The past month, the top 10 of the Billboard 200 has contained some familiar faces: Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and Tyler, the Creator, to name a few. But it has also included another name not so used to being in the upper region of the main music albums chart: Bo Burnham, whose comedy-music album Inside: The Songs has held steady in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 in four of the five full weeks since its release — only dipping out once to No. 11 — and coming in at No. 8 this week.
The album, released by Imperial/Republic, is the first comedy album to reach that region since 2015, and is a particular triumph for Tyler Arnold, the Republic Records executive vp A&R who is usually more associated with his work with Post Malone, whom he signed in 2015, or Metro Boomin, with whom he inked a joint venture for his Boominati Worldwide label in 2017. But Arnold, who caught Burnham’s Netflix special Inside, from which the album was pulled, saw an opportunity and brought the 30-year-old comedian to Republic — helping earn himself the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
“The reviews were incredible, and everyone was posting about the special, but no one realized the music wasn’t available,” Arnold tells Billboard. “Within hours we assembled an incredible team internally around Bo and we created a plan to get the music out ASAP.”
Bo Burnham’s Inside (The Songs) is back up to No. 8 on the Billboard 200, its fourth week in the top 10 and the first comedy album to reach that mark since 2015. What key decision did you make to help make that happen?
I reached out to Bo and his team a couple days after Inside launched. I kept going back to Netflix to listen to the music. The reviews were incredible, and everyone was posting about the special, but no one realized the music wasn’t available. Within hours we assembled an incredible team internally around Bo and we created a plan to get the music out ASAP.
How did you decide to sign Bo’s comedy special in the first place? Did you have to convince him to sign to a record label?
I was on Netflix one night and decided to watch his new special. After the first few scenes, I was so blown away that I paused it and immediately emailed his team. They didn’t have a partner for the music yet and after a few meetings, we realized that our goals and vision aligned for the project. I’ve been a fan of Bo’s work for years and he’s always had a musical element to his comedy, but nothing like this. I really believed we could make a difference.
How is the deal different than signing a music artist? And does it cover more works moving forward, or just this album?
It’s been an honor to work with Bo on this project and we’re excited at the prospect of many more projects together in the future. For an album like this, we had to be more nimble and move faster. We released the project a day after the deal was signed to take advantage of all the momentum.
What has the label done to get behind the album?
Our top priority has been not to compromise Bo’s vision for the project. The music and creative stands for itself, so our biggest objective has been to educate our partners and find new opportunities for the music. Whether it’s streaming activations, viral social moments, or song edits, we bring Bo a ton of ideas and let him decide what feels right.
Did you expect this album to do so well for so long?
Bo created a masterpiece with Inside — I’ve probably watched it 10 times now — but it’s impossible to predict what it’s turned into. It feels like this project has become the zeitgeist of pop culture at the moment.
Is the comedy route one where you see room for the label to expand? Would we see more of these types of deals in the future?
I would love to work more in comedy. It requires you to think differently and it’s allowed me to work with amazing creatives from different backgrounds. As a kid, I bought some really influential comedy albums and I think this genre should continue to get more attention and credit.
With topical songs like “Bezos I” rising in streams after Jeff Bezos’ flight to space, how can you promote and work a comedy album differently than you would something else?
We’ve had to think outside the box. The song is 58 seconds long, so many of the traditional promotion strategies don’t apply. Between various digital activations and viral moments, we’ve continued to educate people on the importance of this project and song in pop culture today.