40 Under 40: Music's Young Power Players
They’re young, they’re innovative, they’re disruptive. From monetizing bite-sized streams to selling out massive stadiums, these are the progressive leaders reshaping the music industry.
The honorees on Billboard’s annual 40 Under 40 Power Players list were chosen by Billboard editors from 600 nominations submitted at Billboard.biz by readers. In addition to the information submitted on the nominees, Billboard considered company market-share information, chart data and more. This year’s report was written by Harley Brown, Megan Buerger, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Phil Gallo, Andrew Hampp, Gail Mitchell, Glenn Peoples, Mitchell Peters, Deborah Evans Price and Ray Waddell.
DAVID ABDO, 37
Senior VP Global Business Operations And Distribution, Disney Music Group
David Abdo has been instrumental in doubling Disney Music Group’s market share during the last year. He capitalized on the soundtracks to Guardians of the Galaxy and Frozen (which have sold 374,000 and 3.4 million, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan) by encouraging user-generated content: For the latter, DMG included a karaoke version of “Let It Go” so listeners could make their own YouTube videos. “It added to the virality,” says Abdo. It also reflects his enthusiasm for technology, which is what got him hired straight out of college as a digital marketing coordinator at Disney’s Hollywood Records in 1999. “In my core, I knew tech and music were going to converge,” he says. “I wanted to be at the epicenter of it.”
THE BOOK I LEARNED THE MOST FROM: “Professionally, Don Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business. But science fiction like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the best reflection of -- and contributor to -- my personality.”
CARLOS ADAME, 30
Director Of Global Digital Business, Universal Music Group
Carlos Adame calls it “A&R 2.0,” but the hits he’s after are Web hits. “I look at new startups and figure out how music fits in,” he says. It’s part of Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge’s goal of turning the label group into an overarching media company. Adame has worked on agreements with Google Play, iTunes Radio and the YouTube subscription service that will roll out this fall, but says that “nontraditional platforms” like Instagram, Vine and Snapchat “are by far the most exciting. They aren’t straight-forward like streaming services, but they boast billions of daily views.” So even though the content is bite-sized, the licensing and sync deals he hammers out can be meaningful to the bottom line.
MY FIRST JOB: “Landscaping with my dad when I was 10 years old and growing up in Santa Barbara [Calif]. He used to wake me up super early every day I wasn’t in school, and I’m still an early bird.”
POWER LUNCH SPOT: “Salt Air, on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.”
OMAR AL-JOULANI, 36
Senior Vp North American Touring, Live Nation
Though he’s a life-long rock fan (a 1998 Foo Fighters/Green Day show in Ottawa, Ontario, made him want to get into the business) Omar Al-joulani has engineered huge EDM and hip-hop milestones like Swedish House Mafia’s 2013 farewell run (regarded as the most successful EDM tour in history) and Jay Z and Beyoncé’s On the Run stadium swing (which generated a $96.6 million North American gross, according to Billboard Boxscore). He’s also guiding Eminem and Rihanna’s Monster outing and the Made in America festival. To pay it back, he’s creating the next generation of rock superstars: Al-joulani was behind Imagine Dragons’ clubs-to-arena jump on their debut album.
MY FIRST JOB: “The Agency Group Canada, assistant to Colin Lewis.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS, I WOULD BE: “In politics.”
JEFFREY AZOFF, 28
Agent, Creative Artists Agency
Jeffrey Azoff grew up in a household where huge deals went down at the breakfast table -- his father is industry legend Irving Azoff -- but he stands on his own as a critical player on the team that put together Britney Spears’ Las Vegas residency (125,000 tickets sold since December 2013, per Azoff). Azoff has also developed Mac Miller and Icona Pop, and handled big-scale runs like the Eagles’ sold-out arena tour and Journey’s “pretty incredible” tear through the sheds this summer.
THE BAND THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “Years of growing up on the road watching the Eagles left me no choice.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS I WOULD BE: “A virgin.”
JONATHAN AZU, 37
Executive VP/GM, Red Light Management
Jonathan Azu has the challenging task of coordinating the managers and assets of Red Light Management, a management company second only to Live Nation’s Artist Nation in size and scope, with some 60 agents in seven offices in two countries working with 200 clients. And Azu directly works with such artists as R. Kelly, praising the singer’s surprise jam this year at Bonnaroo with the likes of Jim James and John Oates. It brought Kelly “into the ‘indie conversation’ like never before, opening him up to a new audience.”
