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Executive of the Week: Arthouse Publishing & Records Co-CEO Kara DioGuardi

"When you have an undeniable song it's a good place to be."

One of the biggest breakout stars of the new year has spelled her way to the top of Billboard’s global charts, as GAYLE’s “abcdefu” has spent the past four consecutive weeks at No. 1 on both the Global 200 and Global Ex-U.S. tallies.

It’s a remarkable feat for the 17-year-old artist, whose debut single, released through Arthouse/Atlantic, first started gaining buzz on TikTok before spilling over onto the charts — and taking over as the world’s biggest song well before it climbed into the top 10 stateside, where it currently resides at No. 8 on the Hot 100. And for Kara DioGuardi, the co-CEO of Arthouse Publishing and Arthouse Records, who signed GAYLE after discovering her singing at a songwriting pop-up in Nashville in 2018, it’s vindication for a series of decisions that proved to be the right ones for the song’s success.

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“We had slated another song for release thinking that ‘abcdefu’ would come later,” DioGuardi tells Billboard. “We even shot a video for the other song, but it didn’t feel right as her Atlantic debut and at the 11th hour I suggested we switch singles. I’m glad we pivoted.”

As “abcdefu” spends another week as the biggest song in the world and continues its climb up the Hot 100, DioGuardi earns the title of Billboard‘s Executive of the Week. Here, she breaks down the song’s success and the next steps for GAYLE’s career, including the young singer’s upcoming touring plans: “I believe seeing her live will really cement what a rare and powerhouse talent she is.”

GAYLE’s “abcdefu” has spent four weeks at No. 1 on both of Billboard’s global charts, making it the biggest song in the world for the past month, according to MRC Data. What key decision did you make to help make this happen?

First off, GAYLE, Sara Davis and Dave Pittenger wrote an incredible song that continues to imprint on listeners worldwide. We all fell in love with the work tape for this song, which was very stripped back. When we went to get it produced, it kept losing its magic. I suggested we switch the groove of the song and enlisted Pete Nappi to co-produce. We had slated another song for release thinking that “abcdefu” would come later. We even shot a video for the other song, but it didn’t feel right as her Atlantic debut and at the 11th hour I suggested we switch singles. I’m glad we pivoted.

The song is also up to No. 8 on the Hot 100. What strategies have helped make it a hit both in the U.S. and globally?

When you have an undeniable song it’s a good place to be. I think GAYLE has done a great job creating strong visuals and content. She’s also a real artist and a compelling performer, as seen on her Jimmy Fallon debut. Her artistry combined with a very strong Atlantic team who loves and gets her is a magical combo.

How did this song initially take off? And how much of a role did TikTok play in that?

The song first started reacting on TikTok in early November 2021. It gained a lot of momentum through TikTok, and we live in an age where that can inform further decisions. We decided to go to radio and radio has solidified what we thought we knew from the beginning — that “abdefu” is a global hit song.

Is there a strategy in how to approach TikTok, or is it about capitalizing on the attention once the algorithm takes hold?

I think TikTok is a great first stop to show whether or not people are reacting to a song and it’s definitely information that needs to be assessed as part of an overall marketing strategy.

What effect has the multiple versions had on the song’s extended success?

Different versions have increased the staying power of “abcdefu.” I think it’s also interesting to listeners to see how one song can sound so different when the production and approach vary. It also shows the depth of GAYLE’s artistry with her ability to interpret the song in so many ways.

GAYLE released followup single “ur just horny” even as “abcdefu” is still growing in streams and moving up the charts. Why release the second single while the first is still gaining?

Our single right now is “abcdefu” and we are continuing to see it grow and reach its potential. We wanted to give GAYLE’s fans another song so we released “ur just horny,” which is not an official radio single at this point.

How are you planning to build on this success moving forward?

We are continuing to release GAYLE’s music and dropping an EP in March. She’s so much more than “abcdefu.” GAYLE will be on some really great tours, too. She’s opening for Tate McRae and others, and I believe seeing her live will really cement what a rare and powerhouse talent she is.