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MAPPING OUT BILLIE’S
CONTENT OVERLOAD


The morning after its 3/29 release, Billie Eilish’s debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, was #1 on iTunes in 60 countries, #1 on Apple Music in 80 countries and had six tracks in the Top 10 on Spotify’s Global chart. How did team Darkroom/Interscope achieve global dominance without a traditional hit by music-biz standards?

Upon signing the then-14-year-old prodigy off of only one song and video for “ocean eyes,” Darkroom founder Justin Lubliner knew from the start that Billie would be a “project-based artist.” Eilish’s Don’t Smile at Me EP was given a slow, focused rollout that lasted a year, building up to “lovely,” a pivotal track featuring Khalid while he was breaking as a mainstream artist that landed a huge sync on Netflix’s teen drama 13 Reasons Why. The label delicately paired each song from the EP with a creative video not giving any one track more attention than another and let Billie captivate fans with her visuals.

With Spotify championing Billie very early in her career, and Apple joining by pinning Eilish as an Up Next artist in mid-2017, the Darkroom/Interscope team focused on four main global partners: Spotify, Apple, Amazon and YouTube. “Billie has a special connectivity with her fans—it’s beyond a song,” IGA EVP/Chief Revenue Officer Gary Kelly explains. “It was never the intent to release the music with the intent of radio.” Once a song was married to a visual, Kelly’s team of account managers worked with the big four global partners, among others, to target fans and track how Billie’s content was spread and digested.

Along with the streaming partners—who “took a leap of faith with us and started programming these outside-the-box, left-of-center songs in places where pop songs would normally be,” as Lubliner marvels—there was a firm belief that Billie’s connection with fans would lead to sales. “Pop artists that stick have a special connectivity with fans. They stream and sell albums,” Kelly adds.

From 2017 onward, Eilish provided her fans with an onslaught of content through her songs, captivating videos, energetic performances and even a Spotify-branded “Experience,” with art installations for all 14 tracks from her debut album. The content overload led to traditional commercial partners wanting to be involved in Billie-mania.

“Every move we made was about giving Billie’s music the right platform and path to exposure, rather than surrounding her with a marketing plan that didn’t feel true to her aesthetic,” Marketing Director Hannah Gold confirms. “The whole team has always been so sensitive to that, and we’re lucky because Billie has such great intuition about her career arc. So we follow her lead, but at the same time challenging ourselves to present the right ideas. Watching the whole thing really snowball over the last six months or so, and seeing how many people have felt such a connection to her, has been amazing to experience.” 

Urban Outfitters and Target came in as partners for exclusive merch carriers, as well as physical album (vinyl, cassette and CD) carriers. Adobe has partnered with Eilish to challenge fans to create Billie-inspired content within its platform. Apple Music offered exclusive Takashi Murakami/Billie Eilish merchandise in a collaboration with streetwear vet Don C, leading up to the WWAFAWDWG. This is the first time merchandise has been offered within Apple Music for an artist.

All these partnerships and platforms, along with Billie’s rabid fan base, have combined to prop up Eilish to global pop acclaim not usually attained by artists without a radio smash. She’s selling physical and digital albums, streaming albums and songs, moving merch and selling out shows all over the world. The 17-year-old has built her brand on content consumption, and the campaign is just beginning.

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TUESDAY
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