Billboard's 2016 Branding Power Players: Meet the Masters of Marketing
These dealmakers don't just pair artists with trademarks -- they shape the culture.
During concert tours, in TV commercials and for clothing labels and cans of soda, musicians are increasingly linked to consumer brands. Marketers recognize the power of music to motivate consumers -- and pay for relationships with stars (and rising talent) in every genre.
Some $2 billion in revenue reaches the music industry from the branding business. That includes $1.4 billion in sponsorship spending in the United States on music tours, venues and festivals during 2015, according to IEG. Another $347 million in fees was paid in 2014 (the most recent figures available) worldwide for the use of music in advertising, films, games and TV programs, according to IFPI. Fees and royalties paid to artists for endorsement and branding deals account for the balance.
The executives from the companies featured here are at the forefront of the business of marketing with music. They are in the business of linking brands and artists -- for the benefit of both.
RICH LEHRFELD, 47
Senior vp global brand marketing and communications, American Express
More than 1.7 million fans have viewed the Dead & Company show filmed at New York's Madison Square Garden on Oct. 31, 2015, for American Express' online series Unstaged -- it was the first time the Dead's members had "partnered with a major brand in this way," says Lehrfeld, a New Jersey native and father of two. The deal with the band continued Amex's music spend (estimated at $25 million to $50 million in 2015), which included Unstaged performances by Ellie Goulding and Disclosure and the company's partnership with Taylor Swift. That relationship yielded big numbers: more than a half-million presales to Amex cardholders for Swift's 1989 World Tour, 1 million downloads of its Emmy Award-winning Amex Unstaged Taylor Swift Experience app and 1.6 billion views of the artist's "Blank Space" video, featured on the app in an interactive format.
TOM PEYTON, 59
Assistant vp marketing, American Honda
To engage younger car buyers, Peyton's plan was straightforward -- and effective. "Take some of our TV [advertising] dollars, sponsor artists' live videos, capture that content, run ads in front of that and have the same impact that we had on TV." Honda Stage, launched in 2014, has featured more than 60 acts -- One Direction, Ariana Grande, Sam Smith, Big Sean and Pitbull, among others -- and has drawn more than 100 million YouTube and Vevo views. The video-focused campaign extended the company's music marketing efforts, which began in 2001 with the Honda Civic Tour and continued in 2015 with lead sponsorship of One Direction's On the Road Tour. Peyton, a native of Los Angeles who earned his MBA at the University of Southern California, says video clips have "higher emotional value" to fans than TV spots. This year, Honda is backing Uncharted: Power of Dreams, which will spotlight emerging musicians and stream on such sites as Facebook, Vevo, YouTube and Uproxx.
RICARDO DIAS, 37
Global vp consumer connections, Anheuser-Busch InBev
BRIAN PERKINS, 33
Global vp, Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Dias and Perkins have tapped music to propel the marketing goals for, respectively, the Corona and Budweiser brands. For Dias, a native of Brazil, Corona's 3-year-old Sound of SunSets series evokes "the best of beach culture," with up to 3,000 small-scale events worldwide annually, featuring such EDM-minded artists as Robin Schulz, Bakermat and Claptone, in locations from Shanghai to the Andes Mountains. Perkins, a father of two, reports that Bud's "Brewed the Hard Way" campaign -- which included a partnership with the National Parks Foundation and showcased such artists as Mary J. Blige who performed before iconic American backdrops like the Statue of Liberty -- has yielded the brand's "strongest performance of the past 14 years."
Managing director of media, advertising and global entertainment, Citi
The Citi Concert Series on NBC's Today delivers one-of-a-kind experiences to Citi cardholders and connects "with millions of people each morning," says Breithaupt of the sponsorship deal that began in 2015. Similarly, a Citi/American Airlines partnership with Live Nation gave Citi/AAdvantage cardholders VIP access to an exclusive Imagine Dragons show in September at the Hollywood Palladium -- one of 1,400 acts that Citi worked with worldwide in 2015. The payoff? Citi has experienced year-on-year double-digit growth in 2015 in customer entertainment spending, says Breithaupt, a native of New York state's Finger Lakes region. "The power of music to connect, motivate, excite and energize fans is like no other."
