Pharrell Williams: From producer to superstar

As a producer, songwriter and recording artist, Pharrell Williams has been a key creative player in the music industry for almost two decades but his recent partnership with Columbia Records has helped catapult him to take centre stage and become a true global star in his own right.

Columbia Records US president, Ashley Newton, had long-standing relationships with both Pharrell and Daft Punk, having been involved in the signings of their debut recording deals during his tenure with Virgin Records. Newton & Columbia Records Chairman, Rob Stringer, had signed Daft Punk to a new Columbia recording agreement in early 2013 which lead to the hugely successful album Random Access Memories. It included the 10 million selling track Get Lucky featuring Pharrell and hearing the recording many months prior to release culminated in a proposal for Williams to record a solo album.

It sparked an extraordinary 12 months for Williams as his presence shifted across three juggernaut singles in what appeared to be orchestrated succession, from Get Lucky to Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines and on to his very own track Happy.

Happy had originally been recorded for the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack but Columbia struck a deal with Universal Pictures to take over the single campaign and simultaneously airlift the track onto Pharrell's own solo album. With the help of an innovative and explosive 24 hour music video and a huge global marketing & promotion push, the song went on to top the charts in over 20 countries. In the UK specifically, Happy became the most downloaded track ever and the longest-running No.1 in radio airplay chart history.

John Fleckenstein, Executive Vice President of International at Sony Music Entertainment, says:

"Pivotal to our success with Pharrell was not only our ability to create this narrative of his transformation from musical architect to global star - it was also our ability to do that on a global scale." Just as Happy began to soar on the charts heading into 2014, Columbia records and Sony Music International galvanized their global network of marketing and promotion executives, flying them into London to meet Pharrell, understand his vision, his music and his brand. Ultimately a road map was created for the album and the year ahead to take Pharrell from star producer to global superstar.

Fleckenstein adds:

"The key moment of that campaign happened quickly with Sony's booking of a hugely impactful European promotion run which included a triumphant closing performance on the 2014 Brit Awards. It was a trip that vaulted him into the global media spotlight as a performer."

"After undertaking such a long, dedicated and respected musical journey, Pharrell's current ascension is both impressive and well deserved. I feel extremely fortunate to have had a relationship with him that dates back to his N.E.R.D. record in 2001 and, coincidentally, having also been around Daft Punk during the making of their 1993 debut Homework. To have then witnessed these two cultural forces converging so many years later to create thrilling new music for Columbia Records was really remarkable. Daft Punk won five Grammys for their album and Pharrell is no longer the guy standing next to the guy, now he's the man!"


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