Barry Weiss: The 2014 Billboard Power 100
NO. 35

Barry Weiss

Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group East Coast Label Group

Leading Island Def Jam’s revamp, and poised for a big move in 2014

Barry Weiss’ biggest problem in 2013 is about to deliver him a golden year in 2014. Everything that didn’t come out last year will finally arrive this year. On the Island Def Jam side, expect albums from Mariah Carey, Ludacris, Rick Ross and, maybe, Kanye West. Meanwhile, the red-hot Republic looks to maintain its groove with big Cash Money artists delivering big albums. Lil Wayne’s fifth installment of his multiplatinum "Tha Carter" series is hotly anticipated, while Nicki Minaj is expected to deliver her next album, sources say.

And that’s before taking into account all the new artists poised to break in the new year.

The way things are shaping up, on paper, Weiss will have a great year, thus substantiating a record industry axiom that it generally takes at least three years before one can judge the effectiveness of a new label head.

This will be the fourth year of Weiss’ regime since he exited Sony Music Entertainment, where he headed up Jive and RCA Records, for Universal Music Group to lead its East Coast label operations, overseeing Island Def Jam and Republic.

From the get-go Republic was doing fine, but IDJ wasn’t when Weiss arrived because the trains didn’t run on time and the A&R vision couldn’t match the marketing expenditures—i.e., it was losing money. By the end of 2012, Weiss, aided by IDJ president/COO Steve Bartels (No. 54), had restored it to a label that was efficient, functioning and, most important, profitable. But after flirting with a 5% market share in albums plus track-equivalent albums in 2010-12—which was reminiscent of the 5%-6% range the label consistently achieved in 2000-06—last year IDJ fell back to 4%.

“Republic had a stellar year in 2013, hitting the ball out of the park again,” Weiss says. He notes that besides the fine performance of Republic itself, its two distributed labels, Cash Money and Big Machine, continue to be “power players that go from strength to strength.”

On the other hand, Weiss concedes that IDJ “had a more challenging year. It was not one of our best. But the most exciting thing is it’s set up a lot of acts that are poised to break.”