JOE BELLIOTTI, 42
Global head of music, The Coca-Cola Company
EMMANUEL SEUGE, 41
Vp content, The Coca-Cola Company
More than 1 million fans follow Coca-Cola's custom playlists on Spotify, just one affirmation of the wisdom of Coke's $10 million minority investment in the streaming service in 2012. For Belliotti and Seuge, who drive music marketing for the global beverage giant, new platforms offer new opportunities. The Coke-produced podcast First Taste Fridays has drawn 1.4 million listeners, ranking it among the top 10 podcasts for iHeartMedia, Coke's partner in the venture, says Seuge, a French native and father of three. For Belliotti, whose 5-year-old son is a Twenty One Pilots fan, "music really is the vehicle for us to innovate" in marketing. "It's about trying to test new formats and pilot new ideas, and music is the perfect medium to do that."
OLIVIER FRANCOIS, 54
Chief marketing officer/head of Fiat brand, FCA-Global
Jennifer Lopez, Eminem and Pharrell Williams are among the superstars featured in high-profile TV ads for FCA brands Fiat and Chrysler. But to pitch millennial buyers, Francois says he focuses on rising acts like Interscope Records' X Ambassadors, who wrote "Renegades" for a 2015 Chrysler Jeep campaign and ended up hitting No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the track. Francois did it again for Super Bowl 50 when Jeep's "4x4ever" spot, scored with a song by Morgan Dorr, became the most Shazamed of the event. Francois, a father of three who also is head of FCA's Fiat brand, proudly notes that music spots created by the automaker since 2014 have amassed 4 billion views on YouTube.
AARON SIMON, 40
Global vp talent relations and entertainment, Harman International Industries
After 15 years worth of executive roles at various major labels, Simon brought his music-industry expertise to Harman, where he launched the company's talent relations and entertainment division in 2010. Since then, he has forged marketing partnerships with Paul McCartney, Jennifer Lopez, the Grammy Awards and more. "I have an edge from my background that I leverage in my current role," says the Santa Monica resident, who grew up in Long Island, New York. "There's a formula and philosophy for knowing who is going to be the best brand ambassador." His proudest achievement of the past year was securing Elton John for a private 3,000-capacity concert for Harman's partners, customers and distributors at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
RAJA RAJAMANNAR, 54
Chief marketing officer, MasterCard
Rajamannar leveraged MasterCard's marketing might in 2015 to promote Gwen Stefani's return to the stage following a six-year hiatus. "Her objective was to get back to the concert space, and we gave her a platform for that to happen," the father of two says of MasterCard's Priceless Surprises website and app, which gave cardholders a shot at concert tickets and even VIP encounters with Stefani when they used MasterCard with Apple Pay. Beginning with a late-2014 TV spot featuring Stefani's song "Spark the Fire," the campaign emphasized both Stefani's music and style -- "she's a fashionista" -- and resulted in a double-digit increase in Apple Pay usage, reports Rajamannar.
ADAM HARTER, 44
Vp marketing, cultural connections, Pepsi Beverages North America
Head of music, Pepsi Beverages North America
With an estimated $50 million to $75 million sponsorship spend, in 2015 Harter placed more focus on bringing fans closer to their favorite artists in concert through Pepsi's new Live Nation partnership. The father of three also guided a subplot in Fox TV's Empire that featured a Pepsi executive and ad. London-raised Quigley leverages Pepsi's marketing might to create partnerships that drive sales and give artists new ways to engage fans -- including Tori Kelly's "Joy of Pepsi" TV spot, the brand's best sales-driving commercial in 2015 -- and "Out of the Blue," a marketing campaign that generated more than 1 billion media impressions for Fall Out Boy, helping to propel the band's album American Beauty/American Psycho to No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
MIKE BELCHER, 48
Vp media and consumer engagement, T-Mobile
T-Mobile teamed up with Dick Clark Productions as the title sponsor of the finale of the 2015 American Music Awards featuring a high-energy hits medley by Justin Bieber. "That was the most talked-about moment of the night," says Belcher, a father of three, "and our brand was associated with it." Belcher got his first taste of the music business shortly after joining T-Mobile in 2002, when the company produced the first-ever concert on San Francisco's Alcatraz Island, celebrating the brand's nationwide launch. "That event showed to me the power that music has on people, especially when you create something unique," says Belcher, adding that music now represents about 50 percent of T-Mobile's sponsorships. (Billboard and DCP are both owned by Prometheus Global Media.)
