Love them or hate them, The Chainsmokers have evolved from a DJ duo to arena act over the past number of years, and the man who introduced Alex Pall to Drew Taggart back in 2012 had a lot to do with it. Adam Alpert is the CEO of Disruptor Records and Selector Songs, and has helped build the musical empire surrounding one of the biggest duo in today’s music industry. Just three years ago he signed a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment CEO Doug Morris, launching his own record label and management company, which today boasts a host of clients including XYLO, Lost Kings, Vanic and of course, The Chainsmokers.
Fresh off their groundbreaking collaboration with Coldplay, the American duo are gearing up for another busy summer ahead, as they prepare for their upcoming album release and head on a massive North American tour, whilst also stopping off for some headlining performances at this year’s biggest festivals. Despite all the hard work that must be going on behind the scenes, manager Adam Alpert recently took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with Billboard for an insightful interview, revealing their release strategy and how their writing sessions often occur.
What are the most significant trends you’re noticing in the pop space?
The blending of genres, which is a product of the way people consume and of artists being open to experimenting with new sounds. Also, people care much more about the meaning of lyrics. The pop songs that seem to break through with real staying power are the ones with connectable lyrical content, like “Closer” or “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots.
What’s the wisdom behind your monthly release strategy?
Everybody knows music is consumed song-by-song now due to streaming. We’ve also realized that people want instant gratification. So we decided to deliver a song every four weeks to our core fan base. The strategy works very well for streaming services, because they are getting regular content, and playlist editors can help you narrate that story month to month. And they know how this artist is performing, where they’d best be placed and how to market them through their other channels. Apple Music and Spotify have been very supportive of that strategy. We’ve found that the monthly releases are causing the artist to go more viral, too. If we didn’t do that, people would forget about us during that time because there’s so much noise. I tell all my artists: If they’re not listening to you, they’re listening to somebody else.
How do The Chainsmokers write?
“Paris” is a great example. Drew had a rough lyrical idea — “We go down together” — and on a tour stop last October in Stockholm, I had invited a few writers to the show, including Kristoffer Eriksson, Fredrik Häggstam, Alesso and Sebastian Ingrosso, and a lot of our Stockholm friends came. There were so many writers and creative people in the greenroom after the show that Drew and Alex were like, “Does anyone have a studio we can go to?” Meanwhile, it’s two in the morning and everyone’s half-drunk. Drew, Kristoffer and Fredrik went to the studio, and the next day I got sent “Paris.” It just shows that a lot of it is about timing and being out of your comfort zone.
How do you translate a live DJ set into an arena setting?
The first challenge is that it’s uncharted territory. The Chainsmokers happened to have gotten their roots in dance music and DJ’ing, but as their music as evolved, so has their live show. So they’re bringing a drummer and a keyboardist on tour. There will be a percentage [of the show] performed with live instruments and a percentage that’s DJ’ing. Drew will be singing a tremendous amount of songs, and obviously we’ll have some cameos.
Some have criticized The Chainsmokers for propagating the “bro” stereotype. What is your take?
They’ve been misrepresented many times in the press. That’s all I’m going to say.
Doug Morris is about to hand over the CEO reins to Rob Stringer. How will new leadership affect Sony Music?
They are two of the greatest men I’ve ever met. I don’t know anyone in the music industry who cares more about the music itself, and that translates from the top down at this company. Doug has made Sony into an incredible powerhouse. I think Rob will do an excellent job continuing that. I’ve been lucky enough to work very closely with Rob on The Chainsmokers at Columbia Records, so we’ve become quite close and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him. I look forward to his continued mentorship.