MY BIG BREAK: “Moving to New York upon being hired at CBS Radio’s corporate office, [allowing me] to work on a daily basis with then-CBS Radio executives John Sykes, David Goodman, Andy Schuon and many others.”
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.”
THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE STRESS IS: “Yoga.”
IF I WASN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS I WOULD BE: “A professional skateboarder.”
AARON BAY-SCHUCK, 33
President A&R, Interscope Records
Aaron Bay-Schuck is best-known for his 2009 signing of Bruno Mars to Atlantic. “He was struggling to make it as an artist; I was struggling to define myself as an A&R person,“ says Bay-Schuck. But the 38.9 million tracks that Mars has sold -- along with 2.3 million copies of Unorthodox Jukebox-- have defined them both. Mars was Billboard’s 2013 Artist of the Year, and earlier this month Bay-Schuck was named Interscope’s new president of A&R.
MY FIRST JOB: “No. 2 assistant to the head of international operations at Interscope Geffen A&M.”
IF I WASN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “I’d be a food critic who always wished he was in the music business.”
SCOOTER BRAUN, 33
Owner, SB Projects
Scooter Braun’s most successful clients, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, have scored seven No. 1 albums between them since Bieber’s debut in December 2009, with Ariana scoring two in less than 12 months. Bieber alone has sold nearly 10.6 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan. A roster that also includes Carly Rae Jepsen and PSYmight be enough for most managers, but Braun’s deal-making sets him apart. He teamed with investment firm Waddell & Reed (which took a $90 million stake in his company) to raise a cash fund of $120 million to $150 million to go shopping for other artist management firms, among them Troy Carter’s Atom Factory and Jason Owen’s Sandbox Management.
MY FIRST JOB: “A paper route. I was 11 years old. It wasn’t just a job because I knew other people were relying on me.”
THE CONCERT THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “Michael Jackson’s Bad concert, in Hartford, Conn. It showed me what entertainment is supposed to look like.”
THE SONG THAT SUMS UP MY PHILOSOPHY: “Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’ and Usher’s ‘Nice and Slow.’ “
CORTEZ BRYANT, 35
Co-CEO, The Blueprint Group
The debut of G-Eazy’s These Things Happen at No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 was part of “one of the most rewarding projects this year,” says Cortez Bryant, due to “our partnership with the Revels Group,” the long-term management company for G-Eazy. These Things Happen has sold 99,000 copies, according to SoundScan. Bryant and his partner Gee Roberson are known for managing such marquee clients as Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and T.I. (in partnership with Jason Geter). But G-Eazy’s hit is a welcomed milestone. “I’ve watched this guy develop, opening for Wayne and Drakeback in the day. I got into this business to help artists fulfill their dreams.”
MY FIRST JOB: “Bagging groceries at a Winn-Dixie store in New Orleans.”
My BIG BREAK: “When my best friend Lil Wayne called me during my senior year at college, right before graduation.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS IS: “Get away somewhere secluded and pray.”
RIO CARAEFF, 39
“Vevo has enjoyed exponential growth over the last 12 months,” says Rio Caraeff. August reports that the music video service was on the block also estimated that the company was worth $700 million to $1 billion. Vevo, which launched in 2009, is more forthcoming with other figures, like the nearly 7 billion monthly views it now accumulates and its current reach into 14 countries. Vevo will end 2014 with its first-ever live event surrounding its Certified program, which honors videos that surpass 100 million views.
MY FIRST JOB: “Bagging groceries at Albertsons -- two-time employee of the month. My first real job in the business was in 1993 at Crunch Media, co-founded by Fleetwood Mac producer Ken Caillat, working on interactive software titles.”
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “Every album that I saw my father [Ed Caraeff] design, art direct and photograph when I was growing up -- all of the greatest records in the ’70s, from Steely Dan to Elton John.”
JONATHAN COHEN, 38
Music Booker, 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'
With The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon leading the late-night slot with an average of 3.9 million viewers, music booker Jonathan Cohen is on a roll. High-profile guests, including U2 (live from the Rockefeller Center rooftop), Arcade Fire, Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) and Neil Young, have all boosted the show’s music buzz, which is amplified online -- in the four days after Idina Menzelsang “Let It Go” on Fallon, YouTube tracked 7 million views for the performance.