JON COHEN, 47
Co-founder/co-CEO, Cornerstone Agency
ROB STONE, 47
Co-founder/co-CEO, Cornerstone Agency
Since 1996, Stone and Cohen, who were both raised in the suburbs of Long Island, N.Y., have built Cornerstone Agency into a music-marketing and branding agency with offices on three continents and partnerships with the likes of Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Converse. In 1999, the two co-founded music magazine The Fader, also known for its branding partnerships (see Media), and the two maintain executive positions there. Their Converse Rubber Tracks collaboration reached a peak in 2015 with a campaign pairing 84 rising acts with producers like Mark Ronson at London's Abbey Road studios, Sly & Robbie at Kingston's Tuff Gong and Big Boi at Atlanta's Stankonia. Says Stone: "I'm most proud of the credibility and integrity we've sustained with both The Fader as a leading voice in music culture and Cornerstone as a creative agency."
MARCIE ALLEN, 42
President, MAC Presents
The biggest matchmaking success for Allen's company in 2015? "Southwest Airlines was looking to reach more millennials," she says, and MAC Presents got Imagine Dragons to carry on their instruments for in-flight concerts, capping a partnership in which contest entries reached seven times the airline's usual sweepstakes numbers. Coverage helped drive more than 1 billion media impressions, with a comparable value of $5.2 million -- and helped the band earn its second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. Allen, a Nashville stepmother of two who commutes to her New York office, saw MAC Presents' net revenue rise 20 percent in the past year.
BRUCE FLOHR, 49
Founding partner, Greenlight Media and Marketing; senior vp/chief strategy officer, Red Light Management
DOMINIC SANDIFER, 46
President/founding partner, Greenlight Media and Marketing
Although there were no Intel logos onstage at the Staples Center, the tech giant and Greenlight's months-in-the-making collaboration with Lady Gaga for the Grammy Awards' David Bowie tribute -- which incorporated robotics and an Intel Curie ring data sensor that the artist wore to produce real-time holographic effects -- generated 500 million earned media impressions within 24 hours of the telecast. "We're not creating band-plus-brand campaigns," says Sandifer. "Our programs and clients are collaborating with artists to create culture." Though Greenlight's founders include Red Light pater familias Coran Capshaw, the branded content agency/production studio hybrid -- clients include Under Armour and Hyundai -- functions independently and is not beholden to RLM's roster. "It allows the brand to realize that, potentially, it has the entire music business at its disposal," says Flohr, "with our expertise helping to navigate that space."
KEN HERTZ, 56
Founding partner, MemBrain
As a music attorney (he's a senior partner with Hertz Lichtenstein & Young), Hertz represents Will Smith, Keith Richards, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and Ariana Grande. Meanwhile, his MemBrain entertainment marketing and strategy consulting firm has struck partnerships with McDonald's, Hasbro, Intel, Keds and MillerCoors. "We've done almost $3 billion worth of retail deals in celebrity fragrance partnerships alone," says the Venice, Calif., resident. His roles do overlap. "We've done a really good job of leveraging the consulting work we do to help our legal clientele, when appropriate," says Hertz, adding: "Oftentimes when our clients are looking at sponsors or endorsement opportunities, people in the law firm will walk down the hall and pick brains at MemBrain."
TOM WORCESTER, 53
Head of music partnerships, Creative Artists Agency
Worcester, who comes from the sponsorship-heavy sports world, says the music industry is catching up. He offers as proof the multiplatform deals for 200 artists that his department landed in 2015. Those include connecting One Direction with Honda, 5 Seconds of Summer with Mondelez and Zac Brown Band with Anheuser-Busch and breakout artist Charlie Puth with Fiat Chrysler America. (The automaker tapped his hit "One Song Away" for an ad campaign.) Says the New York-based father of two: "I have a huge support system [at CAA] that's out there hustling and figuring out who are going to be the next superstars."
