News Unbreakable World Tour

BMG exec: “We have a 3-year plan for Janet”

In an interview with Hits Daily Double, BMG executive Jon Cohen has revealed the publishing house’s commitment to Unbreakable and that they have formulated a three year plan with Janet that extends “beyond music”, including “multimedia, different specials, initiatives and projects”.

The interview in full below:

How did this partnership happen? Who signed it, and how did the story begin?
About a year and a half ago, Zach Katz, our Chief Creative Officer, met with several producers who have worked with Janet and told them about the new way BMG was doing business. Janet was intrigued by the model and she was intrigued by Zach’s creative force, so she came in and met with the executives and Hartwig. She really liked the vibe; she felt that this could be a home for Rhythm Nation and that we could do a really good job for her.

This Janet album has a more mature vibe, and she’s back with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who are the original architects of her sound. What did she want to accomplish with this release?
I think Janet’s goal—and again, she’s a mega-superstar—was to make uncompromising music, to do so in 2015 and put out what is just an incredible body of work and not be so focused on, “Hey, you’ve got to be at Pop radio immediately. You have to be here. You have to be there.” Of course, everyone at BMG wants to be #1 and is always striving for that, but what she really wanted was a team that wasn’t committed to something for weeks one, two and three; She wanted a team for the next 18 months to two and three years. And we have a three-year plan with Janet. It’s not just about this record, and the plan goes well beyond music. Bertelsmann is a hugely diversified company, from books to media, and we’ve been talking since the get-go about multiple initiatives with Team Janet. So she wanted someone who was not going to look at this in the short-term, but really look at what Janet Jackson is in 2015, 2016, 2017, and how she wants to express herself. And she wanted a company with a broad enough canvas to paint that picture.

Part of that, I would imagine, is the tour, which is doing great. Can you talk a little about that?
The touring is all Janet; we do the recorded music with her, but we’re wholly vested in how well it does. Live Nation and WMEhave been absolutely blown away. They’re on their third leg already, and sales into next May and June of next year are already staggering.

You’ve also developed a notable radio story with the success of “No Sleeep.”
It’s her first single, and it’s been at #1 for six weeks and counting at Urban AC, which is a record for her. It’s the longest-running single in her career since 1998. “No Sleeep” is a brilliant song, a great collaboration with J. Cole, and that it’s a #1 success is proof that we’ve worked it to the right format.

And her Missy Elliott collaboration is your next single, right?
She has “Burn It Up” coming with Missy Elliot, an amazing club burner and all-around great song. We’ll do the same thing—surround it at radio where it’s suitable. We’ll also work “Unbreakable” back to Urban AC and anticipate that’ll be at the top, so radio is obviously one component. Janet has been a megastar and has more #1s than I can count; radio is obviously still a component, but in 2015 it’s not all about that, so the three-year plan is about multimedia, different specials, initiatives and projects, none of which I can talk about yet.

Are there any special things coming up that you can discuss?
Janet turns 49 this year, meaning she has a milestone birthday next year, so there’s a big story to tell. I think there will be other things surrounding the tour itself, and the three-year-plus Janet plan will be all about Unbreakable, but I think it will also blossom into other things.


Billboard: Inside Janet Jackson’s Comeback Gamble

The following article is taken from Billboard Magazine and talks about Janet’s upcoming album and perceptions from within her camp.

It’s clear from the article that the project is a “slow burner” with legs to run for several months and that the introduction of No Sleeep was intended to be a soft launch.

Inside Janet Jackson’s Comeback Gamble and the Hurdle of the ‘Aging Diva’ Stereotype

Ageism? hardly. With tour tickets selling briskly and a new album bringing major buzz, the 49-year-old bucks the trend.

Time can be cruel to the female pop star rounding 50. No matter how little her talent might diminish, under the spotlight’s glare, critics gleefully count ­wrinkles and listen for pitchy vocals in a way that rarely happens with male artists. Just askMadonna, 56, or 45-year-old Mariah Carey, whose journeys into middle age have been ­challenging at best. Britney Spears, 33, Jennifer Lopez, 46, Celine Dion, 47, and Shania Twain, 49, already have taken the Vegas route. (Granted, Cher at 69 seems immune, but she’s the exception to most rules.) Can Janet Jackson, at 49, avoid the syndrome?

