Apple Music has long been a big supporter of Billie Eilish. Now, it thinks the 17-year-old’s debut album may prove to be a milestone in the evolution of the album’s relationship with streaming services.
MBW can today reveal that Eilish’s debut LP – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? released on Darkroom/Interscope next week (March 29) – has already clocked up over 800,000 ‘pre-adds’ worldwide on Apple Music, shattering the all-time record on the service.
‘Pre-adds’ represent individual Apple Music subscribers voluntarily registering their interest in a full album ahead of its release, by scheduling its arrival on their personal account.
According to Apple Music boss Oliver Schusser, the sheer volume of pre-adds for When We All Fall Asleep… not only shows the global potential of the record, but also indicates a sea change in how the music industry should monitor excitement around a yet-to-be-released album.
“While most services focus the majority of their efforts around playlists, Apple Music still emphasizes albums because we understand their value as a storytelling tool for artists to create context around their music.”
Oliver Schusser, Apple
Speaking exclusively to MBW, Schusser, Head of Apple Music worldwide, said: “While most services focus the majority of their efforts around playlists, Apple Music still emphasizes albums because we understand their value as a storytelling tool for artists to create context around their music.
“To that end, pre-adds are great early indicators of engagement around an artist and the intention of the fans. To actively pre-add an album, much like the pre-order we invented with iTunes, means that the fan is excited about the content and wants to be among the first to enjoy it the moment its available. That kind of engagement is very valuable to an artist and to us.”
He added: “For Billie in particular it’s really exciting because she is such a big part of the Apple artist community and someone the whole company has really rallied around. It’s amazing to see the positive reaction from our subscribers.”
Apple’s relationship with Billie Eilish dates back to SXSW in March 2017, when the company hosted the artist’s showcase at its bespoke Apple Music house in Austin, Texas. From there, Eilish was named an Apple Music ‘Up Next’ artist in September 2017, before being featured in ‘on-air’ interviews with Beats 1 DJs like Matt Wilkinson.
Beats 1 talisman Zane Lowe picked Eilish’s Lovely as his ‘World Record’ in April 2018, opening the floodgates to a wealth of support which since has included Beats 1 premieres, music video reveals, and another ‘World Record’ honor for single Come Out and Play – which was itself commissioned by Apple to be written for a holiday commercial last year. Eilish even hosted her own show on Beats 1, Groupies Have Feelings Too, from May 2018 onwards.
Meanwhile, artist development company Platoon, which was officially acquired by Apple last year, signed Eilish to a distribution and services deal way back in January 2016, when she was just 14 years old. Towards the end of that same year, Eilish signed to John Janick at Interscope Records and Justin Lubliner at Darkroom on a JV global label deal.
Steve Berman, Vice Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M, told MBW: “These pre-add numbers are incredibly exciting for Billie, and a real validation of everything we – the artist, Darkroom, Apple and Interscope – have worked together on over the last three years.
“It’s the culmination of a tremendous amount of passion and work, which amplifies the importance of the artists’ vision, not to mention the art of the album. Internally, hearing these [Apple pre-add] results, it makes us all incredibly proud – and it makes us want to work that much harder, because we can see exactly what the opportunity is.”
“These pre-add numbers are incredibly exciting for Billie, and a real validation of everything we – the artist, Darkroom, Apple and Interscope – have worked together on over the last three years.”
Steve Berman, Interscope
Added Berman: “We often talk about Apple as a company – it’s one of the largest corporations on the planet, after all – but it’s people that really matter, and Apple’s people are very passionate about music and artists.
“They stepped out very early on Billie; I remember when we got the Up Next, thinking, ‘Wow, this is really early for Apple to be [doing this].’ But they were just so passionate about her as an artist and for the opportunity.
“Apple has created multiple meaningful ways for us to all work together in continuing to build Billie’s story as an artist. That belief, working closely with the team here, Justin and her management, has been very powerful.”
Eilish is now winning plaudits as a true artist proposition. None other than Dave Grohl recently paid her the extraordinary compliment of likening the “connection that she has with her audience” to Nirvana’s relationship with its fans in the early ’90s.
This rather flies in the face of a common modern criticism of music streaming services: that these platforms don’t place enough context around an artist to make their personalities, rather than just their songs, truly memorable.
That might be true for some services, suggests Schusser, but, like Zane Lowe, he believes Apple is marking itself out as a “storyteller” in the streaming space.
“Anyone who says [streaming platforms are breaking tracks, not artists] is simply not paying attention,” says Schusser. “Some of the biggest artists on the planet right now – people like Post Malone and Cardi B or the hugely popular BTS – exploded because of streaming; they are household names all over the world. The list goes on and on and across every level of artist, spanning all genres.”
“Anyone who says [streaming platforms are breaking tracks, not artists] is simply not paying attention…”
Oliver Schusser, Apple
Speaking about Eilish in particular, Schusser says: “Billie is not just wildly talented, she actually has something to say. It’s rare that you come across such a young artist with such a strong point of view, a unique identity and a strong sense of self. We knew she would be someone that our listeners would quickly gravitate towards.”
He adds: “Apple has always given creators platforms to connect with audiences around the world and the space and freedom to be creative. It goes to the core of who we are as a company.
“The sky is the limit for Billie. She is only just getting started.”Music Business Worldwide