CAROL GOLL, 42
Partner/head of global branded entertainment, ICM Partners
LIZ POKORA-SADOWSKY, 47
Agent, global branded entertainment, ICM Partners
For Grammy Award-winning hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar, it was not an obvious move. In late January, in a picture that he posted to his Instagram account, Lamar faced a bathroom mirror, in a white T-shirt, with the caption "I reflect in #mycalvins." He joined Fetty Wap and Joey Badass -- and followed Justin Bieber -- in partnering with Calvin Klein for its campaign. For Goll, based in Los Angeles, and Pokora-Sadowsky, who's in New York, the deal was an example of ICM's efforts to align clients with projects that introduce them to new fans, consumers and territories. Sometimes, though, the strategy is just to blast on the biggest platforms possible. Thus Super Bowl 50 ads featuring clients Lil Wayne, T-Pain and Missy Elliott.
Head of brand partnerships, music, Paradigm Talent Agency
With the continued growth of Paradigm's music division (in partnership with AM Only, CODA and The Windish Agency) and their 2,000-plus clients such as Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and Imagine Dragons, Miles oversees branding deals with the artist’s respective agents. "We have a very collaborative spirit," says the Denver native. She singles out Echosmith's work with the fashion retailer Hollister that included the band appearing in an anti-bullying video sent to 20,000 schools. "The campaign generated 206 million media impressions," she says, "calling attention to an issue so many young people are struggling with every day."
CHRIS HART, 38
Partner/co-head of the talent department, United Talent Agency
ANDREW LEAR, 41
Alternative TV talent agent, United Talent Agency
JBEAU LEWIS, 35
Music agent, United Talent Agency
Collaborating with Mariah Carey's manager Stella Bulochnikov, Hart, Lear and Lewis brainstormed branding partners for the singer when she joined the agency's roster in mid-2015. With UTA's help, Carey struck a deal with Hallmark that "was synergistic in every sense," says Hart, a Los Angeles-based father of three. The brand "proved to be the consummate partner," adds Lewis, a Dallas native. Hallmark backed six sold-out nights of Carey's show All I Want for Christmas Is You at New York's Beacon Theater and invited her to direct and star in the TV special A Christmas Melody on its Hallmark Channel. The program drew 3.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen -- "the highest-rated holiday special in the network's history," says Lear. To top it off, Carey rode the Hallmark float at the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
TODD JACOBS, 35
Partner, William Morris Endeavor
SHARI LEWIN, 30
Agent, William Morris Endeavor
Jacobs, from his base in Los Angeles, and Lewin, who shuttles between New York and Nashville, drive some of WME's most noteworthy branding deals: Selena Gomez's Pantene ads, Janelle Monáe's CoverGirl presence and Miranda Lambert's partnership with Ram, "when everybody said that women can't sell trucks," notes Jacobs. Lewin linked up Bayer Crop Science as the sponsor for Luke Bryan's Farm Tour. "Growing up on a farm," says Lewin, "Luke's dad used Bayer products, so it was a brand that he really believed in."
MATT RINGEL, 46
Executive vp, Red Light Management; Managing partner, New Era Media and Marketing
For the 200-plus artists at Red Light, the world's largest independent management firm -- clients include Dave Matthews Band, Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Tiesto -- Ringel is their liaison to the branding world. His in-house role allows the Yale-educated executive to offer "same-day responsiveness" and valuable information to brand clients. In return, he's looking for smart partnerships. A brand exposure opportunity presented "six to 10 months" before the promotion campaign for an artist's new album, for example, is measurably more valuable in Red Light's view. "We're asking for strategic partnerships as opposed to just taking dollars."
JULES FERREE, 33
Head of brand partnerships, SB Projects
Ferree had been vp brand partnerships at Island Def Jam Recordings, working with Justin Bieber, Iggy Azalea, Jhene Aiko and others, before she joined Bieber manager Scooter Braun at SB Projects in early 2015. An Ohio native who now lives in Brooklyn, Ferree moved ahead with the partnership that Braun had struck for Bieber with Calvin Klein ("In My Calvins") and has overseen Tori Kelly's "Joy of Pepsi" commercial and her role in American Express' Unstaged: Artist in Residence program. "We really say, 'OK, brand partner, what are you looking to do, and how can we help?' And we really appreciate the brands that say, 'Hey, guys, what's your artist trying to accomplish? How can we help?' That's a genuine partnership."
