Def Jam’s Approach to Marketing Logic’s No. 1 Album: Stay Out of the Way

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Sometimes the best thing a record label can do is to step back and let the artist do their thing. It’s an approach that’s paid off bigtime with this week’s No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, “Everybody,” by Logic — a.k.a. 27-year-old Gaithersburg, Maryland, native Sir Robert Bryson Hall II.

“Everybody” is a hard-hitting autobiographical concept record that highlights Logic’s upbringing as the son of an African-American father and white mom who were both addicted to drugs and alcohol. And while the album takes aim at his parents (“Take It Back”), politics (criticizing Kanye West, an admitted hero, for supporting Donald Trump in “America”) and teen suicide (“1-800-273-8255”), its title track and songs like “Black Spiderman” offer an olive branch to empowerment and an embrace of diversity for all. The album is structured around a narrative about a dead man named Atom who is told by God (played by celebrity physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson) that in order to enter heaven, he must be reincarnated as different people first.

The album is a microcosm of the kind of honesty and directness that, along with his music, has brought Logic an extremely loyal, proactive fan base. According to Def Jam, nearly half of his first-week sales (a total of 247,000 album-equivalent units, of which 115,000 were physical and downloaded albums) were sold directly to consumers via his online store, which was fittingly titled allaboutthefans.com before changing its URL. David Bell, the label’s SVP of Integrated Marketing, says the data compiled from fans allowed them to offer a selection of bundles, including 10,000 limited-edition, numbered super-deluxe versions with an expanded 44-page hardcover book, which was sold exclusively at the store.

“We really rolled this out with the fans in mind,” Bell explains. “We rewarded and saluted them, and they showed up.”

While hardly a household word, Logic’s previous two Def Jam releases, 2014’s “Under Pressure” and 2015’s “The Incredible True Story,” both debuted in the Top 5 on the Billboard 200, with his previous one-week high the latter’s 118,000. A high-visibility cameo on “Sucker for Pain,” with Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa (featuring Imagine Dragons, Ty Dolla Sign and X Ambassadors), from the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack, was his first Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, introducing him to a mainstream audience.

But according to Def Jam Recordings CEO Steve Bartels, mainstream success isn’t necessarily the primary goal. “Logic has a very brave, courageous honesty and integrity that surrounds everything he does. He has an amazing connection with his fans. The artist development starts with him and his vision.”

Logic, who is managed by Visionary Music Group’s Chris Zarou and Harrison Remler and booked by Creative Artists Agency, insists he tries to maintain his focus on his art and his audience. “I just pretend like Def Jam doesn’t exist, just like I pretend that Visionary Music doesn’t exist, just like I pretend fame and all this other shit doesn’t exist,” he says. “It’s important to do that just to keep my individuality intact, to feel like a regular person.”

Bartels agrees: “Sometimes the exclusivity of that relationship between fan and artist is just as important as ‘mainstream success.’ There’s a very intense consumer response. You always want to balance the mass appeal with the notion of discovery.”

“I’m happy with who I am,” says Logic, who was recently married and bought a sprawling Los Angeles home. “Of course I have insecurities, but the different is that I’m going to just talk about them and put them all out there on the line. And I do that for my fans. That’s why there’s a connection that is more than just an artist and his fanbase.

“When I first started rapping, all I wanted was a hit single,” he continues. “I wanted the gold chains, but I’ve since realized none of that means anything. The only thing that matters is my fans, the people I love around me and my own personal happiness.”