MY FIRST JOB: “Writing one-sentence descriptions of the 1,000-plus bands [appearing] at the CMJ Music Marathon.”
MY BIG BREAK: “Landing an internship at the fledgling Billboard.com in 1999.”
THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE STRESS: “Listening at very loud volume to Rodan, Refused or Fugazi usually does the trick.”
IF I WASN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS, I WOULD BE: “An NBA general manager, preferably with the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
SHANNON CONNOLLY, 36
Senior VP Music Strategy, MTV, VH1, CMT
Shannon Connolly’s team at MTV Networks builds digital and mobile platforms on which both artists and programmers can add and curate content. Channel site streams increased 78 percent since the MTV Artists app was launched in October 2013. The platform showcases video premieres, album streams, interviews and live activities. That project followed Connolly’s role in creating the O Music Awards, which celebrates the intersection of music and tech with categories like best artist with a cameraphone. The O Music Awards drew 100 million votes online in 2013.
MY FIRST JOB: “My next-door neighbor worked the night shift and paid me [as a teen] to be quiet during the day.”
MY BIG BREAK: “I convinced a partner at my [management] consulting firm in 2003 to let me in on the Sony/BMG merger integration project. I was desperate to make music my day job.”
BRANDON CREED, 37
Owner, The Creed Company
Few years start with the sort of momentum Brandon Creed experienced in 2014, when management client Bruno Mars went from a Grammy win for best pop vocal album in January to the most-watched Super Bowl halftime performance in history (115.3 million in audience, according to Nielsen) in February. “He destroyed it,” says Creed. “The afterglow has been phenomenal.” His Los Angeles firm has added Grammy darling Sara Bareilles and superstar producer Mark Ronson to the roster, and Creed teases a Ronson single “with a very well-known feature in the next couple of months.”
MY BIG BREAK: “Tom Corson hiring me as his assistant at Arista when I was 21.”
POWER LUNCH SPOT: “I don’t like to call it a power spot but I really like going to Craig’s on Melrose in West Hollywood.”
THE BOOK I LEARNED THE MOST FROM: “I read Fredric Dannen’s Hitmen just before I started at Arista. To read about Clive Davis and know that I was about to start working for him was surreal.”
ALEX DA KID, 33
CEO, Kidinakorner Records And Publishing
After Alex Da Kid produced the 6.3 million-selling 2010 hit “Love the Way You Lie” for Eminem, Jimmy Iovine offered him a label deal. Kidinakorner Records and Publishing launched in 2011, and Alex Da Kid quickly proved himself with signees Imagine Dragons, whose debut album, Night Visions, has logged 105 weeks on the Billboard 200 and has sold 2.3 million copies and another 14.4 million tracks. The band built a profile with a series of EPs, a strategy Alex Da Kid is now pursuing with X Ambassadors, whose track with Jamie N Commons, “Jungle,” was featured in a Beats World Cup ad and in the season-two trailer for Orange Is the New Black.
MY FIRST JOB: “Working at a shoe store in London.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Sex.”
KATE DENTON, 35
Senior VP, Seventeen Fifty, Capitol Music Group
When Capitol Music Group chief Steve Barnett hired Kate Denton away from PepsiCo in August 2013, he wanted to bring her consumer marketing expertise to the music business. Running CMG’s new in-house advertising initiative Seventeen Fifty (named for the Capitol tower’s historic Vine Street address), Denton says she promotes “artists as brands,” an approach that is still “uncharted territory.” One big win: When Capitol placed a Sam Smith track on Grey’s Anatomy, she teamed with Shazam to connect users to a purchase link for Smith’s upcoming album, increasing click-throughs by 600 percent. (She also bought search terms so that inquiries like “Grey’s Anatomywhat’s that song” led to an album page.) “One thing I’ve found is that folks in the music industry don’t necessarily speak brand,” she says. “If you approach music like a consumer good, the marketing potential is limitless.”
MY FIRST JOB: “Babysitting my three younger sisters. I come from a huge family and have 125 first and second cousins, on just one side of the family. Management skills.”
THE BOOK I LEARNED THE MOST FROM: “How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY: “I’d have a catering company. I love to cook.”
