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Executive of the Week: Billie Eilish Co-Managers Danny Rukasin and Brandon Goodman

As Billie Eilish tops the Billboard 200 for a second week with her sophomore album Happier Than Ever, her co-managers discuss parallels between her two rollouts and why physical works particularly…

For an artist like Billie Eilish, who has topped the Billboard charts, swept the Grammys and broken countless records along the way, a title such as Happier Than Ever seemed fitting for her second album — even in spite of the single tear descending the pop star’s face on the project’s cover.

When the album debuted atop the Billboard 200 last week — following in the footsteps of her acclaimed 2019 debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — Eilish had even more cause for celebration. Happier Than Ever racked up 238,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in the week ending Aug. 5, according to MRC Data, 153,000 of which were album sales, with physical sales comprising a whopping 129,000.

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The breakdown gets even more impressive. Of those physical sales, 73,000 were vinyl — a stat so large that Happier Than Ever would have topped the Billboard 200 based on vinyl sales alone. (The album was pressed on eight color variants available across independent record stores as well as big-box retailers like Target and Walmart.)

Now, in its second week on the chart, Happier Than Ever holds strong at No. 1 — becoming only the second album released this year to spend its first two weeks at the peak. Helping Eilish come out on top once again has earned her co-managers, Best Friends’ Danny Rukasin and Brandon Goodman, the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.

Here, the two discuss the parallels between Eilish’s two rollout campaigns thus far and why physical format of vinyl worked so seamlessly with the superstar’s current “golden-era aesthetic.”

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Both of Billie’s full-length albums have now debuted atop the Billboard 200. What strategies from her debut campaign did you utilize again with Happier Than Ever?

Brandon Goodman: Billie leads the way with her music and the narrative she wants to tell in every aspect of her art, and it’s our job — alongside our incredible partners at Darkroom/Interscope and Billie’s publicist, Alexandra Baker — to help bring those ideas and her vision to life in a meaningful and impactful way. The same as we did for her debut album, we worked with all the digital service providers to help create content and experiences to ensure the fans connect to Billie in ways that are special and important to them. The goal was to reach as many people as possible.

Danny Rukasin: I think the biggest thing we all learned from the first album is how we truly leaned in and worked with every partner we have that generally can help connect Billie’s music with her fans and extend the world she created around the music. Whether that’s with the DSPs or physical retail, press outlets, radio or any other partner, the goal is always to understand how we can work together with each [project] and utilize their strengths — or build something new — to shine the largest but most authentic light on the album.

Working with the Disney team [on the concert film Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles, out on Disney+ Sept. 3] has been wonderful; they are one of, if not the, biggest brands in the world and their reach is enormous on a global scale. They also know how to cultivate a “universe,” which makes them the perfect partner to work with on a film of this caliber while embracing and understanding who Billie is, and how connective her performances are.

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With vinyl sales of 73,000 in its first week, that figure alone was enough to get the album to No. 1. What key decision did you play in making that happen?

Rukasin: We all recognized how the timeless, golden-era aesthetic Billie created and intended for this album would work really well in the tangible form of vinyl, so the key decision was understanding time frames on vinyl production and having the luxury of time to plan well ahead to offer various colored vinyl to serve many different sets of fans through various distribution options.

Cassettes also had a strong showing, with 10,000 in sales. Why is it important to embrace physical formats in an album rollout today?

Rukasin: Moreso than vinyl, cassettes are truly collectibles and do mean something to fans.

What lessons or strategies from this rollout and campaign did you learn or try that you will apply to future projects?

Rukasin: I think the lesson we learned was while the concept and motif of an album visually can be specific and expandable in many ways, we also want to be sure it doesn’t pigeonhole the album and create any misconceptions or pre-conceived ideas on the music on the album as we roll out singles and videos. This album is incredible in its full form and as deep as a body of work can be. The music is modern and forward-leaning, while the visuals have a throwback, timeless, classic feel and are high-concept. Telling the story and explaining more as the campaign goes along was key. We saw that on her first album, but with this second album from an artist at Billie’s level, where expectations are high from fans and more casual audiences are diving back with new music, you have to execute it even more carefully.

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What has been the biggest challenge about being a manager through a pandemic?

Rukasin: Not being able to tour and perform in front of fans on a larger scale is the biggest challenge. Billie has such an incredible relationship with and cares for her fans. It’s one thing when she and her fans are home and connecting via social media, but it’s a very different and beautiful thing to see when she can be in the same space in real life, perform the music and share a special experience with them. The fact she sold out her 2022 world arena tour in hours is a clear indication of the appetite her fans have to be under the same roof with Billie again.

Goodman: Artists can put out tons of music, release supporting content and even host livestreams, but there is nothing as exciting for both an artist and their fans as the connection they feel during a live concert.

Aside from Billie’s chart-topping second album, what are some other recent wins you guys have had?

Goodman: We were very pleased with the reception of the RJ Cutler-directed documentary, Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry. It humanized Billie and reminded viewers and fans that although what she is going through is quite rare, she still experiences the same challenges and emotions that other teens experience. I think it was especially important for her fans and their parents to see that.

Rukasin: I think being able to announce and sell out a headline arena tour in North America, the U.K. and Europe, especially during a pandemic, is a major win. Everyone had a slew of challenges last year when everything shut down, but we were three shows into her first arena tour and had to postpone, then eventually cancel everything. It was devastating to everyone, especially Billie, so to be able to come back and be able to do it again is incredible.