ANDY COHN, 41
President/publisher, The Fader
The Fader Fort, a high-profile sponsored showcase, has been a mainstay at the South by Southwest festival since 2001 and in 2015 featured T-Pain, Future and Miley Cyrus, in a partnership with Converse. Fader Fort New York now coincides with the CMJ Music Marathon. Cornerstone Agency co-founders Jon Cohen and Rob Stone launched The Fader magazine in 1999 and its 100th issue in fall 2015 featured Drake and Rihanna on split covers. The past year was "our best ever," says Cohn, a native of New York's Long Island and father of two. With web, mobile, video, events and print, the Fader Media Group has "managed to thrive while many in the music-media world have been forced to change course, shrink or fold."
TIM CASTELLI, 48
President of national sales, marketing and partnerships, iHeartMedia
"Brands are really waking up to the power of connecting with people through their ears," says Castelli, a father of three, who came to iHeartMedia from AOL and got hooked on music after seeing a Van Halen show at 14. For iHeartMedia's signature Jingle Ball Tour in 2015, the company partnered with Capital One for a sweepstakes that delivered a half-billion media impressions. With Macy's, the iHeartRadio Rising Star program invited listeners to choose new artists for a shot at performing at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival -- and generated 10 million votes. Says Castelli: "We integrate brands through everything we're doing."
STEW HEATHCOTE, 44
Senior vp global partnerships, AEG Live/Goldenvoice
AEG's top touring artists in 2015 were featured in some of the year's strongest branding campaigns, says the University of California, Los Angeles graduate who was a fan of "the philanthropic program Katy Perry did with Staples." As part of its sponsorship of the North American leg of Perry's Prismatic World Tour, the office-supplies retailer donated $1 million to DonorsChoose.org, a New York-based charity that has helped fund more than 450,000 classroom projects for some 11 million students. Says Heathcote, "The amount of time she would spend with teachers and students in each market of her tour was something I'll never forget."
BRETT YORMARK, 49
CEO, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment
Since 2012, Yormark and his team have built Brooklyn's Barclays Center into a live-entertainment brand that rivals its 137-year-old Manhattan neighbor, Madison Square Garden. The Brooklyn arena carved out enough market share -- $56.7 million in cumulative box-office revenue in 2015, compared with MSG's $130.4 million, according to Billboard Boxscore -- to make it No. 3 in North America and No. 5 in the world for venues in its class. Yormark cites Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment's advisory board, which he co-chairs with Republic Group president Charlie Walk, as one of the key factors in the arena's growth. Coming to Barclays Center this spring: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 8, Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. Meanwhile, the Morristown, N.J., native says he's focusing on expanding BSE's "venue pipeline" this year. It will reopen the reimagined Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, and, in partnership with Live Nation and iStar, The Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk, and renovate Brooklyn's historic Paramount Theater. "We'll set our sights on areas outside New York, too, if it's on strategy and appropriate."
RUSSELL WALLACH, 50
President of media and sponsorship, Live Nation
As president of media and sponsorship for Live Nation -- the world's largest concert promoter, which presented 11 of the top 25 tours of 2015 -- the Queens native and his team of 250 manage a global portfolio of sales opportunities that includes venue name rights, tour sponsorships, festival deals, in-venue advertising, custom marketing programs and web properties (including Ticketmaster.com and LiveNation.com) that boast 65 million monthly unique visitors in the United States alone. With 100-plus venues, more than 65 festivals and a database exceeding 100 million people, "there's really no other platform like this anywhere in the world for brands to get close to the music fan."
BOZOMA SAINT JOHN, 39
Head of global consumer marketing, Apple Music/iTunes
"We're in the center of the culture," says Saint John -- "Boz" to those who know her -- about Apple's marketing of its music services. For example: the Apple Music ad with Mary J. Blige, Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson that premiered during the Emmy Awards, to considerable media coverage. Saint John worked in music marketing at Pepsi, then went to Beats Music, months before Apple bought it in 2014, and now runs marketing for iTunes and Apple's streaming service. In talking to brands about Apple Music playlists, "we're trying to explain something that's not tangible," says the Wesleyan University grad, "so you compare it to something [familiar] like mixtapes."
