As 2021 draws to a close, it would be an understatement to say that Columbia Records has a steady stream of hits. As of press time, typeHitmakers Label of the Year, led by Chairman and CEO Ron Perry (pictured left) and Executive Vice President and General Manager Jenifer Mallory (right), was in the top three on Mediabase’s Top 40 list (Lil Nas X’s “” Industry Baby”) featuring Jack Harlow, Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” and Adele’s “Easy on Me”). It was followed by Polo G (“Rapstar”), Lil Tjay (“Calling My Phone” with 6lack) and 24kGoldn (“Mood” with Iann Dior, released with Barry Weiss’ record label), all These all make the top 25 for 2021.
The company’s ability to bring multiple new artists to the fore is a testament to the leadership of its CEO, who helped build the company as an equity partner after the sale of Songs Music Publishing and later to Sony Music in January 2018. Mallory spent nine years at Sony, working in international marketing and eventually becoming executive vice president, proving to be the perfect partner for the label’s newbie.
“We’ve been working together for three years, and now it’s all coming together,” said New York-based Mallory (Perry is a Dual Coast native). “We have great artists and great teams.”
Indeed, entertainers like Lil Nas X (who could easily be classed as a hit after Old Town Road) and Kid Laroi (Perry signed him when he was 15) have an enviable development story. industry. Lil Nas X’s sexy and bold “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” debuts on the Billboard Hot 100, accompanied by arguably the most memorable video of 2021 (until he’s a close follower, making the jaw-dropping “Industry Baby”), while “Stay” has now surpassed 1 billion streams and topped the global charts.
Lil Nas X’s Perry said, “I think what we’ve done really well is help artists be their best selves. The song, the album, the idea — it’s a whole cultural moment that’s always on his mind.” Ma Lowry added, “‘Montero’ helped Nas figure out who he was as an artist. When you speak your truth and articulate it, we’re here.”
While many executives are happy to take credit for building key collaborations, Perry revealed that LaRoy alone has earned Bieber’s contribution to “Stay.” “[Laroi] He hasn’t released a song of his own since October 2020, and everyone knew pretty well how big ‘Stay’ would be, so it was the obvious choice for him to come back with a single,” Perry said, adding a The full-length version of Laroi will be available in 2022.
Even though Columbia thought “staying” was a home run from the start, La Roy launched a Twitter campaign urging fans to bomb Perry to release it as soon as possible. He also persuaded Perry to perform diving at an August show in New York’s Irving Plaza.
“It’s funny,” Mallory said, adding, “The coolest thing about Ron is that he’s not from the big-label system. He came in here and was like, ‘Why the fuck did you do that? That’s it? What’s going on on the edge? It’s great to have a new perspective on things. It allows us to break out of old paradigms.”
No kidding: Perry is one of the rare record label executives credited as a writer and producer on one of his label’s hits, BTS’ “Butter.” The song’s 2022 Grammy nomination is the icing on the cake, even though the K-pop group will no longer be released by Sony. Speaking of BTS joining Universal Music Group, Perry said: “Columbia and Orchard are proud of our four years of working with BTS. We have put out five number one songs and several number one albums. From a creative perspective Judging by the fact that Columbia was involved in four of the five No. 1s (“Butter”, “Dynamite”, “Savage Love” remixes, “Permission to Dance”). Most of these songs are in my home studio Done. We made great friends at Big Hit and are proud of the history we made with K-pop. We wish BTS all the best.”
Closing out 2021 with Adele’s first album in six years, 30, is “a really cool way to end the year,” Mallory added with a laugh. “The album is incredibly beautiful, and she wants it to be perceived, consumed and taken up at the same time. Marketing is difficult even in this day and age because it’s hard to find partners who can help you do that.”
Enter CBS, whose vintage “Adele: Just One Night” special, featuring a performance from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and an interview with Oprah Winfrey, is the most-watched since the Oscars entertainment activities. “A lot of artists wouldn’t think something like this would make sense to them, but that sets her apart,” Mallory said.
Perry added: “She’s the greatest singer in the world. When you watch Adele perform, it takes you to a different place.”
When asked about the rumored 2022 album by Beyoncé and Harry Styles, Perry and Mallory objected (“Please let’s finish 2021 first! We’re not done yet!” Perry said ) but did confirm that Spanish star Rosalia will release her Colombian debut early next year. “We had a great year and when you set the bar so high, you have to come back and continue to be successful ,” Perry said. “We’re ready for that.”