DANIEL EK, 31
Daniel Ek says the past year has been one “of momentum and growth” for Spotify: The company now reports more than 10 million subscrib-ers and 40 million active users in 57 countries. Ahead of a possible initial public stock offering for the company, streaming services are growing while download sales are falling. And Ek is the leader of the new streaming era.
MY BIG BREAK: “I don’t really believe in big breaks. I believe good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up.”
MY PROFESSIONAL INSPIRATION: “Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, for his focus on the long term and customer value.”
SETH ENGLAND, 28
Executive VP, Big Loud Mountain, Big Loud Shirt
A LESSON TO SEND TO INTERNS EVERYWHERE Do whatever needs doing. While he was an intern at Big Loud Shirt, Seth England took the initiative to pull weeds outside the music publisher’s building. Founder Craig Wiseman pulled up and asked England who he was. “Craig’s a real blue-collar guy himself,” recalls England, “so I guess that struck him a little bit.” England’s worth ethic has paid off: A decade later, he is in a key management and publishing role with Florida George Line, which was signed to Big Loud Shirt Publishing, and Big Loud Mountain, and he's a partner in the latter alongside Wiseman, producer-writer Joey Moi and manager Kevin Zaruk. The duo has sold 2 million copies of Here’s to the Good Times.
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “I remember when my dad bought the greatest hits of Tom Petty, the Eagles, AC/DC and Foghat. That drive home and hearing all of those songs for the first time is where I learned my love for songwriting.”
DONNA GRYN, 31
Senior Director Of Marketing, Republic Records
Tapping focus groups to better tailor her marketing campaigns for Ariana Grande, Colbie Caillat and Jessie J has led Donna Gryn to create powerful direct-to-fan initiatives. For Grande, that meant giving fans who purchased her new album, My Everything, from the singer’s direct-to-consumer page an exclusive stream of a concert at Los Angeles’ iHeartRadio Theatre. “The key was it wasn’t just singles,” says Gryn. “She basically taped the entire album.” The result was Grande’s second No. 1 album debut in less than 12 months. To this, Gryn adds partnerships like Austin Mahone’s $8.7 million Aquafina deal that result in a healthy boost for both label and artist.
MY BIG BREAK: “Working as a promotions assistant at Roc-a-Fella during its prime, while I was still in college.”
POWER LUNCH SPOT: “I’m sort of obsessed with Pio Pio in Hell’s Kitchen.”
ETHIOPIA HABTEMARIAM, 34
President Of Urban Music/Co-Head Creative, Universal Music Publishing Group; President, Motown Records
Ethiopia Habtemariam earned not one but two promotions this year. In April, she took the top spot at Motown Records; a month later she rose to her new role at UMPG. Concurrently, she oversaw Motown’s move into Los Angeles’ Capitol Tower and marked the coastal switch with a No. 3 debut on the Billboard 200 for KEM’s Promise to Love: Album IV. UMPG is nurturing rising stars Jhene Aiko and August Alsina, and is the publishing home of Chris Brown, Justin Timberlakeand Nicki Minaj.
MY FIRST JOB: “A paid internship at Elektra Records, when I was 16.”
My BIG BREAK: “Moving to Los Angeles to work at Edmonds Music.”
THE CONCERT THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “New Edition’s Heartbreak Tour.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Laughter. Lots of laughter. And consistent workouts.”
JOHN JANICK, 36
President/Ceo, Interscope Geffen A&M
When John Janick was named president/CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M in May, he succeeded label co-founder Jimmy Iovine. If taking over for a legend is heavy pressure, Janick isn’t letting it show. In the past year, he se-cured 25 Grammy nominations; cemented some of the industry’s biggest breakthrough artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons and Disclosure; and helped steer Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to become the top-selling digital song of 2013 with 6.5 million downloads. “I don’t find myself always wishing for the good old days,” says Janick. “I’m scrappy about everything.”
MY FIRST JOB: “I started a label when I was 17 called J4 Records, and when I was 18 I started Fueled by Ramen. I was a part-time tennis instructor to pay the bills, but this has always been my passion.”
MY BIG BREAK: “One of the first big acts I worked with was Fall Out Boy when I was 22. It was amazing.”
