Billboard Latin Power Players: These Execs Are Also Musicians

Brian Smith
Afo Verde, Chairman/CEO of Latin America, Spain and Prtugal at Sony Music Entertainment in his Miami office on Spet. 23, 2014.

Among the 29 executives included in Billboard's Latin Power Players list, it turns out a good number of them are musicians too. Read on to learn how music changed their lives and the defining musical moments that shaped their careers.

Billboard's Latin Power Players List Revealed

1. Afo Verde (chairman/CEO Latin region, Spain and Portugal, Sony Music Entertainment; guitarist/producer): "I’ll go back to when I started. I had my reggae band, La Zimbabwe Band, and UB40 was playing in Buenos Aires. They went to our soundcheck, they liked it, and asked us to play with them. I was a big fan of 'Rat in My Kitchen,' and we went onstage with my entire band to play with them at Estadio Velez. Imagine, a 21-year-old guy who would ditch school to listen to UB40 ends up playing with UB40. Obviously, I went on to play with many wonderful artists. But at that point in time, it was very hard to even fathom an English band playing with a little Argentine band."

2. Gabriel Abaroa (president/CEO the Latin Recording Academy; drummer):  "I began playing piano when I was 10 years old, and then I became a drummer. I began giving concerts and really improving until I came to study to the U.S. when I was 12. When I was 15, I began playing for money. I don’t continue to play for money now, but I continue to be very close to music. It’s part of my life. So there was not, like, a concert that put me there, I just loved music."

3. Nir Seroussi: (president, Sony Music U.S. Latin; guitarist/composer): "When I was in high school, I was making money by buying and selling instruments to my friends. In Caracas, I studied at the American high school, and in six months I ended up supplying half the kids in the school, I had half the kids playing an instrument. I played guitar in the early stages, but that experience of buying and selling instruments actually gave me a rush more than playing an instrument."

4. Iñigo Zabala (president, Warner Music Latin America/Iberia; keyboardist, songwriter): "I was a musician, signed to Warner [Zabala was a keyboardist for Spanish rock/pop band La Union and co-wrote their hit 'Hombre Lobo en París']. I became a musician because of David Bowie, The Clash, Lou Reed, The Beatles. It’s something you have inside, and at some point it becomes an obsession."

5. Tomas Cookman (president, Cookman/Nacional; drummer): "When I first saw Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True on the shelves at a record store, I was intrigued, bought the album without hearing it, and it changed my life. From there I discovered The Clash, Ramones, Talking Heads and so much more. It was a parallel universe for a guy growing up in the projects in a Puerto Rican family. From that moment on, I said ‘I have to be in this,’ and a month later I was in a band."

6. Jorge Mejía (EVP Sony ATV Music Publishing, Latin America/U.S. Latin; pianist, composer): "The Keith Jarrett Koln concert made me want to be a piano player. When I heard that I said, ‘I want to do this.’ I started playing when I was 16. I broke my leg and it was a pretty bad fracture and I couldn’t do anything, I always wanted to play the piano and finally we had the piano sent to Colombia from the U.S."