Tyler, The Creator’s sixth album, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, was a smash hit upon its release: 169,000 equivalent album units, the single week highest of his career; a second straight No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and sixth straight top five; and a promotional campaign that included a performance at the BET Awards and several well-received music videos.
It also was another release from the artist that came bundled with an innovative marketing plan, helped by a rollout featuring a phone number that fans could call to receive personalized messages from Tyler, which followed the VOTE IGOR campaign that Tyler waged for his prior album, the Grammy Award-winning IGOR. Its success, following the similar chart-topping success of Polo G and his first Billboard 200 No. 1 Hall of Fame three weeks ago, earns Columbia Records senior vp marketing Jay Schumer the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
Here, Schumer talks about Tyler’s creativity as an artist and pitch man, the impact of physical releases and box sets, which both Tyler and Polo G utilized extensively, and how marketing has changed over the course of his career. “Fans have a lot of things they could be doing at any given moment,” he says, “so you better be giving them a really good reason to give you their attention.”
Tyler, The Creator’s CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week with 169,000 equivalent album units, the highest mark of his career. What key decisions did you make to help make that happen?
The success of this album comes first and foremost from having an artist like Tyler who is one-of-a-kind and has continued to grow with every release. It is a privilege for our team to get to collaborate with Tyler and his team to build out the worlds he imagines around each album and bring them to life online and offline. A lot of factors played a role, including how and when we started the campaign, how we engaged fans, how we got partners involved and invested early, how the content was timed, and of course, how incredibly great the album is.
What was the marketing plan for the release, and how did it differ from his previous projects?
I don’t think the words “Tyler, The Creator” and “marketing plan” belong in the same sentence. Tyler is on another level and deserving of a team that does not think traditionally. He not only creates all of the music, but all of the visual assets that ultimately define each album. For us, the fun part is thinking of all of the ways that we can take the concepts and the creative and further build out the world. On IGOR, we took the VOTE IGOR concept and the aesthetic of the character and brought them to life in multiple ways.
It was no different with CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST where a phone number was tied to the campaign which fans could call and get constantly changing messages that Tyler fully owned. As it went along, the messages helped tell the story of the album that fans were about to hear — a classic rap album that celebrates the experiences that Tyler has been able to have because of his success, and encourages fans to get lost and never stop exploring.
The release included a limited number of cassettes and CDs with exclusive bonus cuts, as well as with box sets with other merch, all sold on his web store. How important is D2C and physical packages like this in rolling out an album these days?
Merch and other physical products are undoubtedly important, because they’re tangible extensions of the campaign that gives it more depth and are things that fans want and identify with. For someone like Tyler, merch is also an important part of the visual world that surrounds the music. That said, it should be pointed out that this was by far Tyler’s highest streaming album, and he would have had the No. 1 album with or without physical configurations — and vinyl was not available.
This week, Polo G’s album Hall of Fame spent its third week in the top five on the chart, after becoming his first No. 1 album three weeks ago. At a time when so many releases make a big splash and then fade, how have you kept the momentum for that album so strong?
How you start is usually a good gauge as to how things are going to hold up, so we make sure all the pieces are in place for the biggest possible launch. Polo is an incredibly gifted artist and storyteller, and the power of his words allows fans to connect with him as an artist in a truly deep way. And while he’s much bigger, and his creative has been elevated, he’s still Polo G and has not lost any of his relatability. Our team works very closely with Polo and his team, and through a combination of content, press, features, radio exposure and much more, he has continued to be everywhere with another album that fans keep coming back to.
What are the key principles to a successful marketing plan at this point in the music business?
Get fans invested in the artist, release great music and find every possible way to expose it to new audiences. It applies to every artist. Look at one of my favorite new artists of ours, Cochise. He’s singular and exceptional and started with a relatively small but very engaged base. We’ve worked together to super-serve the base, ensuring each release has been bigger than the last, until one day everything comes together, a great song explodes, and a new talent is recognized.
How has the marketing world evolved over the course of your career?
Too much to possibly summarize, but fans have a lot of things they could be doing at any given moment, so you better be giving them a really good reason to give you their attention.