Dream Team: Columbia University staff move the needle
Erika Alfredson, Co-Head of Marketing/Executive Vice President
Now in her 10th year with the brand, Alfredson has brainstormed a pole-dancing competition and coordinated an LGBTQ-focused marketing plan around “Montero (call me by your name)” while inciting Controversy surrounding Lil Nas X’s “Satan” shoes. She also handled important early launch details such as the trailer, trailer, and live performance for Kid Laroi’s “Stay.”
Phylicia Fant, Director of Urban Music
In his third year at Columbia University after serving as vice president at UMG and Warner, Fant was the key to helping Lil Nas X craft an authentic message around the controversial “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” video. “He published an op-ed talking directly to fans to let them know he was proud of his growth and wanted them to be a part of the journey,” she said. For 24kGoldn’s “Mood,” she paired the artist with an athletic trainer “to ensure the performance is as impactful as the record.”
Joe Gallo, Senior Vice President of Sales
Gallo and his cross-strait team are busier than ever in 2021, turning the early hit of Polo G’s “Rapstar” into a debut on the Billboard Hot 100. For Kid Laroi’s “Stay,” Gallo helped develop a plan for forecasting metrics. Between release strategies, alternate releases and direct-to-consumer campaigns, the song topped the charts for seven straight weeks.
Peter Gray, Executive Vice President/Director of Outreach
Perry’s instructions to Gray were to break the hits, and that’s exactly what the major label promotional vets did. Kid Laroi’s “Stay” is the longest running top 40 in Mediabase history for 11 weeks. Meanwhile, “Mood” topped the three radio formats, and “Montero (call me by your name)” topped Lil Nas X’s first pop radio broadcast chart. “A great song with a great team is always a winning combination,” said Gray, who coordinated a bus tour during COVID to bring BTS’s “butter” to radio show directors across the country.
Saul Levitz, VP of Video Production
Multi-Grammy winner Leviitz pays tribute to Perry and Mallory for “trusting in Lil Nas X’s vision” and having team put “Montero (call me by your name)” video to play to the extreme”. He also gave a shout out to Polo G’s “Rapstar” video for eschewing the “hyper-cut aesthetic” in favor of “lyric-centric vignettes” that bring fans into the rapper’s everyday life. As for “call me on the phone,” Levitz said, “We love being able to combine the talents of Lil Tjay and 6lack into a video that meets both their aesthetic and the audience’s needs.”
Shahendra Ohneswere, Co-Head/Senior Vice President of Digital Marketing and Content Development
Ohneswere is now a third-year Roc Nation senior at Columbia University, leading the content side of the digital marketing team. For each of the label’s biggest hits in 2021, he said, “Our approach is to make each song more dynamic and grander than anything these artists have put out before, but also without a big footprint before. A place to build community.” Ohneswere, who worked closely with VP John Salcedo, also brought Lil Nas X into the gaming world with “Twerk Hero: A Dance Game,” a game set to “Montero (Call by Your Name) i)” mobile game.
John Salcedo, VP of Digital Marketing
The eight-year Sony veteran puts fans first every day to “create a world for them they can be a part of,” whether that means joining a Lil Tjay group chat on Instagram or watching for Lil Nas X to social media feedback. With those performances and great performances from Polo G and The Kid Laroi, “fans assumed they were hits from the start. We just noticed.”
Jay Schumer, Co-Head of Marketing/Executive Vice President
Starting as a sales coordinator, Schumer spent 23 years at his parent company Sony Music and still makes a living by “learning new things every day.” He’s especially proud of the campaign around “Rapstar,” which began with Polo G teasing an acoustic performance online a few months before its release. “The combination of immediate social engagement and engaging content at launch generated a lot of excitement,” he said. “Even though the official video is down, the trailer is still trending.”
Manos Xanthogeorgis, Co-Head/Senior Vice President of Digital Marketing and Media
Colombia’s performances are “more than just musicians, lyricists and performers,” said Xanthogeorgis, who has now worked at Sony for 11 years. “We want our marketing to be as multi-layered as the talent and star power of our artists. All we do is get people to stop doing what they’re doing and focus.” In his view, “Lil Nas X and Polo It doesn’t hurt that G could be a critically acclaimed novelist or poet from a different era, as well as a famous movie or play star from 24kGoldn, Lil Tjay and Kid Laroi.”