REBECA LEON, 39
VP Latin Talent, Aeg Goldenvoice; Manager (JUANES, J BALVIN)
Rebeca Leon works big and dreams big: “I want to be a mogul,” she says. By which she means not just overseeing AEG’s Latin tours -- including the upcoming bill of Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull and J Balvin (whom she co-manages with Fabio Acosta) -- and launching a new Latin alternative festival in October in Los Angeles, but producing movies “that mean something.” She also dreams of “spending three months of the year taking calls from my boat in the Caribbean.”
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “The Police, Synchronicity. I was 8 years old. My parents [wouldn’t] let me go to their show. I finally got to go, to their reunion tour.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “I always wanted to be a writer for Saturday Night Live. It’s a show that inspired me.”
ALEXANDER LJUNG, 32
SoundCloud, valued at an estimated $700 million during a funding round in January, has been successful by being different, says Alexander Ljung. He and co-founder Eric Wahlforss “wanted to build a social place online ... to cater to the sound-creation community.” So rather than a streaming service, SoundCloud is a tool for artists to share music online, recently launching On-SoundCloud to share revenue with rights-holders. With 175 million monthly listeners, only YouTube reaches more fans.
MY BIG BREAK: “I met my co-founder Eric when we both were studying at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. We were the only two people in the computer lab who had MacBooks.”
MY PROFESSIONAL INSPIRATION: “Elon Musk [founder of Tesla and SpaceX] is a great hero of mine. He’s an inventor, investor and incredible talent.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Surfing. I try to make time to do that a couple of times a year.”
MIKE MAHAN, 38
President, Dick Clark Productions
When the American Music Awards drew 14 million viewers last November, its largest audience in four years, Mike Mahan had cause to celebrate. The AMAs drew the highest ratings in 17 years of any broadcast up against an NFL game. And the show drew a record Twitter audience of more than 10.2 million, with 7.6 million tweets about the show sent in the United States. Mahan’s portfolio includes Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest, the Academy of Country Music Awards, Rising Star and the Billboard Music Awards. The latter earned its highest ratings in 13 years in 2014. (Dick Clark Productions and Billboard are both owned by Guggenheim Partners.)
MY FIRST JOB: “An investment banker at Bear Stearns.”
POWER LUNCH SPOT: “Dodger Stadium.”
SCOTT MANTELL, 35
Head Of International Touring, ICM Partners
As the global agent for the Mrs. Carter Show, Scott Mantell can confirm that Beyoncé is hands-on. “Unlike a lot of artist and agent relationships, where they’re strictly dealing with managers and attorneys, we had several conversations about how she wanted to tour,” he says. The result? A worldwide gross of $219.2 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.
MY BIG BREAK: “Working in the mailroom at APA, I’d come in at 4 a.m. to work with the international concert agent.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Shake it off. If all else fails, a good glass of 18-year-old scotch will do the trick.”
SARAH MOLL, 37
Director Of Media And Events, National Football League
More than 115 million viewers tuned in to Bruno Mars’ record-breaking Super Bowl halftime performance on Feb. 2. But for Sarah Moll, the excitement began to peak two months earlier on Thanksgiving, when Mars’ manager Brandon Creed called to ask about adding the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the most-watched 14 minutes in TV history. “I remember [telling] my family at Thanksgiving, `You’re sworn to secrecy.’ “ Sales of Mars’ album Unorthodox Jukebox jumped 164 percent after the show (produced at a cost of $10 million to the NFL), and Moll jumped to her new role as NFL director of media and events. Tipped for next year’s halftime show: Rihanna, Coldplay and Katy Perry.
MY BIG BREAK: “Frankly, it was booking Bruno Mars and having faith in him from the beginning.”
MY PROFESSIONAL INSPIRATION: “My former boss, Lawrence Randall. He hired me from NFL Films, and I learned everything I know from him.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Yoga and Transcendental Meditation.”
THE ARTIST I WISHED I WORKED WITH: “Jay Z, in some capacity, but maybe not the halftime show.”
IN 20 YEARS... “I’ll be working on Super Bowl 69, planning the halftime show featuring Blue Ivy.”
BRIAN NOLAN, 34
VP, Creative Agency, Columbia Records
Single sales of Hozier’s “Like Real People Do” rose 2,300 percent the week after the track closed MTV’s Teen Wolf, a great example of how Brian Nolan turns to film/TV supervisors and the ad world to gain momentum for active singles. Songs from Pharrell Williams, John Legend, DJ Snakeand many others have benefited from Nolan’s Creative Agency work. Up next: a second season of exposure for Columbia artists in season two of the Citi Web series Culinary Beats.