JOHN TRIMBLE, 52
Chief revenue officer, Pandora
The desire for brands to engage with consumers with more than ads has led Pandora to create new types of branded content, says Trimble, a native Rhode Islander and father of four. Sponsored Listening gives users an hour of uninterrupted programming in exchange for 15 seconds of engagement with a brand (through a video or slide gallery, for example). Customized channels fit a brand's message; a country stream for Ford's F-Series trucks is "a great proof point for what Pandora can do for music makers and brands," says Trimble, whose ad and sponsorship team drove $1 billion in revenue during its fiscal year of 2014 to 2015, with a 31 percent increase in ad growth in its third quarter.
JEFF LEVICK, 45
Chief revenue officer, Spotify
An Atlanta native now living in Manhattan, Levick offers brands an ability to connect Spotify fans -- 75 million each month -- with music in unique ways. Through a partnership launched in 2015 with Starbucks, Spotify is integrated into the "My Starbucks Rewards" app to provide customers with new music and playlists. Spotify also has worked with Dunkin' Donuts to provide pop-up concerts (The Mowgli's, Marian Hill, Hippo Campus, Cayucas, Saint Motel) in five major U.S. markets. Says Levick: "Brands want to be associated with the up-and-comers and form relationships with them."
RYAN BEACH, 40
Vice president/general merchandise manager of electronics and entertainment, Target
Beach was named Target's chief music buyer in March 2015 and this past January led the retail chain to the greatest marketing triumph in its music-retail history -- selling 1 million copies of Adele's 25 album in the first 10 days of its release. The singer's total Target sales now top 2 million. Target's exclusive version of 25, with three bonus tracks, was one of nearly 100 exclusive album versions marketed by the chain in 2015. Amid the rise of music streaming, Beach, a Hong Kong native, says that "physical CD sales continue to be successful for our entertainment business. Music has been, and will continue to be, an important part of Target's DNA."
BRIAN MONACO, 43
Executive vp/global head of advertising, film and TV, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Although Monaco works for the largest music publisher in the world with $1.2 billion in revenue, the Brooklyn native says the company faces the same challenges as the rest of music publishing: "breaking new artists and keeping the catalog alive." He notes that in 2015 Sony/ATV placed new artist Mark Scibilia in a commercial for the Jeep Renegade singing "This Land Is Your Land." For this year's Super Bowl -- in one of nine ad placements during the big game -- Sony/ATV writer Morgan Dorr "supplied a specially written song called '4X4ever,' " says Monaco. Still, reviving catalog hits can be as rewarding as exposing new talent. Sony/ATV saw Europe's "The Final Countdown" rejuvenated in a Geico ad -- which sent the 1986 hit to No. 1 on Billboard's Hard Rock Digital Songs chart.
TOM EATON, 46
Vp music for advertising, Universal Music Publishing Group
With song placements in nine commercials that aired during Super Bowl 50 (tying Sony/ATV), Eaton and his team have been on a roll. Yet the Glen Ridge, N.J., resident cites his work with the speaker and headphone company Bose as a recent highlight of his branding efforts. Universal placed three songs from its catalog in Bose/NFL commercials, including Seinabo Sey's "Hard Times," as well as in Bose's online "Game Changer" spot. Brands, overall, are driving harder bargains for synchronization rights to songs in ad spots, notes Eaton. "The biggest issue is the downward pressure of fees," he says, "and our battle to maintain the value of the songs."
JONATHAN FELDMAN, 38
Vp brand partnerships and sports marketing, Atlantic Records
L. CAMILLE HACKNEY, 45
Executive vp brand partnerships and commercial licensing, Atlantic Records; head of global brands partnership council, Warner Music Group
Janelle Monáe's new Pepsi TV spot -- in which the singer segues from The Contours' 1962 hit "Do You Love Me" to Madonna's 1989 smash "Express Yourself" -- is the latest partnership between the beverage and the Atlantic Records star. "The biggest compliment is when a brand does repeat business with an artist," says Hackney, a Harvard Business School graduate who guides Atlantic's branding partnerships and coordinates deals for Warner Music Group worldwide. She and Feldman have collaborated on recent deals for David Guetta with Chase Bank and Apple Pay, for Jack U and Justin Bieber with Samsung ("the most successful video premiere Samsung has done," says Feldman) and for rising stars Ty Dolla Sign, Brent Eldredge, Charlie Puth and Sophia Reyes with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles during the American Music Awards.
