For the past several weeks, big albums from heavyweight artists have consistently raised the bar for the biggest debut week of 2022 so far: first Future, then Bad Bunny, then Kendrick Lamar, each of which set high-water marks with their latest albums. But Harry Styles’ Harry’s House didn’t just raise that bar to a new level — having moved 521,500 equivalent album units in the U.S. in its first week, it became just the fourth album in the past 18 months to pass the 500,000 mark in a single week, and the first since Adele’s 30 moved 839,000 in its first week last fall.
It’s a testament to both the singular star power of Styles — with four songs from the album in the Hot 100’s top 10, he becomes the first British solo artist to achieve that feat, and only the second British act, behind the Beatles — and a marketing and promotion campaign that included a digital house for fans to explore, a music video shot with James Corden and a fun tie-in with the album title with Harry appearing on the cover of the magazine Better Homes & Gardens, among other things. And the work certainly paid off: Not only did Harry’s House fly in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, it set a modern-day record for most vinyl sales in a single week (182,000), while lead single “As It Was” has spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and even longer atop both of Billboard’s global charts. And it helps Columbia Records executive vp of marketing Erika Alfredson earn the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
Here, Alfredson — who also led the marketing campaign for Adele’s 30, among others — discusses the work that went into helping Harry’s House achieve such milestones. “This is his most personal and freest album to date,” she says. “You can tell he had so much fun making it and we had a blast bringing it to life.”
This week, Harry Styles’ Harry’s House debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 521,500 equivalent album units in the U.S., becoming just the fourth album in the past 18 months to pass the 500,000 mark in a single week. What key decision did you make to help make this happen?
From the beginning, this has been a huge team effort between Harry, Full Stop [Management] and Columbia. We knew we needed a campaign that was going to serve his core fan base, as well as speak to a more mainstream audience that has been building throughout the last two album campaigns. This is his most personal and freest album to date — you can tell he had so much fun making it and we had a blast bringing it to life.
This is also the biggest week for an album since Adele’s 30 debuted last year, which you also worked on. How did the marketing campaigns for those two differ?
They differ enormously because each marketing campaign was crafted around the specific music and album narrative delivered by the artist. If I were to point to a similarity between the two, it would be the team’s ability to facilitate creative global campaigns highlighting the core themes of each album.
Harry’s House set the modern-day record for most vinyl sales in a single week, with 182,000 copies. What role does vinyl play for an artist like Harry Styles, and why is it so important?
Vinyl is becoming increasingly important across the entire music marketplace. Harry has an immensely dedicated and wide-reaching fanbase. For them, a piece of vinyl becomes a keepsake. It is a different experience than any kind of digital listening can provide. It’s tangible — the pictures, the lyrics, the limited collectability, as we did multiple vinyl color variations.
His single “As It Was” not only leads the Hot 100 this week for a fourth time, but it’s also No. 1 on both of Billboard’s global charts. What was the global plan for this release?
We knew this first song launch was going to set the tone for the entire album campaign. Harry delivered a very personal song and video, which the team paired alongside consistent touchpoints for fan engagement. This allowed us to create a runway of excitement heading into the single and album launch. From there it was about execution and consistency.
From filming a music video with James Corden to Harry appearing on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens, how did you decide who to partner with in rolling out this album?
Harry and James have a long-standing relationship. That piece was so fun because of their special history. Better Homes & Gardens was unexpected and played not only to his fan base but to the narrative of the campaign. Earned media on a unique idea — that’s the vibe here.
How did marketing change in the pandemic, and what lessons from that period can you take with you and apply to future campaigns moving forward?
We were competing for attention online — all traditional marketing avenues were simply gone. What came of that was the mandate — if you are lucky enough to get someone’s attention, you better make that moment worth it. Focus on great music, A-plus content, and a quality narrative — make the moment count.