday Night Live, a ubiquitous Cadillac synch and a hefty buy-in from alternative and triple A radio. To date, “1901” has had one of the overall longest runs on the chart: 57 weeks.
The two-year promotional deluge is still used today by labels and managers as a guide, says Glass, who credits the band’s “tenacity” as paramount. “It set the tone for our company with signings like The Temper Trap, Two Door Cinema Club, and Mumford & Sons, and we have not changed our plan,” says Glass, citing its use in campaigns for Jade Bird, The Strumbellas and Mansionair.
Below, Glass reflects on the milestone for both the band and his powerhouse indie label with Billboard.
When we got the No. 1, we drank champagne at the office in Manhattan. We sent out framed copies to our entire staff and our distributor at the time Sony RED. Then the record went gold; the single went gold, then platinum. I gave plaques to my parents and mother-in-law, who both kept and framed them. It was — and still is — a big deal in my family. We don’t take No. 1s for granted. We’re like a sports team in that we do lots of preshow huddles and hugs, and it got very emotional [when the band found out]. We had a private moment backstage on tour. There were tears of joy.
Every week, there was a new moment: [Saturday Night Live], Bonnaroo, then radio and the Cadillac [TV ad synch]. They did every media opportunity and fell in love with the road — Texas and Tennessee, all the hotels and motels between New York and Los Angeles. The intensity of that campaign has become the template for other labels, managers and artists, because you don’t expect a very sophisticated, cool band like Phoenix to go out there and pound the pavement. It’s a lesson to everybody to really spend the time, do the work, and you’ll have a career. There’s a contagious energy when a programmer, an editor, a writer and a TV booker can all feel that someone wants it really badly.
In 2016, I went to buy a turntable at the first Sonos retail store in New York City [at 101 Greene St. in Soho] when it opened, and they were playing Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. One of the salespeople said to me, “It’s perfect,” and I believe that by the way. The sound and sheen of it, there isn’t a bad track and every song has had its own life. You listen to AltNation or SiriusXMU, you’ll hear every song. It set them up to be a big arena and festival band, and put them at a different level. “1901” was that catalyst, and “Lisztomania” followed. In a flattering way, they’ve been copied and imitated many times since, and it has opened up doors for acts like Tame Impala and Mac DeMarco. You have to hear Phoenix in that music. By the way there’s been many cheap imitations that I won’t mention.
It was a nice turning point for our company. We were just two years old at the time, and now we’re 12. It was an era of incredible indie music from bands like The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire and MGMT. It was a fertile time, and indie rock was dominating festivals. To have a No. 1 really meant something and resonated all over the world.
A version of this article originally appeared in the March 30 issue of Billboard.