MY BIG BREAK: “Landing the job at Sony in the mixshow promotion department.”
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “Rawkus Records Presents Soundbombing Vol. 2.“
THE SONG I WISH I WORKED: “Pink’s ‘U + UR Hand.’ This record lost its bullet at least twice before it charted at top 40. Pink’s career went into overdrive after that.”
RON PERRY, 35
President/Head of A&R Songs Publishing
A reported publishing advance for Lorde of $2.5 million was perhaps the most high-profile deal of the year for Songs Publishing, but Ron Perry had lots of other high points: pairing R&B experimentalist The Weeknd with Sia for the Hunger Games single "Elastic Heart"; setting up future hits for Diplo with the likes of Madonna, Pharrell and Katy Perry; and seeing long-term client DJ Mustard score as a producer on hip-hop radio with tracks for Tinashe, Ty Dolla Sign and YG. “Great music cuts through,” says Perry. “I love the creative moments we facilitate for our artists.”
MY FIRST JOB: “An internship with Daniel Glass at Artemis Records.”
THE CONCERT THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “Nirvana at [New York’s] Roseland in 1994 made me want to be an artist. When [that] didn’t work out, I really had no other choice.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS I WOULD BE: “General manager of the Mets. The team is so bad, they might as well give me a shot.”
ROD RILEY, 39
President/CEO, Word Entertainment
Under Rod Riley, Word Entertainment artists have won the Dove Award for new artist in three of the last four years, as the company has ex-pand-ed into events, merchandising and more. “We’re going to continue to have artists creating great music that inspires people,” he says.
MY FIRST JOB: “Customer service phone rep at Brentwood Music. The year I started, the company began to merge warehouses while UPS went on strike -- I got to learn on the front lines.”
THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE STRESS: “Electronic quarantine. It’s hard to do, but sometimes I have to shut down every electronic device to recharge myself and think clearly.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS I WOULD BE: “Travel show host on TV. Seriously, that is a great gig.”
AARON ROSENBERG, 37
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light
Many things have kept Aaron Rosenberg busy the last 12 months, like negotiating Jennifer Lopez’s first album for Capitol and forthcoming memoir with Penguin, securing a major publishing deal for The-Dream with Warner/Chappell and celebrating John Legend’s first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, “All of Me.” Rosenberg, whose clients also include Justin Bieber, says he’s excited for his firm’s continued expansion, especially in drafting new contracts that address streaming and subscription services. But he’s most excited about a personal priority: the child he and his husband are expecting via surrogate in January.
MY BIG BREAK: “An internship at Arista Records the summer after my first year at Harvard Law.”
MY POWER LUNCH SPOT: “Nate N’ Al’s Deli in Beverly Hills. I get the turkey Reuben.”
THE SONG THAT SUMS UP MY PHILOSOPHY: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
RYAN SEACREST, 39
Chairman, Seacrest Global Group And Ryan Seacrest Productions
One of TV and radio’s most influential hosts, Ryan Seacrest earns an estimated $60 million a year for his work with NBCUniversal, E!, Clear Channel and Fox, where his annual take-home pay for American Idol has risen to an estimated $15 million (even as Idol ’s ratings have slid). Heard on 150 radio stations in syndication, and also seen on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Seacrest is now developing reality shows for VH1 (White Girls of Rap) and Esquire TV (How I Rock It), as well as dramas for NBC (Shades of Blue with Jennifer Lopez).
MY FIRST JOB: “An intern at WTSR in Atlanta. My first paid gig was on the weekend shift as a DJ in high school.”
MY BIG BREAK: “American Idol. At the [beginning] we had no idea it would become one of the biggest shows in television.”
MY PROFESSIONAL INSPIRATION: “Dick Clark and Merv Griffin were able to connect with audiences in ways that transcend an era.”
NIR SEROUSSI, 38
President, Sony Music U.S. Latin
Nir Seroussi saw the midyear market share of Sony Music U.S. rise to 32.2 percent from 25.7 percent thanks to big wins like Romeo Santos’ Formula: Vol. 2 (with sales of 215,000 units) and success for Wisin, Yandel and Carlos Vives. Up next: new releases from Ricky Martin, Chayanne and Prince Royce-- and acts that target the global market. “I want to become a hub of international success stories,” says Seroussi.