She’s off to a strong start. Since a May 16 online tease of “new music, new world tour, a new movement,” Jackson has rapidly reeled off news about the launch of her own Rhythm Nation Records (a worldwide partnership with BMG), her first studio album in seven years and the initial two legs of a world tour, starting Aug. 31.

Jackson’s new single, “No Sleeep,” rose to No. 5 in its second week on Billboard’sAdult R&B airplay chart — her first top five hit on that tally in 11 years — and the song will get added sizzle when the album version, featuring red-hot rapper J. Cole, goes to radio on July 23. But most of all, her 65-date Unbreakable Tour is selling tickets at a blazing clip. According to promoter Live Nation, 88 percent of the tickets on the trek’s first leg (Aug. 31 to Nov. 15) were purchased two weeks after going on sale; nearly 80 percent of the tickets for the second leg (Jan. 12 to March 9) were gone in two days.

After a long lukewarm period, it seems the world wants Janet Jackson back. Still, by diva standards, the Janet rollout has had a relatively low profile so far. Why? “I think there’s a desperation to a lot of the older divas,” says Jon Cohen, evp of recorded music at BMG US. “They’ve got to hit it out of the park. With Janet, if she doesn’t put out a cross-format smash right out of the box, people think it isn’t a success, but that’s not it. This was completely calculated.”

Indeed, initial talk of a “multiple Janet projects occurring simultaneously” goes back at least to 2010, according to one source who was working with Jackson at the time. Back then, she was managed by Kenneth Crear and it seemed that new music was imminent, having built up “so much good will” over the years that “you just had to mention her name, it didn’t even have to be anything of substance, and people would go ape-s—t.”

But then, following a 2011 No. 1s tour, Jackson effectively pulled a vanishing act, ­marrying Qatari ­billionaire Wissam Al Mana in 2012 and shelving those very endeavors for what, to longtime fans, seemed like an eternity. Enter Kathy Ireland. The model/­businesswoman took a vested interest in Jackson’s career through Sterling/Winters, Jackson’s ­management company, which is owned by Kathy Ireland Worldwide and run by ­president/COO Stephen Roseberry. Sharing management duties are Jaime Mendoza and Jessica Davenport of JDJ Entertainment, who, as a group, negotiated with BMG to lock down a recording budget for Jackson (to the tune of at least $500,000, according to an insider) along with a sizable marketing spend.

Alternative financing models are becoming the norm even for heritage artists once used to grandiose paydays. Jackson herself landed a record-breaking $32 million deal with Virgin Records in 1991. Nine years later, Carey commanded an $80 ­million contract for four albums. But Carey signed to Epic earlier this year for a more modest advance of $2 million, according to sources. Speaking to Billboard in May, Epic chairman L.A. Reid laid out the lay of the land: For Carey “to even be on the radio at this point in her career is a huge accomplishment,” he said. “Because radio doesn’t cater to veteran artists or legends. Radio caters to in-the-moment stars.”

So what is a Janet Jackson album worth in 2015? She’s one of the most successful artists in pop history, having sold some 20 million albums in the SoundScan era, which began five years after her 1986 breathrough, Control. During that time, she’s also notched 10 Hot 100 No. 1s (through 2001) and 27 top 10 singles overall, tying her with Carey and Elton John. Her last album, 2008’s Discipline, has moved a respectable but hardly blockbuster 456,000 units, according to Nielsen Music. Her Number Ones package released in 2009, meanwhile, has moved 273,000 units.

BMG, which is ­providing ­marketing and promotion while the singer retains ownership of the recordings, declines to reveal specifics about Jackson’s ­licensing deal, but an insider familiar with the company’s contracts says BMG tends to favor “small-money, short-term deals.” In Jackson’s case: no advance but an attractive back-end (a 50/50 split).

The investment saw the singer through the last seven months of round-the-clock production with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for an album that is eyeing a late September release.

Adds Cohen: “The project needs a level of money to protect it. Janet and her camp are extremely aware that it’s 2015 — ­everyone is realistic about what record-selling and streaming mean in this era. Janet was very fair about the deal.”

It’s about the long view, says former Virgin president Phil Quartararo, who has a hand in steering Jackson’s current career path as a member of her extended “team,” and that means life for an artist beyond the “pop silo.” Jackson, he says, “has had such a vast career in music, TV and film; she’s not your average pop star. We’re going to work this record for a long time. It’s not something that’s going to come and go.”

A version this article first appeared in the Aug. 1 issue of Billboard.