JOHN ZARLING, 37
Senior vp partnership marketing and promotion strategy, Big Machine Label Group
Zarling, who has worked for Big Machine since the record label was founded in 2005, expanded his radio-promotion duties to brand partnerships in 2010 when it became clear that label cash alone couldn't fund Taylor Swift's level of radio/fan events. Now, "in the past five years, we've secured $22 million in cash and in-kind value" with "an agency-like model operating within a record label," he says, "where a brand can know we don't just deliver the artist but also produce, manage and execute the events." Known as "JZ" within the company, his recent promotions include partnering with Brantley Gilbert's favorite motorcycle brand, Harley-Davidson, on a ride that promoted his 2015 album Read Me My Rights, and working with Ram trucks on an artist-launch campaign for Levi Hummon, whose song title "Guts and Glory" happens to be the automaker's slogan. BMLG is also big on "cause marketing," and, every year, plugs artists into General Mills' Outnumber Hunger campaign.
KATE DENTON, 36
Senior vp, seventeenfifty, Capitol Music Group
As head of Capitol's in-house advertising initiative seventeenfifty (the address of the label's iconic Los Angeles tower), Denton looks "to amplify the artist's brand" and "to get them more exposure in ways that are authentic," she says. The Saginaw, Mich., native had the chance to do both with Halsey by featuring the singer's version of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" in a much-Shazamed Taco Bell commercial, while also partnering the artist with MAC Cosmetics and the Nasty Girl clothing line. The multiple-brand exposure helped Halsey's Badlands enter the Billboard 200 at No. 2.
Senior vp global brand partnerships, RCA Records
Working with a diverse roster that ranges from the rock of Foo Fighters to the a cappella pop of Pentatonix, the Florida-raised Butzky says that the biggest challenge of her role is "making sure the [artist-brand] partnership is the right fit for all sides both financially and organically." In 2015, for example, Citi hosted VIP cardmember lounges at a handful of U.S. dates on the Foos' Sonic Highways World Tour -- worth an estimated $1 million in total media spending. As Pentatonix's sound redefined what can become a pop hit, says Butzky, "we are in conversations with multiple brands for opportunities" for the group.
MIKE TUNNICLIFFE, 54
Executive vp business development and partnerships, Universal Music Group
Since launching his UMG-wide department in January 2015, Tunnicliffe and his team have had "138 brand conversations," resulting in partnerships with acts from across Universal's label group. For Marriott, the Manchester, England, native created a concert series for the hotel chain's rewards-club members, including Ellie Goulding in London and Gwen Stefani in Dubai. The intimate live performances, and additional branded content, are also featured on Marriott's in-room TV channel. "The benefit for us is we've got this regular dialogue going on with Marriott's 50 million rewards-club members about our artists," says Tunnicliffe. Plus, Marriott invests in such Universal events as the label group's Grammy and South by Southwest parties. While UMG's individual labels continue to do their own deals, the former Saatchi & Saatchi executive says he works like "an [ad] agency. What we're looking to do is build out broader, more strategic brand programs that we can plug multiple acts into. We go to the brands and figure out what they want and go back to the acts."
LORI FELDMAN, 48
Executive vp brand partnerships and creative synch licensing, Warner Bros. Records
While Andra Day was still recording her Warner Bros. debut LP, Cheers to the Fall, Feldman began pitching her to potential partners. Day (who earned Grammy nominations for best R&B album and best R&B performance) has since gained exposure through more than a dozen brands including Bud Light, Gap and Delta. Most recently, the "Rise Up" singer paired with Diet Coke for its newly launched "It's Mine" ads, which feature her cover of Queen's "I Want It All." The result is more than just the "money that comes in the door," says Feldman, a mother of three. Millions of media impressions for Day helped Cheers to the Fall bow at No. 3 on Billboard's R&B Albums chart.
METHODOLOGY: Executives were chosen based on branding-deal spending and music industry impact as measured by the chart and/or tour performance of partnering artists in the past year, as tracked by Nielsen Music and Billboard Boxscore.
CONTRIBUTORS: William Chipps, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Frank DiGiacomo, Andy Gensler, Gary Graff, Robert Levine, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Glenn Peoples, Mitchell Peters, Eric Spitznagel, Colin Stutz, Ray Waddell and Chris Willman