MY FIRST JOB: “The lowest entry position at WEA Latina, stuffing envelopes and pretty much helping everyone else.”
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “The tape I wore down was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I must have been 9 or 10.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Practicing akido. It’s a martial art that stands for unifying the harmony of energy. I do it three to four times a week.”
EMMANUEL SEUGE, 39
VP Global Alliances And Ventures, Coca-Cola
In the wake of Coca-Cola’s $10 million investment in Spotify in 2012, an estimated 40 million active monthly users now use Coke’s playlists in 19 global markets. With that kind of response, it’s no wonder Coke has continued to explore such deals with Emmanuel Seuge guiding the beverage behemoth’s investments in the likes of digital fan service Backplane, fitness technology company Misfit and publisher Music Dealers, as well as indie artist David Correy, who anchored this year’s World Cup anthem “The World Is Ours.” Next up: Coke’s partnership with the Summer Olympics. “We’re super excited about working with the Olympics,” says Seuge, “but at the same time it’s intriguing to see how a 10-person startup is able to operate globally.”
MY FIRST JOB: “An intern at Coca-Cola, in marketing.”
THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE STRESS: “Running. I do 8K, twice a week, early.”
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “The Black Album by Jay Z. In life and work, it’s about hustling, never giving up on your dream.”
JUSTIN SHUKAT, 39
President, Primary Wave Music Publishing
The work that Primary Wave chairman/CEO Larry Mestel and Justin Shukat did to build their company paid off, big time, last fall when BMG acquired the bulk of its assets for a reported $130 million -- and then spent $20 million for a new joint venture that Shukat calls “Primary Wave 2.0.” The deal allows the flexibility for the executives to work outside the joint venture as well. But the year was bittersweet. In June, Shukat’s father, renowned music attorney Peter Shukat, died after a long battle with cancer.
MY FIRST JOB: “Working at Walter Yetnikoff’s VelVel Records in 1996.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS I WOULD BE: “The owner of a sneaker boutique. I love to buy sneakers.”
MY PROFESSIONAL INSPIRATION: “It has, and always will be, my father, Peter Shukat.”
AARON SIMON, 39
Global VP, Artist, Entertainment And Partnership Relations, Harman International
Through its multi-year deals with artists, the Yankees, the Grammy Awards, AEG and Coachella, it’s estimated that Harman International will spend more than $30 million on music and entertainment partnerships. Aaron Simon is the executive guiding those efforts. His focus is on long-term relationships with his brands. He has forged those with Maroon 5 (JBL), Linkin Park (Infinity), Tiesto (AKG), Chinese pianist Lang Lang (JBL China), hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari (Harman Kardon) and Tim McGraw (JBL headphones).
MY FIRST JOB: “MTV Networks, in sales.”
MY BIG BREAK: “Working at Jive Records gave me the rare opportunity in marketing several artists who were in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 simultaneously. Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, R. Kelly -- it was priceless, and it spoiled me.”
THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE STRESS: “I’ll let you know when I figure that out. I’m still working on that one.”
JARED SMITH, 36
President Of North America, Ticketmaster
Under Jared Smith’s watch, Ticketmaster sold 76 million tickets in 2013, its highest total ever. He’s especially passionate about TM+, a mobile app that lets fans see both primary- and secondary-market ticket options. The idea is to enhance the fan experience and provide more transparency. As a result, mobile purchases now account for 14 percent of Ticketmaster sales.
MY FIRST JOB: “Delivering furniture for a family friend who needed some cheap labor.”
MY BIG BREAK: “Not getting a job I interviewed for. If I had, I wouldn’t have applied to Ticketmaster a month later.”
THE ALBUM THAT MADE ME WANT TO BE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS: “Dave Matthews Band, Crash. The band’s community of fans changed how I felt about music’s power to bring people together.”
ANNE STANCHFIELD, 37
Divisional Merchandise Manager/Lead Music Buyer, Target
Target will have released 100 exclusive deluxe-edition CDs by the close of 2014 from the likes of Shakira, Coldplay and 5 Seconds of Summer, but Anne Stanchfield admits she took on her music-buying role in January 2013 with one dream: working with Taylor Swift. Swift’s 1989, due out Oct. 27, will get the deluxe treatment -- just like 2012’s Red, which sold more than 1 million units through the retailer. Target allocates an estimated $7 million to $10 million in media dollars for each exclusive release.
