Justin Timberlake's return to the music business is looking like a huge success. His new album The 20/20 Experience sold 968,000 copies in its first week out, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Tickets for his upcoming stadium tour with Jay-Z, dubbed Legends of the Summer, is outselling Jay and Kanye West's Watch the Throne tour by a 5-to-1 margin according to StubHub.
The question nobody seemed to asking until now is what compelled the superstar singer/actor to suddenly make the decision to record a new album and hit the road for a massive tour after nearly seven years away from music.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the clock was ticking on a sizable advance given to JT by Live Nation.
In 2008 Live Nation and Justin began doing business. The concert industry giant first purchased Signatures, a company that licences Timberlake's merchandise. Next LN agreed to make Justin's tequila brand, 901, the official tequila of Live Nation venues.
In exchange JT committed to a tour. He was given a $20 million advance. $5 million of that he wouldn't have to return as long as he completed the tour.
Fast forward to 2013 and LN was getting anxious and wanted JT to make good on their deal.
"There is a due date by which you have to start touring. At some point, [Live Nation] has to call in the loan," a source told THR.
For a stadium tour JT needed a new album to make sure fans filled the seats, so he got into the studio with Timbaland to record The 20/20 Experience. Justin's manager Johnny Wright told CNN the project was completed in just 20 days.
Justin Timberlake and manager Johnny Wright (second from right)
Typically, an album launch for a megastar of Timberlake's stature would take a year to set up at radio and retail, in addition to recording time. But with 20/20, the public first got word of its March 19 release in January.
"Suit & Tie," the lead single off of the album didn't take off on radio as quickly as planned. Worried a stadium tour might not sell as well as expected, Live Nation reached a deal with Jay-Z to co-headline.
Their joint tour is expected to gross $60 million, which is more than enough to satisfy Justin's financial obligation to Live Nation.
"Live Nation always envisioned an arena tour for Justin Timberlake. After their successful studio collaboration, Justin and Jay-Z approached us, and we are thrilled to promote their stadium tour," a Live Nation rep told THR.