MY FIRST JOB: “At a sporting goods store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I grew up.”
POWER LUNCH SPOT: “The Bachelor Farmer takes advantage of all the fabulous local ingredients we have in Minneapolis.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “I have a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old. They distract me from anything stressful and guide a lot of what I listen to -- Katy Perry is a big focus right now.”
Executive VP, Warner/Chappell Nashville
When layoffs led Ben Vaughn to leave EMI Music Nashville two years ago, Warner/Chappell snapped him up. It’s no coincidence then that Warner/Chappell Nashville under Vaughn was named ASCAP’s top country publisher of 2013, its first such honor in 17 years. Signings like a co-publishing deal with producer Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, The Wall Flowers, Eric Church) are building the publisher’s buzz.
MY FIRST JOB: “WMSK Morganfield, Ky. [I was a] 16-year-old country DJ [and] fell in love with the music.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS IS: “What stress? We get to work around music. Our worst day should be viewed as a blessing.”
IF I WEREN’T IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS I WOULD BE: “Trying to get into the music business.”
TIFANIE VAN LAAR-FREVER, 38
Senior Buyer For Music, Walmart
It’s a sign of the record industry’s high regard for Tifanie Van Laar-Frever that Walmart downsized its music selection without label executives lamenting potential lost revenue. While the mega-chain dropped its total title count about 19 percent to 2,800, it offset the move by rolling out high-profile displays. Industry observers say Van Laar-Frever is “innovative” and a seasoned pro who wisely delegates Anderson Merchandisers to make day-to-day music department decisions for Walmart. Says one label exec, Van Laar-Frever is “good at working across departments and engaging brands from other departments to maximize music priorities” at the major retailer.
MY FIRST JOB: “I was a Walmart buyer trainee in TV, VCR and DVD players in 1999.”
MY FIRST BREAK: “A mock college interview that turned into a job offer at Walmart.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Listen to music, of course.”
BEN WEEDEN, 38
COO, House Of Blues
Ben Weeden steers the largest network of clubs and theaters in the world, including 21 of the 25 busiest clubs in the United States, according to Billboard Boxscore. House of Blues (which is a division of Live Nation) this past year launched Ones to Watch, an artist-development platform that, Weeden says, leverages all Live Nation assets. “It’s a great moment when you look at previous tour history [for an act] and know you have really moved the needle using the incredible marketing power we have.”
MY FIRST JOB: “Bear Stearns, 1998. I hated investment banking, but we worked on the IPO of SFX Entertainment,” which became Live Nation.
MY BIG BREAK: “Moving to London to work at SFX’s office in 2000. It was there that I met [Live Nation CEO] Michael Rapino and became one of his first employees.”
JORDAN WOLOWITZ, 30
Partner/Co-Founder, Founders Entertainment
Jordan Wolowitz oversees talent and sponsorship for the Governors Ball festival on New York’s Randalls Island, which this year -- headlined by Outkast, Jack White, Vampire Weekend and The Strokes-- drew a record 150,000-plus fans June 6-8. “We cracked the code for putting on a successful major contemporary festival in New York City,” says Wolowitz, who tips plans for a separate, new fest in June 2015.
MY FIRST JOB: “My first music industry ‘job’ was critic for my college newspaper. I wanted free concert tickets.”
THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE STRESS: “Be extremely organized. Drink a lot of water. Exercise regularly -- blowing off steam is very important.”
THE SONG THAT SUMS UP MY PHILOSOPHY: “ ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ by Kanye West. Just kidding. Kind of.”
JOEL ZIMMERMAN, 36
Partner, William Morris Endeavor
How hot is Joel Zimmerman’s EDM at WME? “Our business continues to grow 300 percent every year,” he says. A pioneer in lucrative DJ residencies in Las Vegas, Zimmerman oversees some 50 agents and 200 artists, including Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki. On tap are tours by Pharrell Williams, The Weeknd, Deadmau5 and Aoki, plus a $60 million deal for “a series of shows” for one client “to be announced soon.”
MY BIG BREAK: “I was a concert booker in college but ended up working on 20/20 at ABC. I wanted to get back into music. Marsha Vlasic [at ICM] knew I was into electronic music. She said, ‘If you can create your own lane in this space, it could be yours.’ "